In less than a week, YouTube sensations KSI ‘The Nightmare’ and Logan ‘The Maverick’ Paul will fight once again, this time at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Their first boxing match saw it end in a draw, but many predict the tables will be turned in the rematch—with Logan Paul currently the betting favorite. More surprisingly, however, was that their 2018 bout was a financial success—providing ample motivation to get both men back into the ring. While celebrity boxing is dominated by sad case stories (Manute Bol vs. William ‘Refrigerator’ Perry, anyone?) celebrity fighting is an endeavor that can prove lucrative.
And to that end, surprisingly, it may be that nobody has done it better than Bob Sapp.
A third round draft pick for the Bears in 1997, Sapp’s NFL career quickly petered out—leaving the big man without a living. Working at a funeral home, Sapp moved coffins to make ends meet. In 2001, he briefly wrestled with NWA Wildside, before signing with the WCW. There he developed a character called, ‘The Beast.’ Shortly thereafter, unfortunately, the WCW was purchased by the WWF—ending Sapp’s tenure with the company. However, his move to pro wrestling led Sapp to a fight against Refrigerator Perry on FX’s Toughman Competition. Sapp won, but more importantly he gained the attention of Kazuyoshi ishii, founder of K-1. Ishii brought Sapp to Japan, and the nation fell in love with all 380 pounds of him.
Less than five years after he was moving coffins for the funeral home, Sapp competed in the most watched MMA fight in history. Bob Sapp vs. Akebono, a 6’9” and 462 lb sumo legend, attracted 54 million viewers. The former NFL lineman won, although what happened was less a fight and more just a mess.
Not to be lost in his self-admitted tendency to quit fights to avoid damage (and maybe a couple bouts that look even less convicing), Sapp has racked up a surprisingly long record, considering his background. His combined fight record is 24-39-1, and he has fought such legitimate fighters as Antonio Nogueira and Mirko Cro Cop. Sapp also boasts two victories over kickboxing legend Ernesto Hoost, which rank as two of the most shocking upsets in combat sports.
Although Sapp may exist largely as a novelty act, his fight earnings have reportedly reached $10 million, which is no joke. He has not fought in a year, but did have a documentary released in 2018, Big in Japan.
As for Logan and KSI, it seems that KSI may be the more likely candidate to follow in Sapp’s footsteps, and not just because both men have released rap albums. KSI has stated he wants to become a professional fighter. His performance as the underdog in his upcoming bout may move him toward that goal. It’s not exactly a lofty bar, but Sapp just might be the biggest celebrity fight success story.
The fight will be streamed live by DAZN. Undercard begins at 7pm ET, main card at 9pm ET.