Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather, Eric “Butterbean” Esch vs. Bart Gunn, Rocky Balboa vs. Thunderlips. Outside of the major title fights, the exhibition bout has always been one of the main draws of combat sports, whether that's because of the sometimes ludicrous mismatch of celebrity versus professional or the high prize pots on offer.
Despite failing to sell out the T-Mobile Arena in Paradise, Nevada, the match between McGregor and Mayweather, for example, still managed to take $69.8m at the gate and stump up a minimum $130m to be shared between the two combatants. Mayweather would eventually take home a total $275m, the most ever paid to a sports star in a single blow.
KSI vs. Logan Paul
Love it or not, the 'super-fight' isn't going away but the next sell-out bout at the Staples Centre between two professional boxers is a little ironic, as neither fighter was a professional boxer in 2018. The rematch of popular YouTubers KSI and Logan Paul does, therefore, represent something as a watershed in pro boxing. Are the barriers to participation in big-money boxing falling?
Well, yes and no. While the pair have not worked their way up from the bottom rung of the boxing world, their combined fame (each has around 20m subscribers on YouTube) can pull in the crowds. Their first match managed to attract 15,000 fans to the Manchester Arena in August 2018, so turning pro was an inevitable outcome of their soaring cachet in the boxing world.
In fact, it was a condition of the rematch, as put together by promoter Eddie Hearn. Despite their lack of boxing experience (Paul only put in three months' training before their first meeting), the two YouTubers may end up with British middleweight Billy Joe Saunders and a host of other professional boxers on the undercard.
The Celeb Factor
As of 16 October 2019, just over three weeks from the fight date on November 9, the KSI vs Logan Paul betting odds have Paul as the favorite to overcome his British rival. Paddy Power has the former at 8/15 for the win while KSI comes in at 6/4. A repeat of their first encounter – a majority draw, with one judge of the three declaring KSI the victor – is listed at 12/1.
There's a method in the madness. The popularity of UFC has been climbing for years, largely due to the larger-than-life personalities like Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor involved. The pair could quite rightly be called celebrities in their own right. Therefore, introducing people with an already established audience to the boxing world, like Paul and KSI, could have the same effect in that sport too.
Perhaps more important is the need to appeal to a younger age group. YouTubers have more influence on young people than movie stars and other celebrities according to Forbes, meaning that the clash on November 9 represents an outstanding marketing opportunity for boxing, and a chance to reach people that perhaps have more of an interest in eSports than pugilism.
It's not good news for traditionalists but it's hard to see KSI vs. Logan Paul as having anything but a positive effect on the sport.