Securing a long-term deal with DAZN was exactly the promotional start to the year sought by KSI.
Now comes the process of seeing through a three-fight plan in 2023 that the multi-talented boxer and influencer hopes will lead to a showdown with his longtime rival from both within the sport and the content creator universe.
“First fight of the year, it’s obviously FaZe Temperrr,” KSI told BoxingScene.com in mapping out his year. “Second fight, it could be Joe Fournier or even Tyron Woodley, any fight like that to excite the people. Then of course, the third fight to end the year will be Jake Paul.
“I think a fight between myself and Jake Paul would be even bigger than Tank and Ryan Garcia. “I know a lot of old heads and traditionalists are like, ‘Shut up, you don’t know what you’re talking about. But this is a beef that has been bubbling up for years.”
The ambitious plan kicks off with this weekend’s showdown versus FaZe Temperrr (real name Thomas Oliveira), a 6’4” southpaw from Brazil who is a co-founder of popular gaming group FaZe Clan. The two collide this Saturday atop Misfits+DAZN: X Series 004 which airs live on DAZN Pay-Per-View from OVO Arena Wembley at KSI’s London hometown.
KSI (real name Olajide William “JJ” Olatunji) is smart enough to have created an empire and aware enough to know that such a claim will draw collective eyerolling from many in the sport. The 29-year-old British rapper and YouTube personality-turned boxer and entrepreneur has grown accustomed to being doubted, taking even more pride in constantly disproving said naysayers.
Proof of that has come in his successful foray into the pro boxing game. Every fight thus far involving KSI has come with its share of criticism, but always resulting in commercial success including his creation of the Misfits Boxing series on DAZN which regularly showcases online influencers settling their differences in the ring.
The YouTube boxing circuit was popularized by KSI, dating back to his third-round knockout of former friend-turned rival and fellow online musician Joe Weller. Their August 2018 exhibition bout was intended to settle a year-long beef that began with diss tracks and crashing each other’s panels during a September 2017 Upload influencer event.
KSI’s next fight was the one that truly put YouTube boxing on the map, when he and Logan Paul fought to a draw in their August 2019 exhibition at Manchester Arena (now AO Arena) in Manchester, England. The event caught the attention of many, including Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing who staged their rematch—sanctioned as a per bout—atop a November 2019 DAZN show from Staples Center (now Crypto.com Arena) in Los Angeles. KSI won via split decision atop a card that was the third-most watched boxing event on DAZN that year, trailing only the sport’s two biggest stars—Saul Alvarez in his knockout win over Sergey Kovalev, and Anthony Joshua’s revenge-fueled win over Andy Ruiz in their December 2019 WBA/IBF/WBO heavyweight title rematch.
Immediately after the win over Logan Paul came high demand for a showdown with younger brother Jake Paul (6-0, 4KOs), by far the most successful pro boxer—in the ring—among content creators. Jake Paul and KSI have never missed a moment to take shots at one another, though it has yet to produce an in-ring collision.
KSI upped the ante with the creation of Misfits Boxing, which has produced three commercially successful events to date. The MF+DAZN: X Series launched last August 27, featuring KSI versus two opponents in separate nights on the same night. He first beat Swarmz via second-round knockout, resting and reloading before he returned later in the evening to score a third-round knockout of established pro clubfighter Luis Alcarez Pineda (2-7, 0KOs).
The show generated a global audience of nearly two million viewers, including a massive spike in first-time DAZN subscribers.
KSI was limited to the role of promoter for the second and third installation of X Series before announcing the January 14 event on which he was originally due to face former mixed martial artist Dillon Danis.
The fight fell through at the start of the new year, when Danis revealed that he was underprepared and wouldn’t come close to making weight. Temperrr agreed to step in on short notice, fresh off a first-round knockout of Overtflow as part of the X Series 003 show that took place November 19 in Austin, Texas.
Saturday’s show comes on the heels of a five-year exclusive deal reached between DAZN and Misfits Boxing. Another large turnout is expected for this weekend’s show. KSI—who claims a combined subscriber base of 41.4 million followers across all platforms—aims to use this fight to build towards what he views as the holy grail of influencer boxing matchups in a targeted showdown with the younger Paul, who claims 20.3 million subscribers.
“We both have large audiences,” noted KSI. “Everyone in the YouTube space will want to see this. Just put two-and-two together and you can see why everyone will want to tune in.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox