Boxer and YouTuber KSI on Becoming the GOAT and Building a Legacy (2023)

Boxer and YouTuber KSI on Becoming the GOAT and Building a Legacy (1)

CHRIS FLOYD

Standing in a car park in Willesden, north-west London, KSI takes off his shirt and records a message for his 12 million Instagram followers.

‘Alright, what’s up? Your boy’s doing a competition. Now, if you buy Not Over Yet on iTunes, ladies and gentlemen, I will give you…’

He starts again. ‘Alright, yo! What’s up? So, your boy is going to do a little competition. If you buy Not Over Yet on iTunes, then you will be able to get two tickets to my next fight against Swarmz. And also! Two tickets – VIP – to the Jake Paul fight next year, ladies and gentlemen. So, go get… arrggh.’

‘I want to be up there with Michael Jordan, Ronaldo and Lewis Hamilton.’

He turns to face a person from his management company, Abs. ‘Wait, what about if you’ve already bought… can you still enter?’ he asks.

‘Don’t say how we’re going to select the winner,’ Abs says. ‘Just say, “To be in with a chance to win…”’

One more go. ‘Yo, yo, yo – so your boy is doing a little competition. So. If you buy Not Over Yet right now, on iTunes, you’ll be entered – enter – a competition for a chance to get two tickets to my fight against Swarmz, as well as two VIP tickets to the Jake Paul fight next year. So, go buy your thing, and I’ll see you in a bit.’

‘Why did I say buy your thing?’ he says, exasperated. ‘Oh man, I’m shit at this.’

Boxer and YouTuber KSI on Becoming the GOAT and Building a Legacy (2)

Photography by Chris Floyd

It’s Tuesday. In 18 days, KSI – whose real name is Olajide ‘JJ’ Olatunji – will fight Brandon ‘Swarmz’ Scott, a London rapper, in front of 20,000 fans at the O2 arena in Greenwich, London. Hundreds of thousands more will watch via pay- per-view (PPV), putting the match in DAZN’s (the streaming service with links to controversial boxing promoter Eddie Hearn) top five most-watched boxing events of all time. Today, he sits in the sunshine outside a photo studio waiting to have his picture taken for Men’s Health, cradling a gallon hydration bottle filled with colourful BCAAs.

If you’re over 25, KSI may well be the most famous person you’ve never heard of. He’s Britain’s biggest internet celebrity, someone who became famous making YouTube videos (skits, pranks, gaming commentary), then became a pop star, then a boxer. That’s just for starters.

If you grew up on traditional media – hearing about celebrities on TV, the radio or in magazines like this one – then KSI’s success can be hard to square. Or even to take seriously. But that doesn’t make it less real. KSI is huge on YouTube – he has more than 40 million subscribers across his three channels. His videos have been viewed more than 10 billion times. That’s billion, with a ‘b’.

KSI’s ventures have earned him in excess of £15m. There’s his YouTube career, of course, but he also owns at least 10 homes across the UK. He’s the CEO of the company MisFits Boxing and co-owns a restaurant chain and a vodka brand. In January, he launched a sports drink, Prime Hydration, in the US, with Logan Paul, an even more successful YouTuber. It made $10m in its first 12 weeks on sale in the US alone. Then, in June, they released Prime in the UK, and the drink soon replaced Gatorade as Arsenal’s official hydration partner. As his affable manager Mams Taylor tells me, ‘The numbers don’t lie.’

KSI is 29 years old.

To be fair, there’s a reasonable excuse for finding KSI’s success hard to comprehend: it has no precedent. He registered his YouTube account in 2009 and started posting gaming commentary videos on Call Of Duty and FIFA, then it grew from there. He has a big, likeable personality and a quick laugh – once he built his YouTube audience, he could translate that commercial value into other sectors of the entertainment industry.

That might sound straightforward, but the optics weren’t good. ‘The thing people take for granted is, “Oh, he’s got millions of followers [therefore they’ll go wherever he goes],”’ Taylor says. ‘But it’s actually more difficult for most YouTubers and influencers to turn their attention to music successfully. I knew we’d have multiple barriers to break down. But the brand for KSI is doing things he’s passionate about. Because if he’s not, his fans will be able to detect that very quickly. So many people have totally tanked [attempting to switch roles]. Look at Vin Diesel’s pop career.’

KSI’s skill has been keeping all his plates spinning at once. This afternoon is a case in point. He’s mobilising his considerable fan base both to get hyped for his upcoming boxing match (there’ll be a good deal more on this later) and also to try to get his new single to number one. It bears repeating that he’s not doing this by using the levers and mechanics of a seasoned PR firm, by paying for splashy advertising or embarking on a whistle-stop promotional tour. He’s doing it on his iPhone.

