The battle to crown the toughest internet personality saw a pair of YouTube sensations enter the ring under professional rules on Saturday as the sport of boxing tentatively held its breath.
With a combined 40 million followers on YouTube and a grudge that dates back to their majority draw amateur bout in 2018, KSI and Logan Paul drew a huge crowd to the Staples Center in Los Angeles and received main event status on DAZN before delivering a surprisingly entertaining affair.
KSI came out the winner in the end by split decision in their six-round cruiserweight bout that was helped by referee Jack Reiss' controversial two-point deduction on Paul for holding and hitting KSI when he was down in Round 4. Two judges scored it 57-54 and 56-55 for KSI while the third had it 56-55 for Paul.
"I've never worked so hard," KSI said. "In the ring, in camp it was tough but I just kept going. I was ready, I was on fire. He couldn't deal with my jabs to the body tonight."
The 26-year-old KSI, whose real name is Olajide "JJ" Olatunji, was outlanded overall by Paul, 61 to 55, according to CompuBox. But the native of London landed the bigger shots throughout save for a wild fourth round that ultimately decided the fight.
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Paul, the 24-year-old controversial actor and personality from Westlake, Ohio, appeared to badly hurt KSI with a right uppercut and proceeded to hold KSI's head with his left while hitting him with his right. As KSI fell to the ground, Paul caught him once more with a right while he was down on one knee.
Reiss instantly jumped in to separate the fighters and allow KSI time to recover in the corner. He ultimately ruled that the knockdown would be scored by judges but that Paul would also be docked two points despite never being warned for the fouls.
"I let emotions get the best of me but I will say, no warning and I get two points taken away from me?" Paul said. "That's why I lost tonight. Do the math. I would like to contest the commission because I did not receive a warning. I don't think that was fair at all."
The hulking 6-foot-2 Paul held a height advantage and used it well by jabbing from distance throughout the fight. But save for the uppercut in Round 4, he was never able to land a power shot of any significance as KSI focused on the body and took more chances by leaping in with wild shots.
Both fighters took training camp seriously for their respective pro debuts and hired well-known trainers. They were also subject to the same drug testing and health screenings by the California State Athletic Commission as the undercard fighters, which included super middleweight titleholder Billy Joe Saunders and rising lightweight star Devin Haney.
Although no one would confuse the two fighters as seasoned pros, they took the fight serious enough to entertain throughout and avoid from devolving into too deeply of a carnival show.
"KSI last time was scared to fight. I was scared to touch him and get close to him. This time, I just went in and kept going and kept going," KSI said. "I'm a dog, I keep saying it. He hit me hard and hit me in the back of the head but it is what it is. Your boy is happy, your boy is victorious and it's happy days. I am a fighter and I keep going. That's it."
Replays showed that KSI was robbed of scoring his own knockdown in Round 3 when a right hand appeared to drop Paul in the corner only for Reiss to rule it a slip. Yet with the fight up for grabs entering the final round, KSI outworked his opponent and was the aggressor.
Despite the bad blood and outlandish trash talk between them, KSI chose to bury it after the fight and extended his hand to Paul before the two embraced.
"You made me work and you made me work a year ago," KSI said to Paul. "Thank you for a good fight. Thank you, brother."
Although he contested Reiss' point deduction, Paul showed nothing but class to KSI in defeat.
"Fair play to 'JJ.' You are one of the toughest people I know. You deserve everything you have earned in my life," Paul said. "I don't like being a dick to you. It was all to sell [the fight]. You are one of the toughest people I know and I wish you the best."
Asked after the fight whether he would consider a trilogy, Paul said yes and added, "these are the best moments of my life!" It was an opinion, however, not shared by KSI.
"It's done, it is done. I'm on to the next thing," KSI said to Paul. "You can do MMA. You should fight CM Punk, that would be pretty funny for you."
CBS Sports was with you for every punch with our live scorecard and updates below.If you are having trouble viewing the results or want to refresh the scorecard, please click here.
KSI def. Logan Paul via split decision (55-56, 57-54, 56-55)
Devin Haney (c) def. Alfredo Alvarez via unanimous decision (120-107, 120-107, 120-107)
Billy Joe Saunders (c) def. Marcelo Coceres via 11th-round TKO
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