When Jake Paul first decided to embark on a career in professional boxing his move was met with a lot of derision from combat sports veterans but lately opinions on his career have started to change.
After demolishing a YouTube celebrity in his debut and then doing the same to ex-NBA player Nate Robinson in his second fight, the 24-year-old social influencer dispatched former Bellator and ONE champion Ben Askren inside two minutes of the opening round.
On Sunday night, Aug. 29 on Showtime and FITE TV pay-per-view, Paul will take another step up in competition with a boxing match against Tyron Woodley, who hasn’t boxed professionally in the past but he does have a wealth of experience as a four-time defending UFC welterweight champion.
While Paul is obviously still working his way up to opponents with boxing resumes, UFC Hall of Famer Michael Bisping counts himself as one of the people who have been forced to take “The Problem Child” more seriously as he looks to move to 4-0 in his career this weekend.
“For Jake Paul, he’s a guy who was a Disney star and then he’s got into boxing apparently,” Bisping said when appearing on The Fighter vs. The Writer podcast. “He’s got a massive following. I think a lot of people are quick to doubt him, quick to write him off, although I do think he’s dispelling that myth a little bit and people are starting to come on board.”
Part of the reason why Paul was discounted so quickly when he first started boxing was largely due to the sideshow surrounding his fights, not to mention his status as a celebrity and social influencer.
Unlike many fighters, Paul doesn’t need to become a boxer to make ends meet but in a way Bisping is actually more impressed by his desire to fight when he clearly doesn’t have to.
“Typically as a fighter when you get into combat sports, most fighters if you look at their history, they come from some kind of struggle when they were younger,” Bisping explained. “Whether that’s an abusive family or coming from poverty or whatever it was, typically there’s always that struggle. This is all we have. We take our fighting skill, we were probably getting into scraps on the streets and things like that. We realize we can fight and we turn that into a living and hopefully turn things around. That’s normally the case.
“That doesn’t mean it has to be the case. There’s no prerequisite in combat sports that you have to come from a disadvantaged background. You can’t hate on Jake Paul for what he’s doing in fights. If anything, you’ve got to respect him even more.”
Of course, Paul has still received criticism for what’s been perceived as a lack of competition early in his career but he’s defended his opposition when compared to many of the top boxers currently reigning over the sport.
A perfect example would be Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, who is widely considered the top pound-for-pound boxer in the world. A quick look at his record shows ‘Canelo’ didn’t face an opponent with a winning record until his 13th professional bout.
Truth be told, that’s actually commonplace in boxing where fighters routinely get experience and build a resume around overmatched competition. In that regard, Bisping says Paul is actually walking a tougher road than most with his fight against Askren and his upcoming showdown with Woodley.
“If you compare what Jake Paul is doing to a lot of boxers, yeah I said this recently, he’s fighting better competition,” Bisping said. “The first one was KSI or someone like that I’m not sure. Then the basketballer, again whatever, but then he fought Ben Askren. I said I knew that was a perfect matchup. Even though Jake Paul comes across as a bit of an idiot, he’s pretty smart because that was the perfect matchup. That was genius matchmaking.
“I think, I’m going to give myself a little tap on the shoulder, but I think I was the only guy in the MMA community to pick Jake Paul to win that.”
Paul made quick work of Askren with a first-round knockout and now he’s got an opponent in Woodley, who has much better credentials when it comes to his punching power as well as his history as a former UFC champion.
“When you look at this fight on paper, a lot of the advantages go over to Jake Paul,” Bisping said. “He’s the taller guy, he’s the younger guy, he’s got longer reach, he hasn’t got as many miles on the clock, Tyron was defeated in his last four [fights]. When you look at Tyron as well, the thing that disappeared for me with Tyron was the fighting spirit. That’s what kind of went.
“Towards the end, all Tyron would do is float around the perimeter of the octagon and looking for the Hail Mary, that one big shot. Of course we saw him do that against Robbie Lawler and he knocked out some other people as well. He was known for having big power but that kind of became his kryptonite because that’s all he would do. That’s all he would do was look for that. I do feel maybe the internal fire for success, that was dampened.”
Bisping added that as a mixed martial artist, he’ll certainly be pulling for Woodley to find a way to win but ultimately he believes “Jake Paul’s going to get the job done.”
That said as much as Paul has convinced Bisping and a lot of the combat sports community that he’s serious about his boxing career, the same can’t be said for those following in his footsteps.
Thanks to success Jake Paul and his brother Logan have found with high-profile boxing matches, there are dozens of social influencers now trying to do the same thing. There was just recently an entire event promoted around YouTube celebrities matched up against social influencers from TikTok.
BKFC featured a trio of boxing matches with similar personalities pitted against each other as well as the inclusion of a hip-hop star in Blueface.
For all the ways Paul is proving he’s a real boxer, Bisping draws the line when it comes to some of these other matchups being put together because he’s quite certain many of these people have no idea what they’re getting themselves into.
“Fair play to Jake, fair play to him,” Bisping said. “He’s working. He’s doing what he needs to do on his mission perfectly. Your mission as a professional fighter, if you want to be a fighter, is to go out there make noise, make money, make headlines and f*cking be headlining pay-per-views. He’s doing that perfectly at a young stage in his career, you cannot hate on that. He cheated the system with his YouTube and his Instagram following and all the rest but so what? Great. He seems to be applying himself, from what I’ve seen he’s training hard and all the rest of it and he’s doing it a long time. So I’m not hating on Jake Paul.
“What I’m not a fan of is because Jake Paul’s done that and you see other people doing it, Logan Paul’s doing it, and now you have every motherf*cker on the planet thinking they’re a fighter. Every motherf*cker on the planet thinking that it’s easy and you can go in there and have these fights. It’s not a f*cking game. You see there was some thing with some TikTokker’s recently and they were all having a fight and these celebrity fights. We’ve got ‘The Mountain’ or someone fighting, these two big massive juiceheads or strong men or power lifters or whatever they are, forget their names, they’re fighting soon and it’s like this big thing. Ooh we’ll just make everyone fight one another and it’s great and it will all be a laugh. It’s not a laugh. It’s to be taken seriously. Someone’s going to get f*cking hurt eventually.”
As a former UFC champion with nearly 40 professional bouts and a lifetime of damage accumulated on his body, the now 42-year-old veteran can speak to the kind of toll fighting can take on a person.
That’s why he’s got a harsh warning to all those young upstarts making noise on social media trying to become the next Jake Paul.
“I tell you what, it’s only a matter of time before someone gets f*cking seriously hurt,” Bisping said. “It’s not a game in there. It’s not a f*cking game and I only say this because I don’t want anyone to get hurt. I can pull this eyeball out right now. I got neck surgery at the start of the year. I’ve got two false f*cking knees. I’ve got to go in and have another two neck surgeries.
“I’ve had about 25 surgeries throughout the course of my career and you’ve got these f*cking idiots going in there that have never conditioned their body to the kind of damage that it’s going to take.”