Boxer and YouTuber KSI on Becoming the GOAT and Building a Legacy (3)

Dave J HoganGetty Images

Not Over Yet, a garage-pop track featuring pop star Tom Grennan, will represent KSI’s eighth Top 10 hit. It’s currently placing number three in the midweek chart. ‘We’ve got until tomorrow night,’ Abs says, referring to the cut-off point for counting sales, while he plays back KSI’s car park pitches. ‘This will go out on his socials, Twitter, Instagram…’

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Currently outselling them is a house track, Afraid To Feel by LF System, and the comeback single by Beyoncé. ‘Madonna’s just done a remix for her,’ Abs nods. ‘And that’ll count.’ Yesterday, they slashed Not Over Yet’s iTunes price to 59p. Today, a topless message from its singer – plus the chance to win a pair of VIP boxing tickets – can only help. At least it’s one trick Beyoncé can’t compete with.

The next evening, I watch KSI do an Instagram Live with Tom Grennan. He’s in a London studio simultaneously recording a podcast called The Fellas, hosted by Calfreezy and The Burnt Chip, two more YouTubers. Grennan is in Lake Geneva on holiday. It’s fairly chaotic: the opposite of what you’d call a smoothly planned, PR-sanctioned chat, and exactly what their fans expect.

‘Do you know what, if we don’t get to number one, that’s fine,’ says Grennan. ‘But obviously, I’m hoping for number one. This is massive for me, massive for you…’ Not Over Yet eventually enters the Official Singles Chart at number four.

Boxer and YouTuber KSI on Becoming the GOAT and Building a Legacy (4)

Photography by Chris Floyd

Outside the studio, KSI looks tired. As well he might. He’s currently ‘in camp’ – meaning he’s training multiple times a day to prepare for his upcoming fight. KSI stands for ‘knowledge’, ‘strength’ and ‘integrity’, words he has tattooed across his chest and arms respectively. ‘My legacy is just to be the GOAT,’ he says. ‘I want people to look back in years to come and be like, “You know what? KSI did a madness. He started with no talent. Absolutely fuck all. And he was able to start with zero subscribers to then be this guy who’s got plenty of number ones in music. Was able to fight, like, massive YouTubers and all these other things that people thought he was never able to do. Get all these accolades. From literally nothing.”’

He certainly seems to have had a fairly singular career so far, I say.

‘Yeah, that’s it,’ he says. ‘You know how people look at Michael Jordan and Ronaldo and Lewis Hamilton and all these huge people that have done so much in their career? I want to be up there with them. At first, this wasn’t on my mind. I was just doing it to make a bit of money and get by. But then I just kept pushing. Seeing how far I can go. Now I’m here, I’m like, “Shit. Let me just keep going.”’

In 2018, KSI was the subject of KSI: Can’t Lose, a documentary following the build-up to his first amateur boxing fight against another British YouTuber, Joe Weller, which broke records with more than 20 million views – the biggest white-collar boxing event ever. It ended with him calling out Logan Paul, the guy he would go on to partner with for Prime Hydration; his brother Jake Paul, also a YouTuber; and Rio Ferdinand.

‘I want people to look back in years to come and be like, “You know what? KSI did a madness.'

This led to two Logan Paul boxing matches in 2018 and 2019 – the second of which was a professional bout that took place in the (then-named) Staples Center in Los Angeles, with 21,000 fans in attendance and 1.3 million PPV buys around the world. By KSI’s own admission, these matches were at least partly spurred on by the idea of increasing his fame in America.

KSI won the Weller fight with a technical knockout in the third round, scored a majority draw in the first Logan Paul fight and won by a split decision in the rematch. (The Jake Paul fight is scheduled for Wembley Stadium next year. As for the Ferdinand challenge, apparently, ‘Rio just wasn’t on it.’)

That KSI and Logan Paul can go from boxing ring adversaries to launching a soft drinks business may seem odd. But it’s arguably not as odd as the spot they chose to promote it. The UK launch for Prime was from an open-top bus outside an Asda in Watford. On YouTube – where else? – footage exists of thousands of screaming teenagers surrounding the supermarket trying to get their hands on a bottleof the tropical-flavoured beverage. The Watford Observer live-blogged the event while a concerned police officer looked on. Similarly, when KSI announced he was to fight Swarmz, one might have wondered just how genuine the animosity was between them. Two years ago, they collaborated on the Top 10 hit Houdini.

Boxing has always been a bit of a carnival and KSI’s fights have a tendency to begin the same way – someone calls him out on social media or records a ‘diss track’, then he says he’ll fight them. Yes, a bit like in a school playground. A cynic might argue they’re doing it for the attention or the money – which would also mean they had more in common with old-school celebs than initially suggested.

