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Should boxing commissions sanction fights like Jake Paul vs Nate Robinson?

Jake Paul and Nate Robinson kicked up a lot of talk, but should commissions be licensing and sanctioning fights like this?

Boxing: Tyson vs Roy Jones Jr-Weigh Ins Handout Photo-USA TODAY Sports
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Jake Paul’s two-round demolition job against a woefully unprepared Nate Robinson on Saturday night has drawn a lot of attention. There are reasons for this, of course. Paul is a celebrity, and one of those celebrities that a lot of people like and a lot of people really hate and would love to see beaten up. The idea that Nate Robinson, a former NBA star, could jump very high and is a great athlete gave some the hope that Robinson having no boxing training would be OK against Paul, who like him or not has legitimately trained for a couple of years.

But while a lot of the discussion is now people just kinda making fun of Robinson for his terrible performance — which is what it is, y’all have been on the internet, you knew the reaction coming when that fight was over — there is also a more serious conversation about whether this sort of thing should be allowed by state athletic commissions. The California commission gave these guys licenses. This was a fully sanctioned, totally real fight, not an exhibition like the Mike Tyson-Roy Jones Jr main event.

One of the dissenting voices is Antonio Tarver, the former light heavyweight champion of the world.

“I really want to kick Jake Paul’s ass for what he did to Nate Robinson last night and rid boxing of these clowns once and for all,” Tarver wrote on Instagram. “He fought a complete novice so fighting me shouldn’t be a problem.”

That last part doesn’t really make much sense, but Tarver tagged Mike Tyson and asked him to make the fight for Tyson’s next card (if one happens, which given the response I’m guessing one will), and added, “I’m considering a full comeback after last night.” It also should be said that Jake Paul didn’t make Nate Robinson get in there. Robinson called out Paul. Robinson wanted to do the fight. Robinson thought he’d win. Robinson was wrong.

Tarver also suggested in another post that boxing commissions should stop allowing the 23-year-old Paul to fight “anyone but an experienced professional boxer,” worrying that they may “get someone seriously hurt.” He was hardly alone in that, as Teddy Atlas (among many others) also went on social media last night to say basically the same thing:

Generally speaking, Tarver and Atlas are probably right that commissions shouldn’t give licenses to guys like Nate Robinson and AnEsonGib, the dude Paul fought in January in Florida. Jake Paul isn’t quite the learned pro that Antonio Tarver seems to be making him out to be, but Jake Paul has seriously, legitimately trained for a couple of years now. Guys with Jake Paul’s level of training go pro against other actually trained fighters all the time. They’re usually not good mind you, but they have actually trained. Nate Robinson wasn’t “not good,” he was clueless.

I don’t think Paul should fight Tarver, but that’s another story. Tarver may be 52 and hasn’t fought in five years, but he was a legitimate, genuine pro boxing champion and even still would smash Paul.

And I get that Jake Paul fights are going to make some money and draw some attention and all that, same with other YouTube celebrities, and dudes like Nate Robinson from other walks of life might want to take another crack, even after Nate so thoroughly embarrassed himself.

There are a lot of things that could make money. Shaq having a boxing match with PewDiePie would make money. The argument is more about whether state athletic commissions should sanction this stuff and hand out boxing licenses like Halloween candy.

But there’s also this: fighters with less training than Jake Paul fight pro all the time, in California and Nevada and New York and New Jersey and Florida and Texas and everywhere else. Fighters no more qualified than Nate Robinson are in pro bouts weekly all over the world. But nobody’s ever heard of them. Basically nobody will ever see them fight. And so nobody cares.

If you start saying, “No, Nate Robinson with two months training can’t have a boxing license in our state,” that sounds like a completely understandable decision. But what about all those other hundreds and hundreds of fighters who really aren’t any notable degree better or more prepared? Maybe they fight once. Maybe they fight 15 times. Nobody ever sees it, nobody ever raises a stink.

It’s something we quietly accept in boxing all the time. Are the actual standards really going to change because a basketball player looked stupid on a pay-per-view? Seems unlikely.

It’s a conversation, but I think it’s one that leads to a dead end. But maybe try to remember this for next time, as a fan and consumer: you wouldn’t pay $50 to watch one of the guys on the 17th page of BoxRec’s light heavyweight rankings fight. Do you want to pay $50 for the next Nate Robinson?

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