Jake Paul won again on Sunday night, but he had to work a lot harder than he had in his first three pro fights, going the distance with Tyron Woodley and winning a split decision over eight rounds.
The YouTube celebrity turned money-churning boxing attraction won that fight, in my view, without any controversy to it. I scored the fight 77-75 for Paul, which is often the type of score where you can say that with a round different, hey, it’s even, two rounds different, the other guy won it, but this wasn’t one of those. Woodley, the former UFC champ making his boxing debut at age 39, did not have an argument in four rounds of that fight to make it even, let alone five to win, no matter what he says.
More interesting to me is what comes out of this for Jake Paul, and that’s mostly due to his post-fight interview. Before he and Woodley turned the pro wrestling theater back on to limply shout about tattoo bets and a possible rematch that I don’t think many people will really want to see — I could be wrong, crowd-wise this is admittedly an unusual demographic for boxing that I don’t know much about — Paul spoke fairly candidly with interviewer Ariel Helwani when asked what was coming next.
“I’ve been boxing for 18 months now. I haven’t been to the dentist, I barely got my hair cut in, like, two years. My teeth are all crooked, my nose is crooked. I’ve dedicated my past 18 months to this, I haven’t stopped,” Paul said.
“I think I might need to chill out for a second, figure out who I am. I’m only 24, I’m changing, I’m growing, I’m learning a lot. I’m going through ups and downs, I’m making mistakes but I’m keeping my head on straight. I’m just gonna get back in the gym when I’m ready. We’ll see.”
Now, realistically, taking a bit of a break from training and grinding away in the gym is not a crazy idea or anything. But it’s that latter portion that sticks out to me. “Figuring out who he is,” being “only 24, changing, growing, learning a lot.”
Paul got wobbled once against Woodley, and definitely had to work harder than he did in his wins over AnEson Gib, Nate Robinson, and Ben Askren. Paul gassed out, and to his credit, fought through it and made the final bell, something that’s not unusual even in high level boxing, where fighters empty their reserves by the time things are over and battle through adversity and fatigue.
But was it something of a reality check? And I don’t necessarily mean in the sense that Paul is now so terrified of fighting because one fight was a little tough to get through and win, I just mean does he want to keep doing it if it’s going to be tough like that?
Because he doesn’t need to. Boxing is not something Jake or brother Logan have ever needed to do. For a ton of pro fighters, combat sports were a way out, something not many people have the ability to do that can take you to a better life.
Jake Paul is a 24-year-old multimillionaire. There are a lot of other things he can do in his life to make a ton of money that don’t involve being punched in the face, and not just that, but the dedication to do what he’s done for 18 months, train, work hard, grind your way through in the gym.
How long does he want to do this? Brush aside the talk that someday he’s going to fight Canelo Alvarez, because it’s just talk. With respect to Paul, what he showed against Woodley is what’s really there. A boxing trainer can take someone like Jake Paul, a novice with some athletic ability, and teach them how to jab and hold and avoid, teach a couple combinations, and if they can stomach punches coming back, those guys can get through rounds against the likes of Tyron Woodley, who was older, smaller, and years past his athletic and fighting primes.
Any higher a level than that, and you might be in trouble — and that includes Tommy Fury, who is no blue chipper despite the name, but has more to his boxing game than the largely passive Woodley brings to the table anymore.
I’m not intending to disrespect Jake Paul, because I think it’s clear he’s put in the work, he’s done a good job at the level, he’s made some good money and all that. I take him seriously at the level he’s fought at, which I think is fair.
But I have to wonder — which I also think is fair — if this boxing thing is more of a phase for a 24-year-old celebrity with plenty of money to burn than it is any sort of long-term career option. And if it is, he might want to quit while he’s ahead.
Boxing is brutal, a mean sport and a mean way to make a living, and even if you’re controlling all the money and the promotional aspects and whatever else, between the bells it’s just you and the other fighter. There will come a point, and we may be fast approaching it, where Paul has to take a fight that his limited skill set can’t handle, or he has to start testing how long he can keep people interested in fights that aren’t steps forward or up. At what point do the returns begin to diminish?
If Jake Paul truly “wants it” with boxing, takes a little time away and comes back hungry and ready to keep going, then good on him. But if this is a 24-year-old celebrity who has done this largely for a lark, it’s getting close to time to seriously consider if the novelty is running out, and the next multimedia content creating venture might not be the better and much safer option.