YouTuber boxing made a rapid ascent to the mainstream in recent years. The phenomenon is responsible for launching the boxing careers of social media stars like the Paul brothers and KSI – and sparking plenty of controversies.
Former U.S. national boxing team member and FightCamp co-founder Tommy Duquette explains what set off the meteoric rise of YouTuber boxing and walks us through some of the key events that made it mainstream. Tommy also reveals which YouTuber went toe-to-toe with our very own FightCamp family member and boxing legend Floyd Mayweather.
From the UK to LA
It all started in 2017 with a friendly bout between friends and British YouTube stars Joe Weller and Theo Baker. Weller had promoted the match on his Instagram account, which caught the attention of fellow YouTuber KSI. He had 19 million subscribers at the time when he publicly challenged the winner to a fight.
Weller won the match and accepted KSIs challenge. The fight drew an in-person audience of around 7,500 at the Copper Box Arena in London, but over 1.6 million viewers live-streamed the match online. When KSI won by TKO in round 3, he called out two of the most famous YouTube sensations, Jake and Logan Paul, to get in the ring.
Logan Paul accepted and the two riled up their online audiences with plenty of trash talk in the months leading up to the fight. Both had around 20 million subscribers each, so news of the fight spread fast. KSI and Logan Paul fought for the title of YouTube Boxing Champion at the sold-out Manchester Arena with a pay-per-view audience of over 1.06 million. The match ended with a majority draw and a whopping 24 million YouTube replays.
The viewing numbers caught the eye of famous boxing promoter Eddie Hearn. He made it his mission to level up both fighters to professional status and make the rematch an even bigger event.
On November 9th, 2019, KSI and Logan Paul met once again for a rematch at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA.
Pulling in the Pros
The KSI vs. Logan Paul rematch was a high-profile event. Celebrities in attendance included Wiz Khalifa, Tyron Woodley, Mike Tyson, and Justin Bieber with performances by Lil Baby and Rick Ross.
KSI was ultimately declared the YouTube Boxing Champion by a split decision after 6 rounds. They sold out the Staples Center and garnered 1.2 million pay-per-views. It was extensively covered by major broadcasters, thrusting YouTuber Boxing into the mainstream.
YouTuber boxing has since exploded, even pulling champion fighters back into the ring to ‘settle scores’ with antagonistic social media influencers. The online rivalries and the entrance of some of the biggest names in boxing began to lend even more of a following – and legitimacy – to the YouTuber boxing phenomenon.
On June 2, 2021, Logan Paul even went 8 rounds with boxing legend Floyd Mayweather. Though no winner was declared, champion Floyd Mayweather later clarified the difference between an exhibition match and a real match:
"I did an exhibition with the YouTuber Logan Paul. We had fun. … People have gotta know, there's a difference between a real fight and an exhibition. All I did was work out from time to time. If it was a real fight, it would've been a blowout in the first round."
Jake Paul Steals the Spotlight
Though Logan Paul helped elevate YouTuber boxing to the level it is today, his brother Jake is now one of the biggest names in the scene.
A highly controversial win against Nate Robinson was the viral moment that sent Jake Paul to the level of YouTube boxing sensation. Jake Paul has a record of 5-0 with 4 wins by KO. He has amassed an estimated $45 million from his boxing success. Jake Paul has also recently been calling on UFC Champion Conor McGregor to meet him in the ring.
Tommy finds this potential match-up interesting. There is a substantial size difference as there was with Paul vs. Mayweather (Jake Paul is over 6 feet tall and 200 lbs). Conor McGregor is a trained boxer who competed in 50 or 60 amateur matches before his career in MMA. For now, Tommy’s betting on McGregor but points out that Paul is still getting better.
Tommy’s Take on YouTuber Boxing
A lot of people from the boxing world were hyper-critical of YouTuber boxing, especially when it first started. Many wondered why these social media stars should get all the attention when there are career boxers that don’t get nearly as much media. Tommy felt the same way at first, but here are his thoughts now:
They’ve Worked for Their Audience
These YouTube boxers have worked for years to build the kind of following they have on social media; they’ve earned the attention that goes with it. Other boxers could learn from it to help build their own personal brand.
Many of Them Are Serious
A lot of these fighters take the sport very seriously, especially Jake Paul. He trains with a pro trainer, works out several times a day, and even has a ring in his house. He has been training for four years now. Deontay Wilder was boxing for only 3 or 4 years before winning a bronze medal in the Olympics.
Keep it Respectful
If you are going to do it, take it seriously. There are a lot of crowd-chasers trying to be the next Jake Paul on TikTok, but they look like cornballs. Boxing deserves respect. People die for the sport. It’s the most historically significant sport in human history.
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