Boxer and YouTuber KSI on Becoming the GOAT and Building a Legacy (5)

Luke WalkerGetty Images

‘It’s just business, isn’t it?’ KSI explains. ‘We were just aight, but then [Swarmz] called me out, saying he’d smoke me. And I was like, “What?” I dunno. Maybe he wants a bit of clout. I saw a video of him saying he knows what I’ve done to him. I was so confused. I was like, “I’ve no idea what I’ve done to you. You wanted to fight me!’ Either way, it doesn’t matter. The outcome is still the same. Someone is still getting knocked out. And it’s not me.’

The saga of the O2 fight gets more surreal, however. KSI was originally billed to fight yet another YouTuber, Alex Wassabi. Wassabi had previously fought and beaten KSI’s younger brother, Deji Olatunji – also a YouTuber. But three weeks before the O2 fight, around the time of our first interview, Wassabi pulls out, citing a concussion sustained during training. The KSI camp called bullshit, saying they had such low confidence in Wassabi actually following through that they already had a reserve lined up: Swarmz. This may have been news to Swarmz, the suggestion of him wanting ‘a bit of clout’ notwithstanding. He’d never boxed; now he had two weeks to learn. (Though he still found time to release the rather literally titled KSI Diss Track. Sample lyric: ‘Jess, Kate, mmm, Olivia/ JJ, which one gave you chlamydia?/ I know you’re in your room wanking with the Nivea.’)

Then Jake Paul tweeted that he’d step up – though it’s unclear how seriously either camp took this. Team KSI doubled down, saying the event would now be billed as ‘2 Fights 1 Night’. KSI would now fight a mystery second opponent. Not at the same time – though at this point you could be forgiven for thinking it wouldn’t have been out of the question. That opponent was revealed to be not a YouTuber, but a Bulgarian professional boxer named Ivan Nikolov. A few days before the fight, Nikolov was dropped from the event after it emerged that he had neo-Nazi and white power symbols tattooed on his body. A fourth and final announcement was made – KSI would now follow the Swarmz fight by taking on the Mexican professional Luis Alcaraz Pineda. Just to keep things extra interesting, the undercard also featured Deji.

The fact this whole soap opera made the event prominent tabloid news for almost the entire month can’t have done anyone any harm – except perhaps Wassabi, who spent his recovery time exchanging some fairly ripe words and short-form video content with his one-time opponent.

‘He said he had concussion,’ KSI snorts. ‘I’ve yet to see any proof of a concussion. I find it funny because now he’s still talking so much shit. I’m like, “Bro, you’re not even fighting me now!” He’s lost his opportunity – I’ll never fight him on the big stage. But I did say to him, “Mark my words, I will fly you over, first class, to my gym. We’ll spar, and I will make sure you’re a highlight reel.”’(To be clear, what KSI is saying here is that Wassabi has been demoted from appearing at the O2 to the chance of being in one of his Instagram Stories.)

Boxer and YouTuber KSI on Becoming the GOAT and Building a Legacy (6)

Photography by Chris Floyd

Olajide Olatunji was born in 1993 to a Nigerian father, who managed a bingo hall, while his British mother worked in a variety of jobs to support running the house. ‘My work ethic definitely came from my parents,’ KSI says. ‘I’d see them work all the time, two jobs, left, right and centre.’ He had a very traditional, church-going Nigerian upbringing. He wasn’t allowed to walk to school and back; his parents always collected him. Sleepovers were not allowed. His parents wouldn’t go out either, nor spend money on ‘pointless things’. Their focus was simple: saving enough money to send their two boys to private school. They took out multiple loans and invested them in the then-buoyant property market, buying as many houses as they could and renting them out.

Private school did not agree with KSI. He was one of only two black kids, and he describes himself as being ‘shy, nerdy and timid. If I ever saw a girl, I would just start sweating.’ Instead, he passed his time trolling chatrooms and annoying moderators by saying as many outrageous things as he could. He was expected to become a doctor or a lawyer and to provide for the family, but YouTube had already turned his head. By the time his A-levels rolled around, he had built around 20,000 followers – not great, but not exactly nothing either. His A-level grades were C, D and F, plus a U in maths. Not doctor or lawyer material.

‘My parents lost their shit,’ he told Louis Theroux for the Grounded podcast in 2020. ‘My mum just screamed. I’ve never seen her scream so loud, and she was just throwing glasses everywhere. My dad was like, “Everything we’ve worked for has come to nothing.” It just crushed him.’

