We’re one day away from the Jake Paul’s return to boxing, as he faces former MMA champ Ben Askren in an eight-round bout from Atlanta.
Can the YouTube star win again, or will he get a dose of reality against an experienced fighter?
We’ve got our picks in.
Scott Christ (22-6-1)
Ben Askren is not a boxer. He’s more of a boxer than Nate Robinson or AnEsonGib, but he is not a boxer. The question is whether Jake Paul is, either, or if he’s just got the money and clout to cosplay as one. Not saying he doesn’t train, but I’ve also seen, like, Ryan Garcia and Justin Bieber “be good at basketball,” which is always just clips of hangers-on letting them dribble up to their chest like Duane Martin in Above the Rim, or stitched together clips of them making jump shots thrust from their chests unguarded.
This may or may not be the fight to find out anything new about Paul; what Askren has going for him is that he’s at least been in real fights and under the pressure of a fight before. Gib had zero business wearing gloves, let alone being in a ring, and Robinson fought like being good at basketball was simply going to make him magically have a clue what he was doing with boxing.
Paul didn’t rattle against Robinson’s wild, ridiculous charges, which is the most real evidence we’ve ever seen that he actually knows what he’s doing when the bell sounds. If it ends in the first few rounds here, it’ll end because Paul caught an aging, pretty hobbled Askren with a few clean shots. But I think Askren might be able — and willing — to ugly this up and survive and make an annoying case of things on the cards in a fight that makes Paul’s non-boxing fan base consider if they ever want to pay to watch this stuff again. Paul MD-8
Wil Esco (23-5-1)
Look, as plainly poor as Ben Askren has looked in some of the videos he’s been releasing I just can’t believe the man can still be that bad after a training camp. I really just have to assume it’s all a trolling tactic to bait Paul into being overconfident. I mean, Paul continually says he’s a real professional boxer yet he’s yet to face another actual professional boxer. Askren certainly isn’t that, but he is at least a professional fighter which is way more than anything Paul has been up against to date.
I think Paul is going to be in for a bit of a reality check when he’s in against a determined fighter who has actual fighting experience — it does count for something. I have no real strong indications here, but I’m just going to play a hunch that Askren is good enough to at least beat Paul. Askren UD-8
How to Watch Jake Paul vs Ben Askren
Patrick L. Stumberg (21-7-1)
Askren, one of the best and most hyper-specialized wrestlers to ever grace the cage, spent his entire MMA career minimizing the amount of time he spent on his feet. The only extended kickboxing sequences he ever dealt with came against jiu-jitu ace Demian Maia in “Funky’s” final pro fight, and they weren’t exactly inspiring. Now, he has to deal with a significantly younger, significantly larger opponent who, by all accounts, is taking his boxing training incredibly seriously.
And with a surgically repaired hip, to boot.
To his credit, he does have some things going for him; he’s far more used to getting hit, has a far more proven gas tank, and boasts a chin that stood up to a Robbie Lawler barrage before finally cracking against Jorge Masvidal. Paul’s taken maybe one good shot during his three rounds with AnEsonGib and Nate Robinson, so there’s every possibility that he’s a frontrunner who’ll wilt from arm punches and sheer persistence on Askren’s part.
Still, that’s a whole lot of red flags to overlook for the sake of a maybe.
Askren is an immensely talented fighter who’s had to deal with whole heaps of shit during his tenure in combat sports; I’d very much prefer his long, disappointing saga not end with him getting pasted by a YouTuber. Sadly, that looks like it’ll be the case. Askren’s limited mobility and lack of power allow Paul to rack up unanswered punches until the ref intervenes. Paul TKO-4
Lewis Watson (23-5-1)
So, Jake Paul has been ‘boxing training’ for three years, has ironed out a couple of YouTubers and a former NBA player and now is facing a former MMA fighter that can’t box? I think that’s all we really need to know? Sure, Askren’s going to have a chin on him — you’d expect — but just six days with Freddie Roach can’t exactly have work wonders for him after a career of wrestling. Paul has had the time, money and resources to develop a fairly basic skill set in the sport and after watching some of his previous fights it’s clear he’s improved and knows his way around the ring. Askren seems like a good dude and will be paid well here, and to be honest, it doesn’t seem like he really gives a shit if he wins or loses. And neither do I. I think Paul eventually finds a way through after some big windmills from both. He has picked Askren for a reason, and Askren is happy to play the role.
But, on a side note, I am reasonably interested to see the ceiling that Paul can find in the sport, from a weird experimental point of view. The ongoing narrative that boxers have to have come from nothing, start from the very bottom and have that do-or-die fighting spirit inside of them is a little tired. If the kid dedicates himself and has all these trainers and facilities at his fingertips, how high could he reach? To be continued... I guess. Paul KO-4