As Joe Fournier laid on the canvas, the referee standing overhead while administering a 10-count, he knew something had gone horribly wrong.
Seconds earlier, the 40-year-old entrepreneur turned boxer saw KSI swing and miss with a punch that was followed by an elbow. The elbow connected flush, Fournier went down, and the fight was stopped. KSI celebrated a knockout win despite the illegal shot that had ended the contest.
“If you see the replay, when the hook goes past, I’m looking at his glove,” Fournier told MMA Fighting on Monday. “I knew the glove didn’t hit me, because I was looking at it. My eyes were open. Then the elbow came after that, so obviously I knew it wasn’t gloves. I knew it was an elbow.
“I thought actually [the referee] was going to disqualify him, and then he started counting. Like what? That’s when I tried to get up, and then I was just a bit hazy. I was up by nine, but my feet weren’t all there, and the ref stopped it, and I’m like what the f***? I went back to the changing room and watched the replay, and it was clear as day.”
The controversial ending capped off the Misfits Boxing 7 card in London. The headliner was supposed to serve as KSI’s toughest test, and a possible showdown loomed against Tommy Fury. Instead, his knockout win was immediately called into question when replays showed that it was an elbow rather than a punch that ended Fournier’s night.
Afterward, KSI addressed his disappointment in a statement, acknowledging the win was “tarnished” by what he called “unintentional contact” to Fournier with his forearm.
Fournier has already appealed the result with the Professional Boxers Association; a decision is expected no later than May 19. But he scoffs at KSI’s words regarding the knockout.
“As far as I see it, he definitely took an underhook under my right arm and threw that elbow,” Fournier said. “That’s a Muay Thai move, and he trains in that gym with all the MMA guys. You don’t want to accuse people of things, but I’m very surprised that I see it exactly what it was, which was a Muay Thai elbow, pre-rehearsed. He’s saying it was an accident. I don’t know. It doesn’t look like one to me.
“It’s all bulls***. He knew he didn’t hit me, he knew I wasn’t hurt. He knew it was a clean elbow. He knows what he did. Obviously, there’s a PR machine behind him that tells him what to say.”
While replays clearly showed the illegal shot that ended the fight, Fournier still can’t understand how the referee didn’t see it in real time given his position.
“If you look at it from the backside, you see he takes an underhook with his left arm under my right arm, and pushes me into the elbow,” Fournier said. “If you actually watch it from the back version, with my back to the camera.
“What’s crazy is the referee is right there. He’s right there. He’s less than a foot away at a perfect angle looking at the elbow. I don’t know what he was looking at.”
As much as KSI has said the elbow strike was accidental, Fournier isn’t buying it. That’s part of the reason why he hopes the PBA will overturn the result to a disqualification rather than a no-contest.
“Personally for me, I see it as a disqualification because he clearly elbowed me, and that’s what ended the fight,” Fournier said. “If that hadn’t happened, I believe I was getting in my rhythm. I’ve never landed an elbow like that by accident, never even in sparring. How many fights do you see end with an elbow like that? None. So, clearly it’s intentional.”
Following the end of the fight, Fournier says his immediate concerns were effectively brushed aside so KSI could prepare for a faceoff with Fury, who was sitting ringside for the event. Fury is coming off a win over Jake Paul, one of KSI’s biggest rivals over the past couple of years.
Fournier wishes the faceoff didn’t come at his expense.
“That’s kind of what pissed me off a lot,” he said. “It’s kind of like, I’m not a kid, you can’t disrespect me like that. I’m not some fresh face, 16-year-old in my first pro bout. I’ve been around the scene, and it was obvious what happened, so they’re just trying to brush it under the carpet, but I’m not going to allow that to happen.
“They’re trying to get past it like, ‘Let’s hope everyone forgets about it so we can fight Tommy Fury and get paid again.’ That’s all they’re thinking about. But at the end of the day, when you’re a high-profile fighter, a lot of people I’ve seen, even his own fans are saying it’s bulls***. How can you not talk about it and how can you celebrate that win? Real champions they don’t want to win like that. They don’t want to win by cheating. I haven’t even received an apology. It’s not a win at the end of the day. It’s a foul.”
Ideally, Fournier wants the loss removed from his record (it was billed as an exhibition bout), and he would gladly welcome a rematch against KSI, though he’s doubtful that will happen.
Fournier said he’s already sees the writing on the wall that they’ll likely never meet again even if a rematch would answer the questions remaining from their first encounter.
“How are you going to say you’re outclassing me and the result would have been the same – it’s total rubbish,” Fournier said. “I already said he hit me clean flush in the first round with a big right hook, I walked straight through it and smiled and said let’s go. That’s the power you’re talking about? I think they knew they weren’t going to get me out of there and they resorted to dirty tactics. It’s no surprise. He trains in a Muay Thai background gym. He doesn’t train in a boxing gym.
“He’s like my win’s tarnished now. No, you’re just trying to brush something under the carpet. Be a man [say], ‘I elbowed him, we need to run it back.’ I already said all right, cool, if it was an accident, run it back. Why not run it back? I would welcome a rematch. But this elbow needs to be brought to justice. Elbow-gate, [but] they’re going to want to move onto the next fight to Tommy Fury, and they’re not going to want no rematch because they’re kind of pretending none of this happened. If they don’t want to do a rematch, maybe I’ll fight Jake [Paul].”