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A story KSI likes to tell is of the teacher who asked him how much he made through YouTube. That month, it was £1,500 – more, the teacher replied, than he himself earned. ‘I thought, “That’s it. YouTube is the one.”’ But his parents were less convinced, cutting off the internet and hiding his Xbox. Eventually, they decided he was on his own. The way KSI tells it now, this only made him more determined to make his parents proud. They’ve since featured in his videos, and he recently bought them a house. (Number of bedrooms? ‘Honestly, I don’t know.’ Swimming pool? ‘Nah, nah, nothing like that. Just a big house, in London, that does everything it needs to do.’)

'I was allowed to become this brand that can just do whatever he wants.'

Anyone with kids under 16 will know how many of their peers dream of becoming YouTube stars. KSI insists his success required zero talent. He just worked at it harder than anyone else. It’s an on-brand message – but there’s surely more to it.

‘Well, personality is a valid point. Having your own unique selling point. Why do people tune in to watch you? If you want to make a YouTube channel, you’ve got to ask yourself that question.’

What did people like about his FIFA videos?

‘Well, it started with me criticising FIFA. Me shitting on the game, being like, “This game could be so much better.”’

So, he was being funny, basically?

‘I didn’t even think I was being funny. I was just being serious, telling people what pissed me off. And people found it hilarious. I was, like, “Oh, what? This is just me.” Over time, I guess, my personality started coming through and really growing, and then I started showing my face. But then I lost subscribers because people realised I was black.’

Is he serious?

‘Well, yeah,’ he parries. ‘But it was fine. I started to become more and more comfortable in front of the camera and I was allowed to become this brand that is just allowed to do whatever he wants.’

Well, almost anything. There have been stumbles along the way – including his ‘rape face’, a popular signature of his early videos, which featured him leering into the camera and growling, ‘You’re getting raped today.’ Then, in 2012, he posted a video of himself sexually harassing women at a Eurogamer conference, a turn of events that earned him a lifetime ban. He has repeatedly and sincerely apologised for these and other unsavoury broadcasts, long since deleted, saying he was being juvenile, new to the format and chasing likes. Social media is nothing if not excellent at rewarding the very worst version of yourself that you can be. There was also his 2015 autobiography, KSI: I Am A Bellend, which describes a typical day in the life of a YouTuber: get up at 2.30pm, masturbate four times, go on Tinder, post a video. Louis Theroux suggested it read like one of those celebrity books that the celebrity hadn’t actually read. ‘Er, I read bits of it,’ KSI offered. The pair have now made a documentary together, due out next year.

Things are mostly more wholesome now, not least over on another YouTube channel he features on: Sidemen. This is a group of mates comprised of KSI plus six others, some of whom he was at school with. Sidemen produce challenges, sketches and video game commentaries, with a combined total of more than 130 million subscribers. The majority of content is surprisingly amusing light entertainment: trying to turn £1 into £100,000 in 24 hours and attempting to jump through shapes in a moving wall in a game of human Tetris (an idea you may remember from BBC One’s Hole In The Wall). But some is still near the knuckle. ‘Sidemen Tinder In Real Life’ is essentially Blind Date for the Swipe Right Generation, the original’s ‘lorra lorra’ innuendos replaced with language so filthy that by rights it should see all the Sidemen cancelled instantly, were it not for the fact that the women they’re introduced to are even more foul-mouthed. I guess times have changed. (All of the Sidemen declined to be interviewed for this story. Quite honestly, they don’t need the publicity.)

Back in 2017, KSI found himself burned out and depressed; he packed the whole thing in to go travelling. A journalist from The Times surmised that it sounded less like an existential crisis and more like mental malnutrition brought on by a decade-long ‘diet of online nonsense’. It sounds as though something similar happened again recently.

In August, to tee up his fight, KSI showed off ‘his incredible eight-month body transformation’ (The Sun) in a video where a boozy belly and a wobbly chin had been replaced by shredded abs and a whip-taught physique. ‘TikTok age restricted my video because it thought my chest were actual tits,’ noted the caption. What it didn’t say was that KSI had been getting himself in shape mentally as well as physically.

‘The whole boxing thing, I’ve made it a lifestyle,’ he explains. ‘Now I don’t drink. I’ve completely cut it out. The hangovers ruined me. And secondly, I just wouldn’t be myself. I’d lose my way.’

Was he a big drinker?

‘I wouldn’t say that, but I’d get drunk and then I’d end up in… situations I wouldn’t normally end up in,’ he says, euphemistically. ‘It made me think I just needed to fix up, mature, grow up and be who I actually want to be.’

