By: Sean Crose
Make no mistake about it, the atmosphere at Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage Field House was electric. Jake Paul, the enfant terrible of contemporary boxing, was about to face former UFC star Tyron Woodley in front of a sold-out hometown crowd. Although he had a full record of 3-0, Paul had emerged as a fan, and pay per view, favorite by being brash and by knocking opponents out. After entering the fight world from social media stardom, the 24-year-old started making his presence felt by his boisterous presence and conscious starching punches. The thing was, none of his previous opponents were fit for the ring. Woodley, on the other hand, was at least on a basic level, a fitting opponent. Therefore, Paul had to really work to earn a fair decision from the skilled mixed martial artist on Sunday, which he eventually did.
What kind of achievement was it for Paul, though? Woodley, like others from the mma universe, had trouble launching and landing shots with any real regularity or fluidity (punch effectiveness seems to be to mma fighters in the ring what leg kicks are to boxers in the octagon). In other words, although he had some big moments – like nearly dropping Paul at one point – Woodley didn’t have the ring experience to emerge victorious. What’s more, Paul looked less than impressive as the fight wore on. He looked sharp early, but as the match continued, the sharpness of Paul’s punches and movement waned.
Which, frankly, is what you can expect from any boxer
engaged in his fourth professional fight. Paul, however, isn’t just a prospect.
He may well be one of the top combat sports artists in the world. If that seems
puzzling, it’s because it is. There have always been novelty boxing matches,
but novelty careers are another matter, at least at the level Paul has already
attained. The truth is, more Americans may be aware of Paul than they are of Canelo
Alvarez, Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury. That’s telling – and concerning.
There used to be a time when a brand had a lot to do
with performance. Not it seems, a brand alone can suffice, so long as there’s a
bit of adequacy behind it. Jake Paul may be a successful boxer simply because
he’s Jake Paul, not for any other reason. Or not. It will be interesting to see
where Paul’s ring career goes from here. The Woodley fight wasn’t thrilling,
after all. There was no one round knockout like there was when Paul decimated
Woodley pal Ben Askren not all that long ago. Will the public keep tuning in
now that it’s clear Paul isn’t Mike Tyson? That remains to be seen.
What isn’t in doubt, however, is the fact that Paul is
filling an energy gap in boxing. This too is puzzling, as there are good fights
and good fighters out there at the moment. None of them, however, can capture attention
the way Paul does. The man actually out Conor McGregors Conor McGregor. That’s
saying something. Namely, people love to see loud mouths in action. That’s
always been the case – just never at this relatively low level.