Millions are expected to tune in Saturday to watch two of the most famous YouTubers on the planet—KSI (19 million subscribers) and Logan Paul (18 million subscribers)—beat the crap out of each other. The fight, which takes place at the 21,000-capacity Manchester Arena (and will also be streamed via pay-per-view on YouTube), will feature six three-minute rounds in a gloved boxing match with open-cheek head guards.
This will be the second time KSI has stepped into a ring to settle his beef with another YouTube star, having defeated Joe Weller (a measly 5 million subscribers) earlier this year in three rounds. KSI, whose real name is Olajide William "JJ" Olatunji, immediately called out both Logan and Jake Paul following his victory, demanding his next fight be against one of them. Logan answered KSI’s challenge, and for most of the year the two have been talking trash on Twitter, in diss-tracks, and at “heated” press conferences.
While Paul is an unproven (and likely terrible) boxer, he does have an athletic background as a decorated high school linebacker and wrestler. He also has a slight height and reach advantage on the 1-0 KSI, who told VICE his strategy against Paul is to go out and “break his face.” Especially after Paul drew condemnation for uploading a video showing what appeared to be a dead body in Japan's notorious "suicide forest," a lot of people probably wouldn't be upset with that outcome. But KSI is also a controversial figure who's been criticized for making misogynistic comments and "trivializing rape." No matter who wins, we all lose.
VICE caught up with KSI after one of his final training sessions to find out why he wants to fight other YouTubers and how he plans to avenge all the people Paul offended with his "suicide forest" video earlier this year.
VICE: How long have you been training for this match? You just fought Joe Weller in February.
KSI: I started training around April. After February, I had March to relax, and then in April just started going again.
How rigorous has the training been for this fight? Logan’s a bigger opponent than Weller.
Pretty much everything’s the same, just times ten. I’m training way harder and my sparring partners are way harder. Nutrition is still the same, pretty much. I’m bulking so I have to eat more—but not too much, because I fight in a certain way, and I wouldn’t want to disrupt the way I fight because of my weight, so I can’t get too heavy. I’ve got physicians helping me out as well, making sure I’m strong and fast.
Is the amped-up training to prepare for someone of Logan Paul's size? He’s 6'2"—about two inches taller than you.
Yeah, it’s mainly because Logan’s a much bigger opponent and has a bigger reach, so I’m going to have to make my shots count. He’s got an athletic background, so we put that into consideration. He’s going to be a strong opponent and hit hard, but we’re just going to make sure he misses with those big hits and I make him pay for it.
Is this fight 100-percent legitimate, or are some things preplanned?
The only thing that is planned is that we’re fighting at an event, and that’s it. I don’t talk to him and he doesn’t talk to me, or if he does talk to me he talks to me through his team [laughs]. It’s mainly because I’m going in on his girlfriend or his family or blah blah blah, and he’s crying like a little baby.
Why did you want to fight the Paul brothers?
Well, I felt like it would make sense for me to save [Logan's] career [after the "suicide forest" video] by calling him out. I wanted to fight Jake first, but Jake just ran away and didn’t want to fight me at all, so I was like, “Alright, Logan is just as good.”
After the Japan video, there are probably a lot of people who would like to see Logan Paul get punched in the face. How does it feel knowing most of the crowd is probably on your side?
I know the crowd will definitely be on my side. I just know that I’ve got a huge responsibility to [...] essentially break his nose and make him realize what he did was stupid. People are always going to be angry about what he did, but a lot of people feel like he said sorry because he had to say sorry. Essentially, I’m there to show him what sorry really means. And it's me punching him in the face repeatedly.
I’m sure he knows what he did was wrong, but I don’t know how you can be that stupid. Especially because his audience is so young. The way he acts is so childish as well, so he knows he has a young audience. To expose them to that, oh man... I don’t know, he's just in the wrong. He always has “yes men” around him that just agree with him, you know? He’s never wrong; he’s always right. So I think it’s about time for someone to take him down a peg and show him that he’s not always right.
Did something about that video affect you personally? Did that make you want to fight him?
Personally, I haven’t had any issues when it comes to suicide, but I’ve had friends that have gone down that path or have done things to themselves. Obviously, it’s one of those things that you don’t want to publicize and say, “Wow, look at this!” to gain viewership, and [what Logan did] put a bad taste in my mouth. It made me feel like I have a responsibility to set things straight and knock him down.
After your first fight you called on celebrities who wanted to box to come fight you. Do you aspire to take on professional fighters as well?
I’m definitely looking to go pro, especially after this fight. I feel like it would be a good story to show that a person who was a FIFA gamer and a YouTuber—like, I was a nerdy little kid—can go from that to pro in a boxing arena. I think that would be an amazing story.
The Connor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather fight was huge last year and got a lot of attention because it was a crossover match between an MMA fighter and a boxer. Do you aspire to that level and hope to take on someone as successful as them?
No [laughs], but you never know these days. I wouldn’t have thought I would be a boxer five or ten years ago. I never thought that I would be in a ring with hundreds of thousands and millions watching me box. You never know with these things, but right now I’m definitely not at that level.
This is your second match against an internet celebrity. Are you hoping to start some sort of league or “Internet Championship” belt with YouTube stars? Or is this just a thing that happens once in a while?
There’s so many avenues that we can take, especially after this fight. I’m going to explore where I want to go with it. Obviously, there’s an audience for it and people get excited about it, so there’s definitely something there. Again, it’s all up in the air. Right now, I’m just making sure I can knock out Logan Paul.
You mentioned wanting to break his nose. Are you out for blood or more focused on winning?
Well, I mean, I’m not out for blood. As a boxer, I’m going to be smart, but if I happen to break his nose that’s a bonus. But no, I never let emotions get involved when I box.
Professional boxers usually focus on training before fights and rarely do press conferences. How do you balance training while also doing so much promo?
It's quite a lot to deal with, but I’ve been doing YouTube for years and years, so I just know how to juggle everything and balance it all out. Ultimately, with the press conferences and all that, it’s good, because I feel like the mental side is really important when it comes to boxing. Essentially, you can win the fight before the fight starts. I feel like I’ve already done that, so I just need to make sure I finish the job on August 25.
Do you feel like you have an edge over Logan because you’ve fought in an arena full of people already this year?
He knows how to perform in front of an audience. I feel like that won’t phase him too much, but I think what will phase him is the pressure to win. I believe he’s going to be focusing way more on winning compared to me, who’s focusing on making sure I go out there and put on a good performance and entertain the crowd. And, obviously, break his face while doing it [laughs].
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