Therapy helped. ‘I know there’s this stigma to therapy,’ KSI says. ‘But I think it’s more of an understanding of your own mind. Why you think the way that you think, why you are the way that you are. If you’re able to understand that, then you’re able to control it. You’re able to do things to your advantage and be the best possible person that you can be. Everyone still has bad days, but I transfer it into positive energy. I’ll go to the gym and take all my anger out on the VersaClimber or the treadmill or the bag. And all of a sudden I’m exhausted. But I feel at ease and calm and better about everything.’

Was there anything in particular that prompted him to see a therapist?

'I say to people, “If you can see a therapist, do it.” There’s no weakness about it.'

‘Last year, man… it was weird. I felt like I was on a boat and I didn’t have any paddles. I was just floating. I had all these things happening and all these people congratulating me. But I just felt empty. I didn’t really have any joy in anything. I’d lost my purpose. My values had gone out the window and I was just this guy who wasn’t having fun. I wasn’t happy with myself. I’d got everything I wanted, and I just wasn’t happy.’

But how did the unhappiness manifest itself?

‘With the drinking, like I said, I would just be put in situations that I didn’t want to be in. Also, the situation with my family wasn’t great.’

On Christmas Day, in 2018, a heated row apparently led to KSI being ‘kicked out’ of the family house, with Deji threatening to call the police. There was some back and forth about deleting each other’s videos, kicking down a door and smashing up a computer. Naturally, such is the world we live in, all this played out across Twitter, in real time. ‘Merry Christmas, all,’ seethed Deji.

Cracks had begun to appear in their relationship two weeks earlier, when Deji had recorded Ran, a diss track about KSI’s cameraman Randolph, calling him his brother’s ‘bitch’. He claimed the latter paid the former £4,000 towards his wedding and showed KSI’s bank statement in the video. (They’re all friends again now.)

‘Even with work, I was just saying “yes” to everyone and I gave myself nothing,’ KSI adds. ‘I was overworked, run-down and I just had zero joy.’ A trip to Dubai didn’t help, with his then-girlfriend telling him he was ‘lifeless’.

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Still, he went on producing his happy-go-lucky YouTube videos. ‘Just pretending I was happy. Acting like I had the time of my life. At that point,I broke up with her and went off the rails. I started dating girls left, right and centre. Tinder dates every day. I fully lost my way. And near Christmas, I thought, “This isn’t it. I’m going to make a change.” I started seeing a therapist every week over Zoom. And she opened up my mind.’

KSI changed everything.

‘Diet, exercise, sleep… I worked with my body and I worked with myself. It took me a while, but I’ve finally found values and purpose in my life. Now I need to make sure I never veer off. If people tell me to do something that I don’t want to do, it’s okay to say no and disappoint people. That’s a powerful thing. It’s also hard. Even my parents – I always wanted them to be proud. There would always be a fear of disappointing them.

‘Over months of seeing a therapist, I’ve realised that I’m an introverted person,’ he says. ‘You wouldn’t believe it. But I need time to enjoy my own company. That’s why I say to people, “If you can see a therapist, do it.” There’s no weakness about it. Being able to understand and control your mind is the most important thing in the world to you. Control that and then everything can work for you.’

‘Over months of seeing a therapist, I’ve realised that I’m an introverted person.’

Naturally, this feeds into his attitude towards boxing. ‘I go into warrior mode. If someone challenges me, it’s like, “You’re not going to take away anything I’ve worked hard for. My legacy is on the line. If you challenge my legacy, then you will get knocked out.”’

Does it make him angry?

‘It doesn’t make me angry. It just makes me determined. I go, “Cool. You want to try and ruin what I’ve created. I’m not going to let you do that. You’re going to try to show everyone that you’re better than me. I’m going to show everyone that you’re not.” That’s my mindset. I’ve always been the underdog. People go, “You can’t do this, you can’t do that.” I love proving people wrong, making them go, “Oh shit.” When people tell me I can’t do something, it just makes me want to do it more.’

To KSI, legacy is everything. ‘Whenever I find something excruciating, I just scream “legacy” in my head and it gets me through it. I remember times when I’ve done 10Ks and halfway through I just want to give up. And then I go, “No, legacy, bro. Your legacy is on the line.” And it just gets me through. Even when I was fighting Logan Paul for the second time, when I got knocked down – he hit me in the back of the head and I was woozy and everything. I was just screaming “legacy, legacy, legacy” to make sure I wouldn’t give up. That’s why I’m hard to beat. You’re going to have to kill me before you can end what I’ve created.’

Unsurprisingly, the idea of YouTubers being billed as professional boxers, above an undercard of genuine world title fights, has ruffled a few feathers. Mark Collings, who runs Limehouse Boxing Academy in east London and trains young fighters to national pro level, is typically forthright.

