Qualifications of YouTube Boxers Spark Controversy

Four years ago, U.K. YouTubers Joe Weller and KSI got into an argument online and decided to settle their differences in the ring. Many fight experts across the globe viewed the event as no different from the thousands of celebrity boxing contests that had taken place before — just two B-list personalities with inflated egos looking to gain their 15 seconds of fame however possible. However, it became clear that this misconception could not have been farther from the truth. The KSI vs. Weller contest would set a benchmark in the fight going forward and create an entirely new genre in the boxing world, appropriately dubbed “YouTube boxing.”

Upon knocking Weller out in the third round in devastating fashion, KSI took to the microphone and called out brothers Logan and Jake Paul, claiming he would fight “any of the Pauls, he [didn’t] care.” This call-out allowed for the Pauls, in addition to a whole slew of other American content creators, to enter the once U.K.- exclusive YouTube boxing scene. In the next massive YouTube boxing contest, KSI faced Logan Paul as the main event. The co-main fight consisted of a battle between the younger brothers, with KSI’s brother Deji facing off against Jake Paul. Despite it being a white-collar, amateur event, the KSI vs. Logan fight did incredibly well, selling out the Manchester Arena and netting 1.3 million pay-per-view buys. It is shocking to think that millions of people around the globe wanted to see two individuals with no former boxing experience go at it in headgear and 16 ounce gloves.

The match ultimately resulted in a draw between the two headliners, meaning that a rematch was inevitable. The sequel, KSI vs. Logan Paul II, was a far sleeker iteration of the previous event. For one, both YouTubers obtained their boxing licenses between fights, which meant that now they could go at each other with 12 ounce gloves and no headgear. Eddie Hearn, a world-renowned boxing promoter who has promoted world champions like Canelo Alvarez and Anthony Joshua, stepped in to manage the fight and boosted it into the spotlight for the entire world to see. KSI and Logan did not disappoint. The pair went at it in a six-round war, resulting in a KSI victory by split decision. The contest was incredibly well received, obtaining a remarkable 2 million pay-per-view buys and becoming one of the top five highest selling fights in history. This made it clear that YouTube boxing was here to stay.

Following this series of fights, both Logan Paul and KSI took breaks from the fight game. It became unclear who would take the reins as the star of YouTube boxing going forward, until Jake Paul resurfaced. He had won his initial fight against KSI’s younger brother but had not fought since, and was eager to reenter the ring after seeing his brother defeated. However, given that KSI was unavailable, Jake was forced to fight another undercard fighter, YouTuber AnEsonGib. In his second career outing, Paul mauled Gib and knocked him out in the first round, calling out KSI in the post-fight interview. His destruction of AnEsonGib set him on the warpath to take over the YouTube boxing scene.

Even though previously massive stars like KSI and Logan Paul would continue to fight and headline events, Jake became the undeniable center of attention. In his third appearance in the ring, he decimated former NBA star Nate Robinson, knocking him out cold within two rounds. He followed that impressive performance up by brutally collapsing former Bellator and ONE MMA champion Ben Askren in two minutes. Askren’s defeat spurred a two-fight rivalry with former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. Paul vs. Woodley I resulted in a closely contested split decision victory for Paul. However, the second fight against Woodley concluded in a dramatic sixth round knockout which earned Paul “Knockout of the Year” honors from both ESPN and DAZN. In his most recent contest, Paul decided to go up against MMA legend Anderson Silva. Much to the MMA community’s disdain, he bested Silva via split-decision after an eight-round battle, giving him an impressive record of 7–0 thus far in his boxing career.

This brings us to the current state of the YouTube boxing world. Many are divided on the legitimacy of Jake Paul’s résumé. While it is undeniable that Paul has strung together a collection of impressive wins, the quality of opponent remains debatable. Paul has had multiple opportunities to face opponents of the same age or skill set, yet he has seemingly always opted to compete against older fighters with non-boxing backgrounds. This would not be a problem were it not for the fact that Paul seems to be trying to move away from his YouTube past and toward a professional boxing career. Jake has called out boxing champions and UFC legends such as Canelo Alvarez and Conor McGregor respectively, and he has gone so far as to claim that he is the future of boxing. Paul has earned himself internet beef with UFC President Dana White himself, with White issuing a plethora of negative comments on social media pertaining to Jake’s actions. Fellow YouTube boxers like KSI and even his own brother Logan continue to compete but do not face nearly the same amount of scrutiny, as they do not claim to be full-time boxers. The question then becomes: is Jake Paul legitimate, and is YouTube and celebrity boxing equivalent to actual boxing?

Every boxing fan has to form their own individual opinion. What makes boxing and combat sports so interesting is that each fighter has their own story as to how they made it to the top of their craft. YouTube fighters like Jake Paul are no different. It has always been an unspoken rule, though, that everyone shows respect to their fellow competitors in the fight game, making it a classy, respectful sport despite its violence.

However, this has changed in recent years, with polarizing figures like Conor McGregor and Jake Paul using trash-talk to increase viewership and gain notoriety. Such a tactic is extremely divisive. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. In the case of McGregor, it was extremely effective because of the popular persona he was able to create within the arena, but the same cannot be said for Jake. The level of competition he has faced is too far beneath his own to be considered a legitimate part of combat sports for now, and the jury is still very much out on the legitimacy of YouTube boxing.