Love it or hate it… KSI is now one of the biggest names in British sport
On Saturday, one of the most significant boxing events in recent years happened.
Not at the O2, where Matchroom’s ‘British Beef’ show took place after months of brilliant build-up and some genuinely fantastically produced content from Sky Sports to build excitement.
And not in Russia for the Cruiserweight semi-final in the breathtaking World Boxing Super Series which saw Murat Gassiev added the WBA belt to his IBF world title by stopping Yunier Dorticos.
No. The most significant boxing event in years happened in Stratford East London, where a sell-out crowd at the Copper Box and 1.6m viewers watched YouTube stars have an amateur boxing match.
Joe Weller and KSI are not Vladarmkr Klitchkno and Anthony Joshua when it comes to actual boxing talent. But the social media personalities don’t need to be. With over 20 million YouTube subscribers between them, they have an Influence that pretty much no boxer or sports person on the planet can come close to.
The build up hype was, of course, played out on social media to WWE levels of pantomime. But it worked perfectly.
These are guys that have 13 million people watching their pre-fight press conference and over £100,000 spent on betting.
This wasn’t a couple of pissed-up fellas live streaming a scrap in their kitchen to a couple of hundred people.
This was a proper high impact, large scale event put on by some of the leading figures in the modern digital world, with huge levels of engagement to an audience that hangs off their every post, and have mainstream sponsors fighting to be associated with them.
Stuart Jones, the Founder of Upload Agency, and who put on the event, told us why this was such a big sporting moment – “People love seeing their favourite YouTuber’s come to life, especially when they are stepping out of their comfort zone. We could have actually sold more than 20,000 tickets, had we booked a larger venue.
Sports fans on the whole have been very positive about the event. The boxing was high quality, especially the headline fight. Joe and JJ both trained as professionals for 4 months and devoted all of their time into becoming the best possible boxers.
It was also important to me, as a boxing enthusiast, that we respected the sport of boxing from a production point of view. We made sure we didn’t cut any corners with any aspect of the event. If you look at James DeGale’s last fight at the Copper Box, you’ll notice that the lighting, PA, ring etc is all exactly the same. We wanted to ensure we replicated professional boxing events that the likes of Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn put on so well.
There will be another fight for KSI. We’re letting the dust settle and then we’ll see where we go from here. We are in no rush but we’re already looking at bigger venues and starting conversations about the next event. We’ve also been inundated with other influencers who want to be matched with an opponent on the undercard for the next fight night.
I think this simply shows the power of social influencers and how brands and sporting events can really benefit from influencer marketing campaigns to drive footfall.”
Hardcore fans might not like it but when you look at the numbers involved with this fight and the new younger audience they’ve attracted, boxing should be incredibly grateful that KSI is now one of the biggest names in British sport.
KSI vs Rio Ferdinand at Wembley stadium anyone?