KSI gets split decision over Logan Paul in rematch of YouTube sensations

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LOS ANGELES —It certainly won’t go down in boxing history as a battle along the lines Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, but YouTube superstars KSI and Logan Paul have a rivalry all the same.

And months of internet hype brought a fervent crowd of about 12,000 to Staples Center to see a rematch of a bout held last year in Manchester, England.

KSI came out swinging from the outset, and that spelled the difference in the six-round cruiserweight fight, as he earned a split-decision victory. The judges gave KSI a pair of 56-55s to a 57-54 for Paul.

“Last time, I was scared, I was scared to fight him,” KSI said. “This time I just went in, I just kept going and kept going.”

The first fight, an amateur bout in which both wore headgear, ended in a majority draw. This time, it was a California State Athletic Commission-sanctioned professional fight, without headgear, and KSI came out headhunting from the start. He whiffed on gigantic haymakers, and Paul did his best to clinch and land body punches in close.

It was far from high-level boxing, but the crowd, which skewed considerably younger than your typical boxing audience, ate it up as if they were watching a classic fight.

The first big moments of the bout occurred in the third, when KSI landed what was what appeared to be a legitimate knockdown, but was ruled a slip by referee Jack Reiss. KSI continued to pour it on, and another flurry led to a legit slip in the round’s final seconds.

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But KSI, the 26-year-old Londoner of Nigerian descent, gassed himself out going for the knockout, and Paul had his best round in the fourth. He landed a legit uppercut to the jaw, but then dropped KSI with a blatant punch to the back of the head.

Reiss ruled the exchange a knockdown, but also docked Paul two points for the foul, which spelled the difference on the scorecards in what would have otherwise been a majority draw.

Both fighters tired in the fifth and sixth rounds. KSI kept hunting for the knockdown. Paul found some success with the jab. Despite the clear lack of skill, the fans exhorted them on all the same, up the final bell.

“He hit me with a few illegal shots here and there, but I don’t stop man,” KSI said.

The celebrity fight, which was promoted by Britain’s Matchroom Boxing and streamed in the U.S. over DAZN, headlined over a pair of World title fights, which were met by indifference from the crowd which was drawn on internet celebrity star power.

England’s Billy Joe Saunders (29-0) retained his WBO super middleweight title with an 11th-round knockout of Argentina’s Marcelo Coceres (28-1-1); and WBC lightweight champion Devin Haney (24-0) retained his belt with a 120-107 across-the-board drubbing of Alfredo Santiago (12-1). 

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