Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Was KSI-Logan Paul II A Win For Boxing?

Boxing is a sport with some accepted norms. Of course, it is customary before almost every major fight to see a solid promotional push in an attempt to both spread awareness for the event for which the bout will take place aa well as to engage in the time tested art of hyping the fight. More often than not, it is the use of “Hype” that is the main tool in the arsenal of both the promoters as well as fighters to generate interest in an encounter.

With rare exceptions, fighters throughout all combat sports begin their journeys as professional fighters in a similar fashion, competing on small cards and or fighting on the opening bouts of major Boxing cards. The exceptions to this are fighters who turn professional with the benefit of fanfare prior to their debuts. In most cases, the obvious story that most Boxing fans are familiar are those of fighters who achieve significant success as an amateur and often times being able to benefit from the exposure that the Olympics can offer to young fighters prior to embarking on a professional career.

There are times however, where those who enter the Boxing ring do so from another form of notoriety. Although most who take this route come from other combat sports such as Troy Dorsey, who as a world champion kickboxer embarked on a professional Boxing career in the 1980’s and 1990’s and went on to win a Featherweight world championship in Boxing to several boxers and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters who have gone back and forth between sports, it is no longer unusual to see multi-combat sport athletes.

A new rarity has emerged that has shown that there is another way for those who want to enter the Boxing ring to do so outside of the traditional accepted norms. The second encounter between YouTube stars KSI and Logan Paul was one that showed an unconventional path, mixed with some of the traditional Boxing norms of “Hype” and promotion could achieve something that has not been done before.

Two men with significant social media followings turned professional against each other, but did so as the main event of a professional Boxing card that also featured a world championship fight as well as established contenders. While the scenario was indeed unheard of, what was even more of a statement was the sizable crowd that packed the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA on November 9th to see the encounter.

Although many within the Boxing community from fighters, to promoters, to competing networks, to those in the media like yours truly were critical of this fight taking place and more specifically the fight being the main event, I decided to take the “Wait And See” approach. Part of my reasoning, despite being an old school Boxing enthusiast and historian, was not knowing what to expect. It can indeed be true that some events are more about the spectacle of the event itself rather than sport, it would not have been justified in my view to dismiss two participants having not seen what they could do inside the ring under a Professional Boxing format.

My concern that I mentioned however, in a column that was released here on The Boxing Truth® prior to the fight was that both men took the sport seriously and treated it with the respect it deserves. Unlike some other fights that would far under the category of “Celebrity Boxing”, it did not take long to see that both KSI and Logan Paul were serious and that this would be a legitimate professional fight.

Now to be clear, I went into this fight as an observer with an open mind not knowing much about either man in terms of subjects that were not Boxing related and did not know what to expect. Having covered bouts with the “Celebrity Boxing” label before, I was pleasantly surprised and happy to see a professional fight take place.

Normally, the reader will see me give an example of what to look for when two combatants square off. In this case, it was a somewhat unprecedented scenario even though these two men did fight previously in an amateur bout. In some ways, this fight though under a professional format reminded me of some bouts that I had seen many years ago in my youth that took place in the annual New York Golden Gloves tournaments.

What I mean by this is the fight that was fought at a quick pace. Though this was a fight between two novices testing the waters of Professional Boxing, I was impressed by the flashes of skill each man showed. In terms of Boxing ability, I was impressed with the movement and jab Logan Paul displayed throughout the fight. While it is illogical for one to expect fighters with limited backgrounds in the sport to be seasoned professionals in their respective first bouts, it was clear that both men attempted to implement some elements of technique into their strategies. 

One aspect of Logan Paul’s approach that I saw as a flaw was that he kept his hands down low and appeared to be open for counter punches. KSI meanwhile seemed to be the harder puncher in the early rounds, but put a lot of power behind almost every punch he threw and also threw his punches wide. Having said this with some probably expecting something resembling a tough man contest, the fight exceeded those expectations.

It was a fight that like many in the sport of Boxing was not immune from elements of controversy. In round three, KSI connected with an overhand right that appeared to land behind the ear of Logan Paul that could have been ruled a knockdown. Referee Jack Reiss however, ruled it a slip. This would be followed by an even more controversial ruling by Reiss depending on one’s perspective in round four when Paul would score a knockdown of KSI with a flush left uppercut to the head. Reiss correctly ruled it a knockdown, but because Paul held the head of KSI to land another uppercut as he was going down, there was no count and Reiss indicated that while a knockdown was scored, he penalized Paul two points for the foul.

Although the deduction of two points would prove to be crucial in the outcome of this fight, the ruling of the foul was correct. The question was whether Reiss was too harsh in deducting two points from Paul without seeming to issue a warning beforehand. Even though some may not view it as something to debate, this observer believes that had Reiss deducted a single point from Paul rather than two, this rematch, like the first bout between the two that was fought under amateur rules, would have ended in a draw. Instead KSI would emerge with the victory via six round split decision with two of three official scorecards being separated by a single point.

With some criticizing promoter Eddie Hearn and digital sports streaming network DAZN for staging this rematch, the question is was this a win for Boxing? In fairness to both KSI and Logan Paul, they did produce an entertaining fight that whether one likes it or not did generate significant interest from outside the sport. 

While some may choose to ridicule both Hearn and DAZN for taking a calculated risk, it is important to remember that the sport of Boxing and all of sports are now in the digital age. What that means is much like in generations past the challenge for Boxing as well as networks like DAZN is to try and reach as many eyes as possible. Sometimes this means thinking outside of the box of accepted norms and trying to reach a new audience. 

It may be true that due to differences in philosophy as well as being set in one’s ways that some who have been successful throughout all sports over many years will remain reluctant if not outright stubborn to the idea of embracing change. If nothing else, this event proved that YouTube is, can be, and should be a valuable marketing tool for the sport of Boxing. Although it remains to be seen both how successful the fight was for DAZN in terms of both viewership and increasing their global subscriber-base, KSI and Logan Paul also proved that one should not be quick to judge and both made a good account for themselves in this professional fight.

Should one expect a potential third fight between the two or for either to embark on a more long-term second career as professional boxers going forward? Who knows? If the reported $900,000 purse each man earned for this fight is any indication, with both retaining sizable followings, I would not dismiss the possibility. 

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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