Is Jake Paul bad for boxing? No, and it’s time for people to stop saying he is
You have certainly read the stories and seen the scuttlebutt on social media about why you shouldn’t watch Saturday’s Jake Paul-Tyron Woodley rematch.
They said that it was bad for boxing. A YouTube celebrity competing in the sweet science is a mockery of the sport, they wrote. UFC welterweight contender Colby Covington called it an “embarrassment to society.” Detractors have called it a “circus show.” And so on.
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They continue to scoff at Paul’s unlikely boxing career because it is a joke, right?
If it’s a joke, then the numbers are hilarious.
Half a million pay-per-view buys for the first fight is nothing to laugh at, especially when you consider that fights such as Manny Pacquiao vs. Yordenis Ugas, Terence Crawford vs. Shawn Porter, Gervonta Davis vs. Mario Barrios and others couldn’t match that number. A YouTube celebrity-turned-prizefighter has managed to reel in a new audience for a sport that has struggled with the Millennial demographic.
Paul brings to the sport a certain element of entertainment that goes a long way toward attracting new fans. Some of the biggest stars in boxing history have added more than their application of the sweet science. Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather Jr. were big attractions who also entertained outside the squared circle.
MORE: Paul says he can become ‘the next Muhammad Ali at the rate this is going’
Ultimately, everything is pro wrestling.
Hardcore fans may turn their noses up at professional wrestling’s theatrics, but its blend of violence, drama and eccentric personalities captures the attention of the casual fan and turns a normal fight into an event. That drives ratings and fills arenas across the country.
Fighting is a universal language, and it’s the only sport where a bad fight is actually a good fight. The untrained eye doesn’t care about technique or skill. No matter what someone is watching, if a fight breaks out, it will likely get their attention. There’s a reason why videos of people fighting get more attention than, say, two people playing a game of one-on-one basketball. Our carnal appetite for violence drives us, and there has never been much regard for technique. That being said, those who are able to entertain and fight are far more attractive than those who cannot.
Jake Paul has mastered having just the right blend of ability and entertainment value while also being keenly aware of the money that boxing commands. He has brought his massive fan base to the sport, taken his training seriously, set himself up with the right opponents and built a significant buzz around his fights by using the tools of social media to attract an audience.
You don’t like his antics? That’s fair. But remember that people didn’t like the antics of Ali, Tyson and Mayweather, either. Paul certainly is not close to any of those fighters in skill, but he has the power to attract eyeballs.
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You don’t have to like it, but playing gatekeeper for a sport where the object is to punch an opponent unconscious is silly. Jake Paul isn’t handling your taxes or representing you in the courtroom. This is boxing. He’s making people want to watch a sport that has lost the attention of the masses because so many other things are jockeying for their time and consideration.
To be clear, if nobody is watching, then the sport you love and protect so much will eventually die.
So, what are we mad at, again?
Oh, yeah. He can’t fight, right?
Well, he’s no Canelo Alvarez, that’s for certain. But he has shown significant improvement since he first laced up the gloves for an amateur fight against fellow YouTuber Deji Olatunji in 2018. He has ramped up his competition by going from YouTuber to NBA athlete to MMA fighter who wrestles to MMA fighter who strikes. A boxer was supposed to be next for Paul on Saturday until Tommy Fury pulled out with an injury.
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Oh, you want him to fight real boxers? He’s only heading into his fifth fight as a professional. Unless a boxer has had a storied amateur career, it’s unlikely that anybody turning pro will face top-tier competition this early in their career. The boxing world adores Julio Cesar Chavez, but that professional record has its fair share of tomato cans and cab drivers. Deontay Wilder was an Olympic bronze medalist, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a quality opponent in the first few years of his pro career.
You may not respect Jake Paul as a fighter, but you have to respect him as a promoter. He continues to expose a new audience to established fighters, such as Amanda Serrano and Montana Love. He doesn’t have to do that, because the tried-and-true formula in boxing is to make the main event the only fight that matters, but Paul has made it a point to feature quality boxers on his undercards.
When he headlined his first pay-per-view, an April 2020 fight against Ben Askren, Paul placed former junior welterweight champion Regis Prograis in the co-main event. The undercard of his first fight with Woodley featured Love, potential opponent Fury, heavyweight knockout artist Daniel Dubois and one of the best women’s pound-for-pound fighters in the world in Serrano.
And he’s paying them — well.
MORE: Paul vs. Woodley 2 purse: How much will they make for the match?
Again, he doesn’t have to do this, but Paul and Nakisa Bidarian, his chief adviser and co-founder of Most Valuable Promotions, understood that it would benefit them far more to help grow the sport by splitting the pie rather than hoarding the financial benefits.
In the process, Paul has ruffled the feathers of UFC president Dana White and become an unexpected advocate for appropriate fighter compensation in combat sports. That certainly helps.
If providing a platform for other fighters to be exposed to a younger demographic is wrong, then we shouldn’t want to be right.
Will Jake Paul become a world champion? He’d like to think so, but it will take a lot of work for him to be able to challenge the cream of the crop in boxing. But he can continue to make his mark on the sport and inject it with the right amount of adrenaline by appealing to an audience that may eventually become fans of “real” fighters.
That’s how you help to grow a sport.
You don’t have to like him, but it’s time to dispel the notion that Jake Paul is ruining boxing. Far worse things are going on that have damaged the public’s perception of the sport.