THERE is no doubt that YouTube celebrity Kristen Hanby has got snap in his punches, as he is put through a pad workout by Island trainer Ben Murray.
There is a also a determination and focus in the Jerseyman’s eyes as he lets his hands go. His debut fight, against fellow YouTuber Vitaly Zdorovetskiy, is serious business for the renowned prankster.
The bout takes place this Saturday at Wembley Arena as part of a packed card of fellow YouTube/social media influencers from the UK and USA, who are turning their hand to the sweet science in front of a packed crowd of 10,000-plus, headlined by Deji against Wassabi.
These events have become quite a phenomena recently – ever since KSI (Deji’s more famous brother) and Logan Paul took to the ring in 2018, watched by 2.25 million viewers – and they continue to polarise opinion as to whether it boosts the profile of boxing or diminishes it.
Hanby, though, is full of excitement ahead of his clash against his American-Russian opponent and predicts a straightforward win against his former friend. The ‘beef’ they now have, he says, is real.
‘We were good friends and he sent me a message and asked if I wanted to fight. I said “I’d batter you if you fight me”, so we said “let’s do it” and since then we’ve not been friends,’ laughs Hanby.
‘You can’t fight someone and be friends. You’ve got to dislike them.’
Hanby has an infectious enthusiasm for what he is about to do and you can understand why. Not many professional boxers will ever get the chance to fight on such an illustrious stage, in front of so many people, with millions more streaming it live – especially on their debut.
The prospect is not being taken lightly – although the six weeks both fighters have had to prepare is not as long as they would have wanted – and he is fulfilling a long-time ambition.
‘I’ve been wanting to do this for a few years,’ he adds. ‘I’ve had potential fights before that have fallen through but this one is a 100%.
‘I just want to get that feeling. Ben [Murray] says when you walk out that feeling is like nothing you have ever experienced. It’s going to be crazy … it’s going to be packed out.’
Naturally, like any boxer, he is feeling confident of dispatching his opponent without too much trouble.
‘We’ve been at it non-stop. I am feeling fit. I feel like it’s going to be a whitewash,’ he avows of his four-round clash.
‘I don’t think it’s going go to the end. I’m confident. I’m picturing the ref jumping in.’
Zdorovetskiy has also been claiming a quick finish in their fight, predicting that he will knock Hanby out within 60 seconds.
‘I don’t know where he is getting it from. He’s an idiot. I’ve seen him move and he’s like a fridge on legs,’ Hanby jokes.
‘I’m a lot quicker. He’s going to run at me like a headless chicken. He’ll get tired and after that 60 seconds he’s going to be done. I’m going to laugh at him and torment him.’
The fight is being billed as the ‘Battle of the Pranksters’ and with all the boxers staying in the same hotel beforehand, there is the possibility that a few high jinks will be played on each other.
‘We’re going to do something for sure,’ Hanby says, with a glint in his eye.
Meanwhile, Murray has been pleasantly surprised by his charge’s ability in the ring.
‘He’s really shown me good character. He’s dug deep, he’s got on with it, we’ve had a few hard spars and he’s listened to everything we have told him,’ said Murray.
‘Fitness wise, I think we’re there and his boxing ability is actually okay. Everything I’ve said, he’s on board, and that’s a nice thing from a coach’s point of view.’
‘Come Saturday I think we’ll be all right and you never know … Jake Paul, watch out,’ he laughs.
‘We’ve got a good game plan. We’ve got a few little things we’re going to do. But just to box at Wembley Arena is huge.’