By: Sean Crose
Just three years ago, the man was a social media star – a figure for the young generation – a presence well known by the children and grandchildren of those born before 1985, but probably not many others. Now, he may well be one of the top drawing pay per view attractions, not only in the world of boxing, but in all combat sports. His professional record? 3-0. That’s right, Jake Paul, the ubiquitous, obnoxious nightmare or hero (depending upon how you look at it) of boxing has only fought on three occasions. He has never met a professional boxer who wasn’t making his ring debut.
This Sunday, in Cleveland, the 24 year old will face former UFC legend Tyron Woodley, an extremely impressive mixed martial artist who nonetheless was well past his prime when he retired from the octagon and who is now, like other Paul opponents, making his pro debut. He’s done a wonderful job luring in these UFC notables, Paul has. Last spring he battled Ben Askren, formerly of the UFC, only to knock the man out in the first round. Now comes Woodley, who, although training with the one and only Floyd Mayweather, may not have what it takes at his age to make his mark in the ring no matter how much he may wish to.
What’s ironic, of course, is that the whole thing almost comes across as a boxing vs mma feud, when in reality it consists of a near novice battling athletes from another sport well past their glory days. Yet there’s no doubt Paul is succeeding. The man is bringing money and eyeballs – mostly young eyeballs – to a sport that has essentially been on the margins for ages. It’s being reported that boxing is making a considerable comeback lately. One is left to wonder how much of it has to do with the impact of novelty fights, like the ones headlined by Paul.
And then there’s the matter of that right hand.
Boxing purists may not like having Paul take all the oxygen out of the room – and perhaps with good reason – but the kid can swat. Not only can Paul employ his right hand effectively, he can employ it effectively at the level of a professional boxer. The shot that turned out the lights on Askren was impressive by any standard. In fact, any 2-0 fighter who wasn’t named Jake Paul would have been applauded as a newbie worth keeping an eye on had he laid out Askren in such a fashion. So no, Paul isn’t a total joke. What’s more, for all his outlandish behavior, Paul takes the sport itself seriously.
He may be the ultimate hype job, but the social media star is also an upstart fighter with genuine power and determination. He’s criticized for taking soft touches, but, as Paul himself says, most fighters at the point he’s at career-wise aren’t fighting major boxers, either. Perhaps that’s something to think about.
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