Quick Bit: Will KSI fight Jake Paul? The British YouTube superstar exclusively lifts the lid on his negotiations – including over hosting the boxing match at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium – to The Sporting News ahead of his DAZN PPV showdown with Faze Temper.
EXCLUSIVE — KSI is a busy man. He’s a YouTube sensation, a rapper, an actor, a businessman, and a boxer. He’s so busy, in fact, that he hasn’t sat down and processed the sheer scale of his first three pro fight nights.
As jovial and energetic as ever, his face suddenly drops as he contemplates headlining Staples Center, the O2 Arena and now Wembley Arena: “Oh sh*t… Yeah… When you put it like that, it’s pretty wild…”
The now-trademark laugh then reenters the room: “Pretty good for a YouTuber!” Indeed, selling out those three arenas would be the stuff of dreams for most world champions at the peak of their powers, let alone somebody effectively doing it as a side-quest after completing his own game.
The latest level of KSI’s new adventure sees him take on Faze Temper — another influencer who began his career on a YouTube gaming channel, with the Brazilian co-owning the iconic eSports team Faze Clan — on January 14 in London.
MMA brawler Dillon Danis should’ve been the challenger stepping into the ring with KSI — or Olajide ‘J.J.’ Olatunji — but the man currently signed to Bellator pulled out of the crossover showdown with a mere 10 days’ notice, reportedly struggling to make weight.
KSI’s team were prepared, though, in particular after Danis failed to show up for a press conference in the English capital in December. That followed a double letdown earlier in 2022, as Alex Wassabi pulled out of a fight with KSI through a severe concussion, before replacement Ivan Nikolov was also booted off the card after it emerged he had potentially-racist tattoos, despite the Bulgarian distancing himself from any far-right views.
So now, in addition to the packed-out arenas and lucrative broadcast deals that mirror “classic” boxing (a term elegantly coined by promoter Kalle Sauerland in the buildup to this bout), we also get the bonkers pullouts and politics in influencer boxing, too.
KSI, though, is keen to distance himself from the men who have boxed their entire lives. His great rival, Jake Paul, has actively talked up a shot at Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, the biggest name in the game, but KSI is comfortable with his own niche, and continuing this alongside his many other ventures.
The 29-year-old told The Sporting News he’s sought advice from a pair of British heavyweight heroes in Derek Chisora and David Haye, but that he never watched them until he put on a pair of gloves for the first time.
KSI said: “I talked to Haye and Chisora about mindset. They know I’ve got the discipline. They told me I’ve got everything I need to win fights. All I need to do is stay dedicated, and I’ve got this.
“I wasn’t really into boxing until I started. The first fight I watched was [Floyd] Mayweather vs. [Manny] Pacquiao, like I went to go see it and I didn’t get it. I didn’t get that hype. I didn’t understand why people were so gassed about this. Now that I’ve started boxing, I’ve watched back that fight, and I understand it more. I became obsessed with the sport.
“There’s loads of fighters I love watching. I love how [Vasily] Lomachenko is able to dance around his opponents and the whole Matrix thing, just from changing the angles, I think it’s sick.
“I love watching [Artur] Beterbiev, because he’s just a monster who destroys everyone that he fights. I love watching [Anthony] Yarde, because how focussed he is and his defensive capabilities, how he’s able to look in control at all times and be able to piece up his opponents.
“Then seeing people like Mayweather and [Oleksandr] Usyk do their thing. [Terence] Crawford is a fighter, again, who just looks in control no matter what stance he’s in and it’s so sick to see. Shakur Stevenson is able to work the range so beautifully, that range where he can’t get hit but is able to hit you and he’s just able to stay there the whole time.
“I just love boxing, it’s dope. I’m not doing all this to take away from it — I’m inspired by it. This is just my space — I’m not trying to be a pro boxer. I have no desire to be beating people like Canelo or Anthony Joshua. For me, it’s about showing I’m the best in the influencer crossover boxing scene. Then it’s cool, onto the next goal.”
One man who moved on very quickly from crossover events was Matchroom Boxing chief Eddie Hearn, who successfully promoted KSI’s first pro fight. After taking on Logan Paul in an amateur bout, the pair lost the headgear and settled their differences in Los Angeles.
Shannon Briggs was in the Paul corner and Jeff Mayweather in KSI’s, while the stacked undercard featured world champions in Billy Joe Saunders and Devin Haney. In front of a live crowd of 12,000, including celebrities such as Justin Bieber and Wiz Khalifa, the hype was real, and had been built superbly by the YouTube superstars through 2019. Hearn later stated the PPV extravaganza hit two million buys.
The global pandemic followed within a couple of months, and Hearn pulled out of that area entirely. Filling the void is now Sauerland, who in 2022 partnered with broadcaster DAZN to set up the Misfits Boxing X-Series, with cards entirely made up of non-boxers. KSI kicked it off with two fights in one night — marking his comeback after a lengthy hiatus which stretched back to that memorable night in LA — and is keen to support the vision for years to come.
