Social media star Jake Paul was forced to fight past the second round for the first time in his young career on Sunday night, managing to edge out a split decision victory over former UFC champion Tyron Woodley in Cleveland. It wasn’t the highlight-reel performance fans have come to expect from Paul fights but may have been even more valuable for the still-undefeated Ohio native.
Paul is now 4-0 in his pro career and may have finally found a worthy rival against whom he will have to face a second time to truly settle the score. That is, it seems, as long as Woodley has Paul’s name tattooed on his body to secure the big payday that comes with a rematch.
That’s just one of the odd twists and turns from an interesting night in the ring at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest takeaways coming out of the event.
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Jake Paul passes his first real test
Jake and Logan Paul are not particularly likable, especially for those of an age where the concept of “influencers” and “social media superstars” carries little weight. That said, Jake deserves some credit — and seemingly more than Logan — for truly taking his boxing career seriously and attempting to grow as a fighter, even as his level of competition continues to come under fire. Though, it should be noted that if you look at the fourth opponent of the vast majority of top-tier professional boxers, they are certainly of no worse quality than Woodley, a fighter with the means and experience to enter the ring as a serviceable opponent.
Paul faced actual struggles in the ring on Sunday night, something far more valuable than anything we’ve seen in the first three fights of his career. Paul was hit clean and when he landed, his opponent didn’t crumble to the canvas in a heap, forcing Paul to deal with fatigue. To his credit, he handled those complications, found his second wind and arguably won every round down the stretch. It was, in a sense, the first of this era of “celebrity fights” that played out as an actual fight — more than a quick knockout or an elaborate sparring session — which forced Paul to actually earn a victory.
All these positives are unlikely to change anyone’s mind on Jake Paul as a fighter — and certainly not as a person. Still, Paul had to truly answer the kind of questions professional fighters are asked and, at least for one night, he managed to come up with enough right answers.
Not a fairy tale, not a nightmare for Tyron Woodley
Rare is the fighter’s career that reaches some sort of elegant end. Great fighters don’t often ride off into the sunset with a championship belt draped over their shoulder. Instead, their careers fizzle and drag to a sad conclusion with the once-elite athlete struggling to find that thing that made them special. So was the case of Woodley in the UFC. Once touted as arguably the greatest welterweight in the history of the sport, he was dominated round after round until a four-fight losing skid sent him to the free agent market.
Many of the problems that plagued Woodley’s career, even in his best days, were on display against Paul. He was often too passive, too reliant on looking for one big punch and spent much of the fight failing to properly cut off the ring to fully utilize his pressure. Still, he was granted a big stage and a big opportunity, and gave Paul a fight.
While the 77-75 card for Woodley — a card that saw Woodley given the final five rounds of the fight — was out of touch with the actual fight, he did enough to give a solid account of himself as a fighter. Having to beg for a rematch is likely not a prideful moment for Woodley, nor is being forced to agree to living up to his end of a bet that will see Woodley getting “I love Jake Paul” tattooed on his body but if the end result is another big payday, Woodley did enough to deserve the opportunity.
Tommy Fury may have lost his lottery ticket
Tommy Fury, brother of heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, opened the show in a fight that was expected to set him up as Paul’s next opponent. Fury would have checked some important boxes for a Paul foe, with good looks, name value, and perhaps most importantly, a record as a professional boxer.
Instead of putting on a show against massive underdog Anthony Taylor, Fury turned in a dud. Taylor was there to be on the receiving end of a highlight for Fury, but Fury instead won an ugly four-round fight that likely got no one’s blood pumping to see him on the B-side of a Paul pay-per-view. Between the poor performance and Woodley doing just enough to call for a rematch, it seems Fury will lose out on a major opportunity.
The rest of the undercard
- It’s well past time for boxing to move past its archaic and sexist attitude toward women in the sport. Amanda Serrano is a seven-division world champion over her career and one of the best female fighters in the entire sport. Why, then, is she forced to fight championship fights limited to 10, two-minute rounds? Is she truly less capable or in more danger than Tyron Woodley and Jake Paul if she fights for a longer amount of time? Paul and Woodley battled for 24 minutes, while one of the elite women in the world was limited to 20 minutes of ring time. There’s no excuse for this and any argument to the contrary is rooted in sexism, intentional or not.
- Montana Love vs. Ivan Baranchyk was the kind of fight that fans hope shows up on every card. The two men gave it their all over seven thrilling rounds before Love’s technique and clean punching finally broke Baranchyk and forced the fight to be stopped between rounds. Paul vs. Woodley and Fury vs. Taylor were not examples of what makes boxing great. That, on Sunday night, was reserved for this welterweight showdown.
- God bless Joe Cusumano. The man tried his best against Daniel Dubois. Unfortunately, Cusumano was little more than a warm body for Dubois to pound on and couldn’t survive the opening round. These fights need to happen, especially when rebuilding a young fighter after a tough loss, but they probably don’t need to happen on a pay-per-view card.