KSI vs Logan Paul: How white collar boxing came to punch above its weight

Joe Sommerlad

A charity boxing match between YouTube stars KSI and Logan Paul is set to take place this weekend.

Gamer turned rapper KSI and vlogger Paul will step into the ring at the Manchester Arena on Saturday night before a 21,000-strong crowd for the bout which is being billed as the biggest amateur boxing match in history.

As a result the once-underground sport of white collar boxing takes centre stage.

Born among Wall Street bankers in the late 1980s, who frequently worked out and skipped rope in boxing gyms the sport emerged when they decided to take their testosterone to the next level.

Gleasons's Gym in New York City, run by trainer Bruce Silverglade, was its hub.

The macho craze soon spread around the world’s financial centres, with promoter Alan Lacey bringing it to the City of London before it took off in Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Arranging unlicensed matches in local gyms, the City Boys could fight without having to answer to an organising body. No health checks, no meetings, no fees.

Lacey and Silverglade teamed up to fly in a team of Wall Street traders to take on London's best and brightest for the "Capital Punishment" event in 2000 before forming the International White Collar Boxing Association a year later. The body uses the same weight divisions as the professional game and awards belts accordingly.

“What it’s become though is a nice catch-all phrase for almost everything between professional boxing at the very top, which is run by the British Boxing Board of Control, and is highly regulated, and then amateur boxing at the bottom, which is run by the Amateur Boxing Association of England in our country,” the BBC's Matt Slater explained.

“It’s just a freer, more laissez-faire space that a lot of people now are choosing to fight in because they find it easier to put on fights, there’s less red tape.”

White collar boxing is typically professional enough to feature a referee, headguards and medical support but “cowboy rings”, with no such luxuries, have proven themselves a cause for concern.

The death of inexperienced pugilist Lance Ferguson-Prayogg at The Forum in Nottingham in June 2014 drew unwanted attention to the sport and calls for greater governance.

Fighters are expected to have at least eight weeks of full-on training before entering the ring due to the intense physical demands of the sport. Anything less and they could put themselves in danger.

The first YouTube bout took place in February to settle a social media feud between KSI and another YouTuber Joe Weller at the Copperbox Arena in London.

The former is therefore defending his title against Logan Paul, the traffic split evenly over a shared pay-per-view channel.

Rarely has the prospect of punches being thrown been more enticing.