‘It discredits the sport in a cheap and tacky way,’ he says. ‘It’s purely a money-making exercise and vanity project for the boxers involved. Really, they’re just at the standard of being able to spar. That’s it. It’s exploiting people, creating these phoney antagonisms. It’s the boxing equivalent of The X Factor. It brings in a generation of kids who think they can fast-track themselves and make money. The [established] boxing people who get involved in it are tarnished by it, in my opinion. [Legendary US heavyweight] Earnie Shavers died recently. He fought Ali – and he died pretty much penniless,’ Collings says. ‘So it’s sickening when you see a guy like that who put his heart and soul into the game, and then you see these… comedians.’

Still, boxing has been trying to turn its top athletes into celebrities for decades, usually without success. Its popularity has been on the slide for years. Isn’t there an argument that this will make the sport visible to a new generation? ‘That’s like citing Jimmy Tarbuck and Bruce Forsyth playing [International] Pro-Celebrity Golf… did that bring credibility to the sport?’

As you’d imagine, KSI tends to shrug off this kind of thing. ‘Boxing is bigger than ever these days,’ he says. ‘It’s getting more and more people enjoying it and embracing the lifestyle. I get messages all the time from people, saying I’ve made them get into boxing, that they felt a bit lost and that boxing has given them some purpose. I think it’s done wonders.’

'It’s hard to find people in my league because of how hard I work.'

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On fight night, the O2 is due to open its doors at 6.30pm. Before that, it seems like the entire capacity of the arena is packed into the forecourt – mostly late teens and parents accompanying younger kids. Fellow internet celebrities including YouTuber and 2021 London mayoral candidate Niko Omilana and rapper Headie One are here, too. Tickets are reportedly changing hands for £2,500.

By the time KSI takes to the ring, sporting Prime-branded shorts and entering to Not Over Yet, no one is in their seats. The middle partition of the stairs is rammed with people trying to get a better view. If anyone is here to support Swarmz, they’re keeping it to themselves.

The first fight is a clumsy schoolyard ruck – Swarmz running away from KSI and KSI trying to land any punch he can. It’s clearly so pathetic that KSI spends the interval doing showy press-ups. And then it’s all over – Swarmz is knocked out 28 seconds into round two. Later, KSI sends off his second opponent, Pineda, in equally awkward style – a technical knockout in the third round. He drops Pineda seven times and seven times his adversary complains that the punch is illegal (it isn’t) – to vigorous booing. The loudest cheer may be for Deji, though, who dispatches his opponent, the American YouTuber Fousey, to win his first boxing match.

Over on DAZN, the commentators weigh in on what it means for the sport. ‘In terms of eyeballs, in terms of views online, Jake Paul v KSI would be bigger in terms of attention [than any other match possible today],’ says broadcaster and influencer Brian ‘True Geordie’ Davis. ‘Is that deserved? Have they done the years and years? Maybe not. But they’ve worked hard in a different way. That’s why it’s deserved. I know pro-boxing fans might hate to hear that,’ Davis continues. ‘You can criticise all you want, but there’s a full stadium here from the first bell. So, if you guys all love boxing so much – all you pro-boxing experts – how come you’re not here for the first bell? Maybe you’re the casuals.’

Boxer and YouTuber KSI on Becoming the GOAT and Building a Legacy (9)

Photography by Chris Floyd

The last time I speak to KSI is a week after the fight. He’s lying on his bed, having just got back from the Seychelles. ‘Went on a few hikes [and to the] spa, ate a lot – a lot of good food – gym, did a bit of yoga as well… finished Stranger Things.’

Was he holidaying alone, or did he take someone?

‘Er… No comment.’

I ask how he felt the O2 event went.

‘I thought it was good. I wish my opponents wanted to fight me.’

Rather than running away?

‘Yeah. I hit hard and I’m quite aggressive and I put a lot of pressure on my opponents, so that’s quite terrifying. I think I was trying to get the knockout too much, if that makes sense? Either way, I got what I wanted: two KOs. The event as a whole was fantastic. It was insane to see the O2 filled from the beginning of the night all the way to the last fight. I’ve never seen that. I was expecting it to be half-full, something like that. Nope!’

People have said you needed better opponents.

‘I guess it’s hard to find people in my league because of how hard I work in general. Also, this was my first fight in three years. It’s not meant to be super hard instantly. I need to find my feet, find my way back into the ring. And also, I was supposed to be fighting Wassabi and then he pulled out. So we were scrambling to find opponents. And I felt I had to do more. So two fights in one night was the way. We could have done three! Don’t get it twisted – it’s not easy. I guess I make it look easy.’

'Being able to understand and control your mind is the most important thing in the world.'