The Londoner continued: “I’m way closer to Kalle than I was to Eddie. With Eddie, he saw a bag and was like, ‘cool, let’s do this’ with me and Logan — whereas Kalle sees the long-term future and is excited by that.”
Unlike others in a similar position, KSI hasn’t seen that “bag” and rested on his laurels. He still posts videos for his combined total of over 40 million YouTube subscribers regularly, while his latest entrepreneurial journey comes in the form of “hydration drink” brand Prime.
Having teamed up with former foe Logan Paul, their new drink has caused chaos in the UK since launch. Completely sold out around the country, it has spawned countless videos on social media of bottles being fought over in supermarket aisles, and cans being sold by secondary retailers for more than ?100 ($120) each. And no, that figure is not a typo.
That newfound friendship — and commercial success — with Logan Paul is a source of jealousy for the American’s younger brother, according to KSI. That layer of intrigue will only add to the anticipation for the biggest fight in influencer boxing, and KSI’s ultimate end goal, as he hunts down Jake Paul.
Since first appearing on the undercard of the big brothers’ amateur showdown in 2018, beating KSI’s younger sibling, Deji, Jake Paul has established himself as the loudest voice in the space. ‘The Problem Child’ draws eyeballs like nobody else and has built a 6-0 pro record, while putting on his business hat to co-promote Katie Taylor vs. Amanda Serrano and campaign for better fighter pay in the UFC.
Despite having “never spoken to Jake, even before the boxing,” KSI is adamant this online rivalry is the driving force behind his return to the ring. He said: “I want that fight. That’s the reason why I came back. I’d be very, very angry and frustrated if I didn’t get that fight.
“I’m pretty confident [it happens]. It’s different with influencer boxing because we can always just go on our platform and just say: ‘this is the situation, I’m trying to fight, but he won’t accept this and this…’
“A lot of these boxers don’t really have a platform, or they have a promoter to say everything that they need to say — it makes it a bit too tactical. So it’s different with me and Jake.
“I know Jake hates the idea that me and Logan are in partnership together with Prime, just smashing it. He definitely wishes he was a part of it. But it wouldn’t be as big if it was Logan and Jake. Prime would not be as big with Logan and Jake.
“It puts Logan in a weird situation. Obviously he’s going to support his brother, but at the end of the day, it’s a fight and you’ve got to just leave your brother to it. When I knock him out, it is what it is: I was the better man and we go back to being business partners. It’s as simple as that.”
KSI acknowledges “Jake Paul will be a tougher, harder opponent” than Danis would’ve been at this juncture, but doesn’t see his career path so far as anything to worry about. Jake Paul’s first taste of the pros was on Hearn’s final crossover event, in February 2020, easing past YouTuber AnEsonGib.
Since emerging from the pandemic, he delivered a devastating KO to undercooked former NBA star Nate Robinson, before facing a trio of retired UFC stars in Ben Askren, Tyron Woodley (twice) and Anderson Silva. Meanwhile, arguably tougher matchups against Tommy Fury — younger brother of Tyson — and KSI himself have failed to materialise.
Looking back on that path, KSI continued: “Him versus Ben Askren: wasn’t impressed. Him versus Nate Robinson: wasn’t impressed. Him versus Gib: I think Gib underperformed, but I guess it was okay.
“Him versus Woodley: it showed that he’s definitely a fighter, but again I wasn’t impressed. And then him versus Anderson Silva: good combinations, but wasn’t impressed. So yeah, I’m not impressed.
“His fans are always going to think everything he does is fantastic or impressive. But I know who I am, and when I get my hands on him and the world sees what I do to him, it’s going to be mind-blowing. As Nate Robinson would say, it will shock the world!
“If he did a similar [performance] to Crawford versus [David] Avanesyan, then okay, he’s a real deal. Whenever I see Jake, I don’t see him in control, I don’t see him convincing, especially with the people he fights.
“It’s not super convincing, it’s just trying to time that overhand, time that overhand, hit a few combinations. It’s slow, it’s sluggish, it’s not clinical. With me, he won’t be able to deal with my pace.
“I’m going to drown him. By round three, he’ll [say]: ‘what the f*ck is this?! I didn’t sign up for this! This is unbelievable!’ I think he’s just going to struggle. While he’s struggling, I’ll be swimming.”
Chasing megafights worth tens of millions, after already carrying a successful career bridging music and film, is a far cry from the boy who took his first steps in media from his bedroom, playing the FIFA videogame under the guise KSI Olajide BT. But the one thing that hasn’t changed is that passion for football, and specifically Arsenal.
If the Paul bout is to happen, KSI wants it to happen at the home of his beloved club, who he recently entered into a partnership with to promote the aforementioned Prime. Fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur have hosted two world heavyweight title fights in as many years, and now KSI is trying to become the first boxing headliner at Emirates Stadium.
He revealed: “We’re in talks. It’s just negotiations, but some exciting things for sure. We’re in talks with a few venues about that fight, so it’s just about making sure there’s availability.
“I’d love to have it at the Emirates. That would be beautiful, man. Me knocking out Jake Paul at the Emirates… I think that would be amazing. That or Wembley [Stadium] would be nuts.”
Originally found on Sporting News Read More