How did Logan Paul's redemption tour lead to a boxing match between YouTube bros?

On a mission to recover from controversy, YouTube celebrity Logan Paul is boxing fellow YouTuber KSI on Saturday.

'He has the chance to really change how people perceive YouTube ... and he's squandering it'

YouTube personalites Logan Paul, left, and KSI. They've agreed to a two-fight deal, with the first bout in the Manchester, England, on Aug. 25, 2018. (The Associated Press)
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On Saturday, four YouTube stars are set to box in what's being billed as the biggest online event this decade. For one of the participants, Logan Paul, the lead-up to the fight has been his attempt at a redemption tour.

That redemption arc is a big deal for YouTube as a whole, says Julia Alexander, senior Internet culture reporter for Polygon. The problem is that "no one is buying it."

"[Paul is] trying to prove to people that he's shed his old skin, he's no longer part of this combative YouTube culture that existed around diss tracks and manufactured drama with other creators. He wanted to be more positive, but he's doing everything against that," Alexander told Day 6 guest host Gill Deacon.

Paul is part of a cabal of young, wealthy vloggers who post videos about their lives, replete with childish antics and soap-opera style drama. In January, he received global condemnation for posting a video that appeared to show a dead body in Japan's Aokigahara Forest, where people are known to die by suicide.

YouTube punished Paul by temporarily cutting of his advertising revenue, and he apologized, promising to turn over a new leaf.

"And then [he] quickly kind of went back to his former self and was doing really silly, really offensive prank videos and blogs," Alexander said.

In February, another controversial YouTuber, KSI, boxed vlogging rival Joe Weller in a match that drew 1.6 million live viewers and more than 20 million additional viewers after the live event.

At the end of the fight, KSI, who became well-known for making gaming videos, challenged the then-notorious Logan Paul and his younger brother Jake to a fight.

Melodrama ensued. Now, Logan Paul will fight KSI. And in another fight, Jake Paul and KSI's younger brother, known as Deji, will square off.

In the style of professional wrestling, this fight has been heavily promoted with merchandise, pre-fight banter, live meet-ups and videos in which contenders called each other out.

This summer, in an interview, Logan Paul announced that he was taking the high road. He said he would avoid negativity and work to be better.

Then less than a month later, KSI made a Logan Paul diss track and Paul shot back by doing the same.

YouTubers KSI and Logan Paul. (YouTube/Mayweather Boxing Channel)

Alexander says this proves that Paul hasn't really learned anything.

Despite putting on "puppy-dog face" and professing sadness, "he's doing everything he can to prove to people that he's actually still the 22 year-old kid that went into the forest in January."

All this matters because Paul's bad behaviour makes the YouTube community as a whole look bad, Alexander says, despite most of it being "overwhelmingly positive" and completely separate from the high-profile vloggers.

"Logan Paul is the guy that everyone associates with YouTube and I think his redemption, as he supposedly is trying to accomplish, is a major point in the YouTube culture going forward as the mainstream community sees it."

"He has the chance to really change how people perceive YouTube, and YouTube creators, and he's squandering it."

So how has YouTube responded so far?

Following the 'suicide forest' video, the company has subjected Paul to unprecedented levels of scrutiny, Alexander says, issuing a temporary suspension and limiting his advertising options.

"They did everything they could to basically say, 'You are not going to be able to continue the career that you had on the platform as you had it.'"

Since then, Alexander says YouTube has been busy pretending Logan Paul doesn't exist. It has not acknowledged Saturday's boxing match in any official capacity, even though it will "undoubtedly be the biggest YouTube event in the past couple of years."

And according to Alexander, ignoring the fight isn't the solution.

While it's true that the vlogging culture of the Pauls, KSI and Deji is just one fraction of what's on YouTube, 10 to 20 million people subscribe to each of those channels.

"There are at least 30 or 40 million people who are interested in this type of thing and watching it on YouTube and celebrating or critiquing it."


To hear the full interview with Julia Alexander, download our podcast or click the 'Listen' button at the top of this page.