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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: JAKE PAUL EXCELS AT BOXING BUSINESS

By Paul Magno | August 31, 2021
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: JAKE PAUL EXCELS AT BOXING BUSINESS

The rise of Jake Paul is not bad for boxing. He’s not the “end” of boxing. He’s not a stain on boxing. 

As a matter of fact, for someone with so little time in the sport and so little orthodoxy in his rise to prominence, he may be one of the few people who actually “gets” the realities of boxing as a business. 

It doesn’t even matter how many pay-per-view buys the Jake Paul-Tyron Woodley show generates or that Sunday’s split decision win for Paul was not all that entertaining. Even if the show tanks, it’s still guaranteed to sell better than most boxing pay-per-views featuring high-end “legit” talent. It’s still guaranteed to generate way more publicity than normal boxing shows and provide a greater lead-in to future events.

“For the kids, I look like Mike Tyson. Your grandpa had Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson. Your dad had Floyd Mayweather, this generation has Jake Paul,” the 24-year-old YouTuber told Brian Custer on The Last Stand Podcast in the days prior to his PPV contest. “I am on a trajectory to become the biggest prizefighter in the world...

“Tyron Woodley is ‘The Chosen One’, we chose him to get his ass beat. None of his accomplishments matter on Sunday night. I’m sending him into retirement and turning him into a meme.”

What Paul “gets” is that you have to SELL yourself and hype your upcoming performance if you want to generate buzz, heat, and, ultimately, move fans to make an impulse buy. And he “gets” all of this, in great part, because he’s NOT a “boxing guy.” 

“I am overlooking Tyron Woodley,” Paul told assembled media in a pre-fight press conference. “I’m already thinking about the next opponent.”

Shit like that rubs purists the wrong way, especially in a stagnant, stale boxing world suffocating in its own nostalgia and cravings for convention. But shit like that also sells fights. 

Boxing in the present tense (and, actually, for the last half-century or more) can’t be sold on the weight of its pure sports merit. It’s become a niche sport that has to sell its events with the star power of its fighters and ride or die on how far that star power can push sales.

But, for the most part, boxing has been slow/reluctant/unable/incapable of building crossover-friendly stars. With promoters who don’t really promote, fighters who don’t know how to sell themselves, and a business model that hobbles the ability to put together some of the bigger, more appealing fights, reaching the masses-- and, more and more often, even reaching its own base-- has become increasingly difficult.

That’s why a personality like Jake Paul can step in, make waves, and become a high-end earner with just 3 or 4 fights under his belt and novice-level skills. He may be bringing over some of his YouTube and social media fandom to these events, but he’s also creating the kind of buzz inside the boxing world that most elite-level world champions don’t. Boxingscene, for example, had 7 of 15 front page stories specifically devoted to Sunday’s Jake Paul fight against former UFC champ, Woodley, at one point last week. Stodgy boxing purists may like to believe otherwise, but this kid, his brother Logan, and the general push to stage celebrity/legend boxing events outside of the boxing establishment, have energized the boxing scene.

It’s open for debate whether that new energy is a positive or a negative, considering that it kind of overshadows the actual “real” boxing happening at the moment. But if this stuff is a negative, drawing attention away from working fighters and true boxing events, then boxing’s bossmen are to blame for that. Just as you can’t really “steal” a woman away from her man without her wanting to be “stolen,” boxing fans wouldn’t be primed for the taking if they were entertained and fully invested in the current boxing product.

All-around, boxing has failed to market itself, sell itself, and consistently deliver bang for the consumer’s buck. So, yeah, when someone comes along who can actually sell himself, it’s received as either a jolt of enthusiasm or a shock to the system by those fans lulled into expecting a lot less from boxing events. 

Truth be told, if Terence Crawford could market himself half as well as Jake Paul, he’d be a mega-star. 

Take that however you like. Part of the boxing business has always centered around making yourself a “must see” star and driving fans into a purchase so they can see how your story plays out. In recent memory, only Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao have been able to create that kind of bankable narrative around themselves. 

If anything, a guy like Jake Paul should be welcomed into the boxing fold. Boxing could learn a thing or two from the kid who still needs to learn a thing or two about boxing.

Got something for Magno? Send it here: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com

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