He sounds a note of caution about next year’s Jake Paul fight.

‘The plan is, it’s still on. But it’s not going to be as easy as everyone thinks it is. There’s going to be a lot of back and forth, a lot of negotiations. I’m not holding my breath.’

What’s the problem?

‘I don’t want to be in a situation where I’m just waiting for him. If he’s down and we get the contract right, then it’s a go. But if he’s going to make this whole situation very long, then I’m just going to find other opponents until he decides to get his shit together. He just wants to fight people that he knows he’s going to beat. He’s not that great. I like the illusion people think he’s way better than me.’

To finish, I say, I’m going to ask him about money, and he’s going to avoid answering my questions.

‘You know it,’ he says.

In 2020, you said earnings of £15m ‘sounded about right’. It’s surely more now, considering the Prime sports drink deal and the Arsenal tie-in, the hit records, all the PPV fights and the dozens more YouTube videos.

‘In terms of net worth? I have no idea.’

Come on.

‘You know, I’ve got so many entities. Prime, Sidemen… Honestly, I couldn’t tell you what my net worth is now.’

It’s got to be higher.

‘I guess it’s fairly high,’ he says.

KSI’s new single Summer Is Over is out now. The KSI documentary will be available on Prime Video early next year.

This feature appears in the November issue of Men's Health.

FAQs

How did KSI rise to fame? ›

Why is KSI famous? KSI initially started as a gaming YouTuber in 2009, showing clips of him playing the soccer video game FIFA. He continued to produce gaming videos, although he started to branch out into vlog-style uploads. His channel grew quickly, and he reached three million subscribers by the end of 2013-14.

Is KSI still a champion on YouTube? ›

With the result being a draw, KSI retained the YouTube World Championship belt, a non-official and unrecognised belt created for this event. The belt is of red colour with gold motifs.

How did Jake Paul turn into a boxer? ›

Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. Paul's boxing career began in August 2018 when he defeated British YouTuber Deji Olatunji in an amateur contest via TKO in the fifth round. Turning professional, Paul beat the YouTuber AnEsonGib in January 2020, via TKO in the first round.

Who is KSI sponsored with? ›

English soccer giants Arsenal have announced a new partnership with Prime, the drinks brand co-founded by social influencer's KSI and Logan Paul. Prime will be the team's designated hydration partner for the 2022/23 season and will be available for fans on matchdays at the Emirates Stadium.

How successful is KSI? ›

Last Updated: August 2, 2022. As of October 2022, KSI's net worth is $25 Million.

Why is KSI so rich? ›

The estimated net worth of KSI is $15 million.

KSI is an English Rapper, YouTuber, influencer, and actor. He started streaming his FIFA games on YouTube and went on to earn over 4 billion views.

Who won KSI or Jake? ›

MORE: Jake Paul and KSI re-ignite Twitter beef

Inside Manchester Arena, Jake beat Deji while KSI and Logan fought to a majority decision draw. Not long after, Matchroom Boxing picked up on the KSI-Logan Paul rivalry, and the two main evented a boxing card inside Staples Center.

Is Jake Paul highest-paid boxer? ›

That $45 million total would have landed him at No. 20 on last year's Forbes list of the world's highest-paid athletes, ahead of the only boxer to crack the top 50 of that ranking, Canelo Alvarez, who tied for 48th with $34 million.

Who is the highest-paid boxer? ›

Who is the wealthiest and highest-paid boxer in 2022? Floyd Mayweather Jr. is a world-renowned boxing champion and promoter known for not shying away from flaunting his wealth online. He is also the highest earning boxer globally and the wealthiest boxer of all time, with a net worth of $450 million.

What is Jake Paul's net worth 2022? ›

August 2, 2022. As of October 2022, Jake Paul's net worth is $30 Million. Jake Paul is an American personality, YouTuber, and social media entrepreneur. He initially rose to fame along with his brother Logan on the social media platform, Vine.

How much does KSI make a year? ›

According to Thrilling, KSI currently has a net worth in 2022 in the region of $30 million US Dollars. goal.com has also claimed that the star earns around $5 million US Dollars per year.

Is Logan Paul now friends with KSI? ›

Since then, they have established a close friendship and launched an energy drink called Prime, which has become a massive seller in America and the UK.

How much did KSI make boxing? ›

Marking his return to the boxing ring after a hiatus of almost three years and selling out the O2 Arena in the process, it's safe to say that Olatunji would've secured a hefty payday. According to Sport Paedia, 'JJ' guaranteed himself a payday of at least $1 million.

Who is the most richest YouTuber in the world? ›

W ith a name like MrBeast, perhaps it was only inevitable that he'd grow to be as big as he's become. The 23 year old earned $54 million in 2021—the most of any YouTuber ever—as his videos accumulated 10 billion views, doubling from the previous year.

