It wasn’t a scintillating performance in Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse Sunday night, but YouTuber Jake Paul kept his money-spinning boxing ball rolling and, in turn, kept showing up the boxing establishment when it comes to the right way to sell fights.
Fighting in front of his hometown crowd, the 24-year-old content creator, for the first time in his 4-fight pro career, showed himself to be the novice-level boxer that he is. Presented with an awkward and oddly off-putting boxing style employed by former UFC champ Tyron Woodley, Paul was tentative and fought unsure of himself. He did enough to take a close split decision from the 39-year-old Woodley, but it was hardly an impressive showing.
But, of course, we all know that the Jake Paul business is mostly about the business and only superficially about the boxing, anyway. And, actually, that’s okay.
The boxing business– which has languished for decades, stagnant from lack of promotional effort and hobbled by a poor business model that values safe-money premium cable rights fees and endless pay walls– has failed to do what simple-minded (or single-minded) Jake Paul has done in his short time in the sport. It has failed to sell itself beyond it’s already-sold base. It has failed to even try reaching the mainstream.
As I wrote elsewhere:
“Boxing in the present tense (and, actually, for the last half-century or more) can’t be sold on the weight of its pure sports merit. It’s become a niche sport that has to sell its events with the star power of its fighters and ride or die on how far that star power can push sales.
That’s why a personality like Jake Paul can step in, make waves, and become a high-end earner with just 3 or 4 fights under his belt and novice-level skills. He may be bringing over some of his YouTube and social media fandom to these events, but he’s also creating the kind of buzz inside the boxing world that most elite-level world champions don’t. Boxingscene.com, for example, had 7 of 15 front page stories specifically devoted to Sunday’s Jake Paul fight against former UFC champ, Woodley, at one point last week. Stodgy boxing purists may like to believe otherwise, but this kid, his brother Logan, and the general push to stage celebrity/legend boxing events outside of the boxing establishment, have energized the boxing scene.”
And Paul teaming with establishment boxing presence, Showtime Boxing, brings the best of both worlds to the Jake Paul (and brother, Logan Paul) dynamic.
Sunday’s card– made to look even bigger than it was by being staged in a packed Jake Paul homefield arena– had a big-fight vibe. Or, at least, a big-fight vibe for what was, essentially, a main event pitting two boxing novices against one another. It also featured enough “legit” boxing talent to appease boxing fans. Amanda Serrano, Daniel Dubois, and a very entertaining Montana Love-Ivan Baranchyk bout were touches of “real” boxing before the showbiz stuff.
Jake Paul, however, was the main draw on Sunday– and that bothers the hell out of boxing purists.
But what SHOULD bother the hell out of the purists is the fact that a novice boxer, four fights into a pro career without having actually fought one real, working boxer, is more bankable and mainstream relevant than most actual boxers competing at the elite level.
Jake Paul’s quick rise to stardom should cast the spotlight on the boxing business and its poor job of outreach to the mainstream, as well as its failure in building for the future.
As I also wrote elsewhere:
“Part of the boxing business has always centered around making yourself a “must see” star and driving fans into a purchase so they can see how your story plays out. In recent memory, only Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao have been able to create that kind of bankable narrative around themselves.
If anything, a guy like Jake Paul should be welcomed into the boxing fold. Boxing could learn a thing or two from the kid who still needs to learn a thing or two about boxing.”