TONIGHT in Los Angeles boxing got what it deserved.
At Staples Center, the venue in which Shane Mosley and Oscar De La Hoya once went to war for 12 rounds, we got a couple of lacklustre ‘world’ title fights (wins for Billy Joe Saunders and Devin Haney), a farcical if amusing disqualification win for Nikita Ababiy, and a six-round professional ‘fight’ between YouTube stars and debutants KSI and Logan Paul, which ended in a decision victory for KSI (56-55 and 57-54 KSI, 56-55 Paul).
Through three rounds two men made straight punching look like the most difficult act in the world until a peach of an uppercut landed by Paul in the fourth round dropped KSI and scrambled his senses. It would have been a fight-ender if produced by a proper boxer, yet Paul’s instinct was to follow the shot with another one, thrown illegally as he pulled his opponent towards him, and this resulted in the referee administering both a knockdown and a two-point deduction.
The deduction would prove crucial, though neither knew it at the time.
Initially, the Brit, still hurt, found his shell, while Paul, in the ascendency, tried to find the punches required to finish the job. That he never found them should come as no surprise. That the decision went to KSI, 1-0 (0), should come as no surprise.
The bout wasn’t pretty, but we knew that going in. What instead came as a surprise was that the event as a whole wasn’t pretty. The lights were bright, the music was loud, and the histrionics and anthems – yes, they went there (someone even pretended to play a violin) – hilarious, but the bill itself, the actual boxing, was worse than anticipated, certainly in terms of the Saunders and Haney performances.
Still, no harm done. Despite its shortcomings, KSI vs. Logan Paul II will have made some already rich people plenty of money and that, in the end, was both the reason it went ahead and all that really matters. (Based on noise levels, too, the crowd for which it was intended clearly loved every minute of it.)
As for the promise of it attracting a new audience to boxing, forget it. If at all possible before tonight, and it wasn’t, it’s hard to now imagine fans of KSI and Logan Paul rushing back to watch future defences for Billy Joe Saunders and Devin Haney, or indeed variations on the theme. Booed throughout, Saunders and Haney are proven quality fighters, but were lost on a crowd like tonight’s and seemed lost in general, unable to motivate themselves for bit-part roles in a world of make believe. Frankly, who could blame them?