Internet celebrity turned professional boxer Jake Paul, fought five time UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley in Cleveland last Sunday. Paul won by split decision. In the post fight press conference, basking in the glory of his win and the fact that Lebron James tweeted about his fight, he made a claim: “I think I’m one of the faces of boxing, just because I’m doing it differently.”
Now, without over analyzing a quote clearly given in a moment of personal euphoria, it is fair to say that most people would challenge that claim. There is no doubt that Paul is ‘doing it differently’. In fact, he is doing it so differently that in all of his four professional fights, his opponents were making their pro debuts.
After one amateur fight against fellow Youtuber Deji Olatunji, Paul decided to go Pro, taking on and beating another man who made his name behind the camera lens, Anesongib. For readers wondering, that’s his YouTube channel (Reverse it to know why).
He then challenged Nate Robinson, a retired NBA player. The fight did not go to plan for the point guard, as after letting his guard down Robinson swiftly proceeded to become an internet sensation, but for all the wrong reasons. Finally this April, Paul took on retired UFC star Ben Askren, his first test against an opponent who possessed true combat experience. However, a mixture of motivation and age cost Ben, and the former Vine connoisseur chalked up a pristine 3-0 professional record.
Woodley also called it quits from the UFC in 2019, thus becoming the third retired sportsman to accept Paul’s invitation to a boxing bonanza. There have been many complaints in the recent past about retired athletes turning to commentary and punditry for an effortless paycheck, but with Paul’s enthusiasm to seemingly fight all of them, handing them a mouth-watering payout in the process, such concerns may have been misplaced.
In all seriousness, the rise of ‘influencer boxing’ has served to bring new audiences to the sport, a cause that has certainly been aided by Paul’s foray into it. His brother Logan fought Floyd Mayweather in an exhibition this June, an event that collected more than one million Pay Per View buys.
His entanglement with the sport does not seem disingenuous either, as he has openly stated his falling levels of enthusiasm for YouTube. Although lacking any boxing experience, the linear progression of his opponents in terms of danger posed, has also not gone unnoticed.
Perhaps Paul will silence the skeptics with the next one. After all, turning up to promotion events with a giant robot at the back and walking into the ring wearing shorts with his name lit up in LED lights will only go so far in cementing his authenticity.
In the same press conference he added: “I want to be a world champion.” Whether he is it or not, Jake Paul has succeeded in contributing to the changing face of boxing.
It isn’t too far in distant memory where Tyron Woodley was an unavoidable name within the MMA community. His divisive five-fight championship reign witnessed “The Chosen One” single himself out as one of the greatest welterweights to ever grace the octagon.
An extraordinary string of victories saw Woodley defeat Robbie Lawler, Stephen Thompson (Twice), Damian Maia and Darren Till, all rough matchups stylistically but Woodley adjusted and adapted accordingly. A streak that will no doubt age well in the history books but here we are, four MMA fights, a boxing bout and 23 rounds later removed from his UFC 228 victory over Darren Till and Woodley now finds himself without a UFC Contract, five humiliating consecutive defeats on his record and an “I LOVE JAKE PAUL” tattoo that he has to get following a promise he surely regrets making prior to the fight.
The issue with the majority of those 5 losses on his record is that he found himself in the unenviable position of having clearly lost every single one of those rounds. A losing streak is one thing but the means in which Woodley was easily dealt with stood as the key cause for concern among his fanbase.
His methodical technical approach attracted both admiration and criticism during his time as champion and there is no doubt that Woodley deserves the praise for the means in which he managed to handle two of the trickiest specialists the sport of MMA has ever known in Maia and Thompson.
But once the decline hit, his career spiraled downwards. One can pin it on the onset of age and its effects on the hesitant style that his entire game is built on. A combination of very measured offense and spectacular defense prevented him from taking much damage at the height of career. Even when he was in trouble, his other-worldly athleticism would bail him out. When he lost that, he lost everything.
Breaking it down, Woodley’s issues can be divided between mental and physical. Following the 15 month layoff he had following his beatdown at the hands of current welterweight kingpin Kamaru Usman at UFC 235 (March 2019), he would return to fight twice in a space of four months and by the looks of those defeats, it did seem like he was more of a changed fighter, perhaps more mentally than in his overall game.
All of which leads to this humiliating loss against a “Youtuber” with “passion”. Not only that, with this loss, Woodley leaves himself no other option but the rematch for which Paul is demanding that stupid tattoo and guess what? Woodley is proceeding with it, adding further embarrassment to the tail end of his controversial career.
The terrible position he finds himself in from a competitive perspective is that even if he does eventually obtain the rematch he desires and successfully defeats Paul, what does this win do for the “Chosen one’s” career? What is the significance of this fight?
There isn’t one and to the majority of boxing fans, the damage has already been done. Perhaps for Woodley it’s about the big money coming in without any major physical repercussions so maybe the question isn’t for them or about them, but maybe it is about us. Why do we still watch, worry and care when they don’t?