For hours on Saturday night after YouTuber Jake Paul knocked out former UFC champ Tyron Woodley at Amalie Arena in Tampa, “#Rigged” was trending on Twitter.
The feeling among some observers was that Woodley quite possibly took a dive or, more correctly, allowed himself to be knocked out by Paul in their pay-per-view rematch.
The fight before the highlight reel KO was a real snoozer, with not much of anything happening and way too many clinches messing with the flow of action. The only highlight before the big ending was the bloody cut on Paul’s forehead, which opened up due to an accidental elbow from Woodley in round three.
But, then, with 52 seconds left in the sixth round, Paul loaded up on a big right hand and knocked Woodley out cold. The former UFC star landed face-first on the canvas, prompting the ref to immediately wave off the fight and signal for the ringside doctor.
Shortly thereafter, the calls of “Rigged…Fixed…Fake” started.
“Watch him [Woodley] pick up his hand to defend himself,” one social media video said, with the words superimposed over the knockout sequence in slow motion. “[Woodley] Sees the punch coming, drops his hand and braces for the impact. And that’s entertainment not boxing. He was paid to lose.”
The argument among those calling the fight fixed is that, based on replays, it looks that Woodley saw the right hand coming and intentionally let down his guard to let it land. They point out that, up until that last punch and all throughout their first fight, which Woodley lost via split decision in August, he had kept a high-guard defense and was not at all susceptible to Paul’s fairly telegraphed big right hand.
Jake Paul, however, claims that the fight-ending right hand was all part of his game plan.
“I knew what I was doing, I was setting up the shot the whole fight and he didn’t see it coming,” the 24-year-old Paul said in the post-fight press conference. “He was catching, catching, catching came around and ‘good morning’! It’s got to be the greatest moment of my life, look at what I just did.”
Woodley, meanwhile, acknowledges where he went wrong.
“I went back and I looked at it and I’m like why the f*ck did I drop my hand?” Woodley said at the post-fight press conference. “I had both hands up. I knew it was coming. I was ready to block.
“He threw the overhand and I don’t know if he delayed it– even if he didn’t delay it– I don’t know why I dropped my hand. In this sport, it only takes one mistake. Literally one mistake.”
Replays of the final sequence of the fight seem to show Woodley possibly anticipating a body shot from Paul, lowering his arm to block the shot, but being fooled when the punch actually came upstairs. The flinch and “bracing for impact” seems to be that split-second reaction where a fighter knows he’s made a fatal mistake, but there’s just not enough time to fix it.
At least that’s how things look from a nuts and bolts boxing perspective. It’s up for debate whether Paul’s misdirection was intentional or the result of a punch to the head being thrown so wide that it actually looked like a body shot when launched. At the end of the day, though, it didn’t really matter because Paul gets credit for the knockout and his record goes to 5-0.
Still, many are holding firm that this fight was fixed. Paul had shown no ability to get to Woodley prior to that one moment in time when Woodley lowered his guard and couldn’t even manage much real offense through thirteen prior rounds against him.
Fight fixing is not foreign to boxing. The sport has a long and dirty history of fixes, fakes, and dives. But in boxing’s history of corruption, this would’ve been quite possibly the first time a fighter taking a dive let himself be knocked out cold in doing so. That’s just not how this stuff works. If he did intentionally lose via KO, Woodley would have to go down as the worst fight fixer in the history of boxing.
So, was the fight fixed?
Although anything is possible in this crazy world of prizefighting, the most likely answer is “no.”
In the final analysis of things, it would appear that either Jake Paul is a better, craftier boxer than acknowledged or Tyron Woodley is a worse boxer than anyone imagined. Maybe it’s a bit of both.
Whatever the case, it looks like the Jake Paul hype train will keep rolling.