How much is KSI worth 2022? ›

KSI Net Worth, Biography, YouTube Income, Gf, Age, Height and many more details can be checked from this page. KSI is an English YouTuber and rapper who has a net worth of $25 million. KSI is a massive name in the music industry of Britain. He is an Englishman, who has achieved massive success in his career.

How many businesses does KSI have? ›

In an interview with Men's Health, KSI confirmed that he also owns over ten properties "all around England" with a combined worth of over £10 million.

Why doesn't KSI get paid for his YouTube videos? ›

KSI has been reported to earn £2.9m ($4.5m) a year through his work as a YouTuber, although his earning is subject to fluctuation depending on his activity as he isn't paid a salary by the company but earns money from advertising revenue and sponsorships.

How much will KSI make from the fight? ›

KSI and Paul - who launched Prime Energy earlier this year - both earned $900,000 from the 2019 rematch but that figure likely ran into the millions after the fight's huge success on pay-per-view. The fight cost £9.95 in the UK and $19,99, meaning the fight grossed an absurd amount of money.

How much does Logan Paul make a year? ›

Logan Paul Net Worth & Income Breakdown: How He Makes $32 Million/Year. Let's get into the details on how Logan Paul's net worth is around $35 million dollars.

Why is KSI called knowledge? ›

The “K” in KSI stands for Knowledge. Knowledge is the key to a great leader; it's how we empower those around us. Knowledge is a way to achieve greatness in this community. In order to become a mentor, you must pass on wisdom and equip yourself with as much information as possible.

When did KSI started his boxing career? ›

KSI started his boxing career with a TKO win over Joe Weller in an amateur bout in February 2018. He then fought Logan Paul in August of that year in Manchester. The fight ended in a majority decision draw.

How old is Deji KSI brother? ›

Who is Deji? Deji Olatunji, 25, is best known by his YouTube handle Comedy Shorts Gamer, before winning the first boxing match of his career.

How do you pronounce KSI real name? ›

KSIOlajidebt Vlog's | The History of my Name - YouTube

Why is KSI called Babatunde? ›

Babatunde is a fictional-character created by KSI for the Sidemen Go Back to School videos, as well as being a commentator for the Sidemen Sumo Olympics, replacing JJ halfway through the video. He is presumably from Nigeria or somewhere else in Western Africa. Given that KSI plays him, they both look identical.

How old is KSI? ›

Does KSI write his own songs? ›

"Holiday" is a song by British YouTuber and rapper KSI, from his second studio album, All Over the Place (2021). It was written by KSI, alongside its producers Jake Gosling, Digital Farm Animals and William Vaughan.

Are KSI and Logan Paul friends? ›

The elder Paul brother faced KSI in two epic six-round battles in 2018 and 2019, with the Brit ultimately taking the victory after a draw in their first meeting. Since then, they have established a close friendship and launched an energy drink called Prime, which has become a massive seller in America and the UK.

Is Deji KSIS brother? ›

DEJI OLATUNJI, better known as YouTube sensation Comedy Shorts Gamer, is used to sharing the spotlight with his older brother KSI. In the first blowout of his career, he stepped out of the shadows in his first boxing win against Fousey on August 27, 2022 and played in the Sidemen vs YouTube All Stars football match.

Did Dunja and Deji breakup? ›

British YouTuber Babadeji 'Deji' Olatunji has revealed that he and ex-girlfriend Dounja 'Dunjahh' Akoudad broke up a month before she was accused of making racist remarks in a Twitch stream.

Where does Deji live now? ›

Deji was born in London and lived there for most his life, but he now lives in Peterborough with his parents. Deji started out posting gaming videos to YouTube, including FIFA.

How much money does KSI make? ›

According to Thrilling, KSI currently has a net worth in 2022 in the region of $30 million US Dollars. goal.com has also claimed that the star earns around $5 million US Dollars per year.

What does KSIOlajideBT stand for? ›

As an emerging YouTube star, Olajide William Olatunji decided he needed a catchier moniker to grab people's attention. And so he came up with KSI which stands for Knowledge, Strength, Integrity and it formed part of his gaming alias KSIOlajideBT. The 'BT' part stands for British Telecom.

Is KSI from Nigeria? ›

His father, Jide Adamulla Olatunji, hails from Ibadan, Nigeria. His mother, Yinka Atinuke, is from Islington, London. He was educated at Berkhamsted School in Berkhamsted, where he met future collaborator and Sidemen member Simon Minter. KSI's younger brother, Deji Olatunji, is also a YouTuber.

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