Tommy Fury claimed bragging rights over fellow social media star KSI with a win on points in their boxing fight in front of a capacity crowd of 20,000 at Manchester’s AO Arena.
The bout was not licensed by the British Boxing Board of Control which governs the sport in the United Kingdom, as KSI does not hold a professional boxing licence in the UK.
In a six-round cruiserweight contest, both men showed their limitations with constant grappling and failed to land anything of real note as Fury, 24, edged a majority decision.
One judge scored it 57-57 and the other two 57-56 to Fury.
KSI, whose real name is Olajide William Olatunji, described the result as “a robbery” and called for a rematch.
“Look at your face, look at your eyes,” the 30-year-old said to Fury. “I’m the YouTuber and you’re the boxer, I understand, you have to win.”
Meanwhile, Fury labelled his opponent “a sore loser” and said he was “done with crossover boxing”.
Packed early doors & star-studded turnout
The arena was at full capacity for a contest which organisers had hoped would sell around a million pay-per-view buys, earning both participants a seven-figure sum.
Hardcore boxing fans and fighters felt aggrieved by the hype and attention given to the bout, with former world champion Carl Froch saying it damages the credibility of boxing.
But the huge interest – albeit not from purists – in such “crossover boxing” events involving social media influencers is undeniable.
The attendance was double that of last week’s all-British world title contest between Leigh Wood and Josh Warrington – a fight of the year contender.
Unlike a boxing event where the venue is rarely full before the main event, the arena was packed by 19:00 BST, four and a half hours before the Fury-KSI bout – testament to how the whole card is sold on social media following and popularity of its fighters, rather than boxing ability or a marquee headliner.
To illustrate the popularity of crossover boxing, American Alex Wassabi – who competed in the first fight of the TV broadcast – has more than three million Instagram followers, more than a million more than unified heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk.
Promoter Eddie Hearn, attending as a fan, sat at ringside along with British super-middleweight Chris Eubank Jr.
They were joined by celebrities such as ex-England footballer and Euro 2022 winner Jill Scott, British rapper Aitch, broadcaster Louis Theroux and four-time Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah, who was there for his son’s birthday.
WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury – cheering on younger brother Tommy – was also in attendance. The Briton said the event was “beautiful for the game” and, asked whether he could ever feature on an influencer card, he replied “you never know”.
KSI ‘wants to appeal’ after close points loss
The main event was given star treatment with legendary master of ceremonies Michael Buffer introducing the boxers, but – as expected – it was not a showcase of high-class boxing.
Fury, a horror film buff, made his entrance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller – a rather low-key ring walk compared with that of KSI, who sat in the driver’s seat of a green Lamborghini sports car, with his own song – named after the supercar – being played out.
Once the fight started, KSI lunged in with a straight right and landed on Fury’s neck in the opening minute but both men grappled through the first round.
Manchester’s Fury – who beat Jake Paul in a sanctioned bout to win his ninth pro fight in February – insisted he is a legitimate boxer with world title ambitions but did not appear to be levels above KSI, who has only one pro fight on his record.
Fury was deducted a point in the second round for punching on the back of the head but found success on the inside in the third to close the gap. Neither fighter was able to utilise the jab with more clinching in the fourth and fifth.
It was all to play for in the final round and KSI landed an orchestrated right hand. Both men raised their arms at the final bell.
“We’re going to appeal, I want to appeal,” KSI said in his post-fight interview. “I’m sorry, that’s outrageous. I felt like I won that.”
Show marred by ugly scenes in co-main event
The event was arguably the biggest in crossover boxing history and continued the bedlam and chaos witnessed throughout fight week.
Misfits – the organisation set up by KSI and promotional partners Wasserman Boxing – is sanctioned by the Professional Boxing Association and considers its product as sports entertainment.
The card kicked off with a tag-team fight between two sets of influencers, with boxers able to tap in their partner.
The gimmicks may appeal to some fans, but there were ugly scenes in a co-main event between WWE star Logan Paul and fellow American Dillon Danis which went too far, ending in a mass brawl with a number of security personnel and members of both boxers’ teams entering the ring.
In a distasteful build-up, Danis was issued with a restraining order by Paul’s fiancee for posting explicit images online. At Thursday’s news conference, a brawl broke out between them, leaving Paul with a cut on his face.
The ridiculousness continued into the fight as Danis – who kept talking and laughing throughout the contest – would rarely throw a punch.
When he did, it was a bizarre slap with the back of his hand. At one point, he inexplicably fell on his back when no punch landed.
Danis, an MMA fighter, attempted to wrestle Paul to the ground early in the final round. With Danis on his back, a frustrated Paul threw a punch down onto Danis, prompting the melee. Danis even aimed a swing – and missed – at a member of security, before Paul was awarded a disqualification win.
Misfits and crossover boxing will continue to divide opinion. Its fighters – the majority of who are content creators by trade – may keep taking it too far and pushing boundaries in order to sell events and create shareable moments for social media.
However, with the interest and money generated by Fury-Paul and now Fury-KSI, it appears influencer boxing is here to stay.