Jake Paul is aiming to become more than an influencer boxer

 | February 26 | 

6 mins read

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Jake Paul takes on Ryan Bourland this Saturday as he continues to follow a more traditional path with his boxing career. Having cut his teeth fighting retired MMA fighters and ailing celebrities, ‘The Problem Child has pivoted recently. Including Bourland, three of Paul’s last four opponents are genuine professional boxers. It’s certainly a turn-up for the books when it comes to a fighter who once looked unwilling to engage with boxing in a meaningful way.

Paul vs Bourland Odds

Paul debuted with a win over Deji Olatunji in Manchester in 2018. The amateur contest took place on the undercard of a bout between their elder brothers, as Logan Paul met KSI. YouTube boxing was in its nascent form, not yet bothering the main sport and confined to lucrative-but-separate amateur bouts.

But in boxing, more than any other sport, if something makes money then you can expect it to be hammered into the ground. Logan and KSI would meet again the following year, this time in a fully-sanctioned professional boxing match. It wouldn’t be long before Jake would follow his brother into the pro game. His first sanctioned bout was a victory over fellow content creator AnEsonGib. Paul won by TKO in the very first round, officially going 1-0 as a professional boxer. 

Paul went two-for-two when he dispatched former New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls point guard Nate Robinson in two rounds in his next bout. After copping criticism for fighting opponents with no combat sports background, Paul pivoted to the fighting world for his next fights. But it wasn’t boxing where he scouted his future foes. Rather, they came from the world of MMA.

Paul needed just one round to stop ex-UFC star Ben Askren in a fight that garnered 500,000 pay-per-view buys. Askren was known for his wrestling, a discipline that was of no use in a boxing contest. ‘Funky’ also came in with a soft physique for the bout, perhaps not taking the collision as seriously as he had his Octagon outings. 

Paul had struck gold though and continued to pick over the retired remnants of the UFC. Tyron Woodley was defeated twice before he decked 47-year-old former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva on the way to a decision win. 

The WBC and WBA started talking about giving Paul a world ranking, which was frankly ridiculous. Silva’s 3-1 boxing record was meagre, but it also represented the only time Paul had engaged a fighter with any sort of boxing history, unless you count Woodley’s one previous bout with Paul ahead of their rematch. Even then, one of Silva’s wins had been against fellow MMA legend Tito Ortiz in a fight that was inexplicably staged in a boxing ring.

Whatever you think of the actor-turned-YouTuber-turned-boxer, you can’t argue that he is a smart businessman. Paul realised after the Silva victory that he couldn’t continue to pad his record on celebrities or fighters from other disciplines. Well, sort of. Instead, Jake found a boxer whose celebrity status outstripped his ring ability. Tommy Fury, brother of WBC heavyweight champion Tyson and a Love Island reality TV star in his own right, was sought to face ‘The Problem Child’.

This was smart matchmaking. Tommy was 8-0 as a pro against very low level competition but his famous surname and Love Island fame would sell tickets and pay-per-views. This was a winnable fight for Paul which would, in turn, buy him a sliver of boxing credibility. The only problem was, Fury won. But Paul knocked ‘TNT’ down during their eight-rounder and proved he could at least handle himself against someone who had cut their teeth in professional boxing, rather than the basketball court.

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You would have forgiven Paul for withdrawing from the pro boxing game now that the genie was out of the bottle. For a while, it looked like that was exactly his intention. After all, his next bout was yet another outing against an ageing legend of the UFC. Paul’s 10-round decision win over Nate Diaz felt like groundhog day. After dipping his toe into legitimate boxing waters, Paul was back fighting veteran MMA fighters who weren’t noted for their striking.

But then Paul made an unexpected decision. ‘The Problem Child’ followed the Diaz win by facing Andre August, a 10-1-1 fighter with a decade of ring experience. Now make no mistake, the Texan was no world-beater. But August was about the level of fighter you’d expect an emerging pro with no amateur experience to be facing in their ninth fight. After stringing the fight game along for years, Jake Paul was finally behaving like a boxer.

He behaved like a boxer in the ring too, winning by first-round knockout against the 35-year-old. Paul had done what few thought possible and actually scored a victory over a legitimate boxer. But it did come at the expense of the bottom line. The fight did not take place on pay-per-view. Rather than being hosted in a vast arena like his other bouts, the August contest took place in the small Caribe Royale Casino in Orlando. Paul had walked a noble path but had done so at the cost of commerciality. The audience who delighted in him fighting retired MMA fighters and other celebrities wasn’t as interested in him behaving like a normal boxer.

Which makes it all the more impressive that Paul is going back to the well. Ryan Bourland is no Anderson Silva, AnEsonGib or Tommy Fury. But as a 17-2 boxer he is a step-up in class for a fighter who looks to be taking his ring career seriously. Paul has been smart, too. Rather than relying on himself to draw the house, by staging the contest on a card headlined by promotional charge Amanda Serrano in her home country of Puerto Rico, he is able to pursue a legitimate fight without feeling it in the pocket. 

Bourland’s record isn’t overly impressive, but then neither is Jake’s. These are the sort of bouts you have 10 fights into a boxing career. The fact Jake has taken a step back from the money-spinning world of influencer boxing and has instead taken on consecutive fights which make sense from a learning point of view is impressive. 

It will be fascinating to see if the 27-year-old has the patience to continue on this path. After all, this is a man who thought he was ready to fight Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez before he’d fought a pro boxer. But there is a place in boxing for this new, humble Jake Paul. He’ll have to earn it though. Bourland is the next roadblock on that journey.

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