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Jake Paul, Explained

What is the correct way to view Jake Paul the boxer? Is he actually good? Is he a positive or negative force? Was Anderson Silva robbed? Let’s contextualize and comprehend this man.

The São Paulo Spider flipped a switch from warmth to war. The young YouTuber, all limbs and bluster and commerce, could already hear the cha-chings ringing in his ears like a pinpoint overhand right. And as fight week gave way to fight night and fight night gave way to ritualistic recriminations that arrive in lockstep with any fistfight featuring a Paul brother, we passed a notable point of sporting singularity.

After Saturday evening in Glendale, Arizona, the “Who is Jake Paul?” era ended. In besting MMA icon Anderson Silva in eight rounds of boxing, the social media influencer-turned-pro pugilist signaled that the “WHAT is Jake Paul?” era is fully upon us.

You are not required to like it; such a query may indeed force you to roll your eyes so hard that it makes a noise. Inversely, you may think Paul-as-boxer is good for a laugh and a cheap thrill. But whether you love this flabbergasting spectacle of a man or consider him a sneering interloper in the sweet science, he’s not leaving it anytime soon.

In fact, he’s quickly become a significant piece of the combat sports establishment.

Let me explain what I mean by this — and why it really doesn’t have to be a bad thing in the big picture.

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Here are several statements that are true:

  1. Jake Paul is a credible early-career professional boxer and his win over 47-year-old Anderson Silva was not a robbery, but fully deserved
  2. There is a massive chasm between MMA diehards’ and boxing lifers’ respective perceptions/expectations for him
  3. Paul has taken concrete steps toward addressing hot-button issues of MMA fighter pay and unionization
  4. Jake and Logan Paul are not “destroying” boxing (and they couldn’t even if they tried)

Let’s unpack these in more detail.

Is Jake Paul a real boxer? Is he good, or nah?

Whether you personally like him or his style or his trash talk or the nature of his fame has nothing to do with it, Jake Paul isn’t a fake boxer. Whether he’s “good” depends both on your definition of good and whether your expectations are fair to begin with.

Paul has fought professionally five times against four opponents. While three of them were veteran combat sports athletes, none of them had a primary background in boxing. That said, even today’s world champions of the sweet science more or less unanimously began their pro careers can-crushing their way through five or 10 or even 15 laugher bouts that they were set up expressly to win.

WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury’s first pro opponent, Béla Gyöngyösi, has a career record of 4-13-4. Unified welterweight champ Errol Spence Jr.’s first, Jonathan Garcia, is a comical 4-19-1 (and none of his first 16 pro opponents even have Wikipedia pages). Yes, these two sacrificial lambs are “real” boxers — they’re also cannon fodder with a level of skill and class that doesn’t exist in the same galaxy as an Anderson Silva, even the 47-year-old variety.

Was Anderson Silva robbed?

No. The two 78-73 scorecards did feel uncharitable, but even if we were to start with Paul Calderon’s 77-74 scorecard and take away the knockdown-driven 10-8 Jake Paul scored in Round 8 and go ahead and give that round to Silva altogether — a hypothetical so substantial it could only be described as thicc — we still end up with a 76-76 draw.

If you live solely on MMA Twitter, you may have gotten an inaccurate sense of how Saturday night’s bout actually went. The truth is quite simple: It’s difficult to find more than three rounds that solidly went Silva’s way, and the 10-8 took away any possibility of legitimate controversy.

Based on what actually did occur, there is no justification for Anderson Silva deserving to win the fight. It’s about as fair-and-square as eight rounds of boxing can be.

Are Jake and Logan Paul desecrating the sport of boxing?

Boxing is utterly massive around the world. From Mexico to the British Isles to Eastern Europe to Thailand to Japan and so, so many places in between, it’s one of the biggest and most popular sports there is. With this in mind, the Paul brothers couldn’t ruin boxing globally if they tried — and they’re not trying to do so, making the question moot.

In the United States, yes, the sport is a far cry from what it once was in the heydays of Ali, Frazier, and Foreman, the Four Kings, or Mike Tyson. But the key is that American boxing is fully capable of destroying itself without any help from a couple of viral video stars.

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How should we view Jake Paul as a boxing promoter?

Saturday’s event was under the auspices of Paul’s Most Valuable Promotions, an organization that has gotten some fighters with questionable qualifications paid — I’m still not sure why Le’Veon Bell fought Uriah Hall or why an MMA journeyman fought a medical doctor on the Glendale undercard. But it’s undeniable that MVP has played a direct role in helping a world-class multi-division boxing champion like Amanda Serrano achieve (1) a level of visibility she had never experienced before, and (2) the biggest paydays of her career. They can do the same for plenty more undervalued and underrepresented would-be stars.

So Jake Paul has actually done good things for combat sports? Like, for real?

Yes, to the point that you really cannot consider his impact a net negative.

Consider the bet he made with Silva last week: that if he won, the MMA legend would commit to working with him to establish a labor union for mixed martial arts athletes, something that’s never been successfully willed into existence to date. Given that fighter pay is a contentious issue in the UFC and beyond — Dana White has gone as far as arguing that keeping athletes’ compensation low ensures they stay motivated — a global unionization effort can and will revolutionize the sport whenever it ultimately happens.

And not for nothing, this pact was agreed with another MMA icon, Georges St-Pierre, in attendance as part of Showtime’s media coverage. When GSP and Silva speak, the combat sports world hangs on every word. If this fledgling effort can manage to develop some momentum, it could mean the single biggest moment of athlete empowerment mixed martial arts has ever experienced.

Does Jake Paul actually want to empower other athletes, or is he only doing all this to serve himself?

If he does enough of the right things, even if ostensibly for the “wrong” reasons, how much will you actually care?

Who wins the Jake Paul next fight sweepstakes?

The smart money has to be on Nate Diaz. But then again, maybe someone will tell Jake who Joe Riggs is and change the whole game.

What is the appropriate way to feel about Jake Paul the boxer?

Hey, it’s up to you. But it was mesmerizing to witness how strongly boxing fans felt about Paul’s chances to knock out Silva last week, and how strongly MMA fans felt in the inverse about Silva’s ability to knock out Paul. Despite all the spectacles we’ve seen up to this point, culture is still figuring out how to perceive this man’s role in the combat sports universe, and that’s what makes his ongoing participation in this self-replenishing circus so fascinating.

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