The last time an actor made the transition from the world of children’s television to mainstream success, the entertainment world gave us Drake. After appearing as a wheelchair-bound teen on the hit show Degrassi, Drake became a rapper who eventually achieved more than he initially thought possible. Over the years, he has gone from an up and coming artist on Lil’ Wayne’s record label, to being named Artist of the Decade at the 2021 Billboard Music Awards. It’s amazing how things have changed.
There is now another former children’s television actor who desperately wants to achieve mainstream success. Jake Paul once had a reoccurring role on the Disney Channel’s Bizaardvark, which was aimed at teenage audiences. Now, as a 24-year-old grown man whose no longer interested in children’s programming, Paul wants to be taken seriously in the world of combat sports.
In November of 2020, he annihilated former NBA star Nate Robinson with a 2nd round knockout on the undercard of Tyson vs. Jones. Since then, the sports world has been buzzing with the rumor that he would get another shot to climb into the ring with a pro athlete. On June 1st, the rumors were confirmed. The former child actor will be facing former UFC welterweight champion, Tyron Woodley, on August 28th in a sanctioned boxing match. The circus continues…
Among the multiple definitions that Webster’s Dictionary has for the word circus, the one that stands out the most is “a public spectacle.” Make no mistake about it, Tyron Woodley vs. Jake Paul is nothing more than this. No matter who wins or how many rounds the fight goes, this fight should be viewed as an embarrassment to the sport of boxing.
While some may think this is an unfair assessment of the event, a closer look at the details will leave little room for argument. Let’s take a deeper dive into why this event is happening and the narrative it should be given, all things considered.
Paul has never faced a real boxer
Despite his public declarations that he is taking boxing seriously and that he has a genuine passion for the sport, Jake Paul is yet to climb into the ring against an actual boxer. In January of 2020, his first professional fight was against a fellow YouTuber with aspirations of making a name for himself in the sport. Paul knocked him out in the first round, and outside of a few silly videos, the man hasn’t been heard from again.
Paul’s 2nd professional fight was against a former basketball player. While basketball certainly requires great hand-eye coordination and exceptional timing, the muscles used are entirely different from the ones used to box. Not only that, Robinson’s technique during the fight was so bad that audiences had to wonder if he’d spent his camp sparring or working on free throws. Not only should Robinson never box again, but he should also file a lawsuit against his trainer for reckless abandonment.
Ben Askren is a former UFC competitor who never had a boxing match until he faced Paul in April of this year. He had been a successful amateur wrestler before becoming a professional mixed martial artist and officially retired in November of 2019. When Paul’s camp came calling about a potential boxing match, what did Askren have to lose? The fight would be his first big payday in over a year and his place in combat sports was already solidified. It was a win-win situation and he climbed into the ring knowing he was only there to boost Jake Paul’s public profile.
This is Woodley’s swan song
Tyron Woodley is without question one of the most important competitors in the history of UFC. He is a former welterweight champion with four successful title defenses. However, he has lost each of his last four fights and his most recent performances have lacked the explosive athleticism that once made him a household name. In April, it was announced that his name had officially been removed from UFC’s welterweight rankings.
The next time the public saw Woodley it was backstage at the Paul vs. Askren fight. He and Paul exchanged verbal jabs and somehow the incident became social media content across several platforms. Woodley is on the verge of being forgotten; these things happen quickly in the world of professional sports.
Once upon a time, he hosted a reoccurring segment of TMZ’s television show. Once upon a time, he was the reigning UFC welterweight champion. Now he in search of relevance and a payday. He had no other choice but to take this fight.
This undermines the efforts of real boxers
Sonny Liston was the most feared boxer in the world for a very long time. It was no secret that he had links to racketeers; they were the only ones who would give him financial backing early in his career. After seven years of working his way up through the professional ranks, Liston became the number one ranked heavyweight contender in 1960.
However, he did not get a chance to face the champion, Floyd Patterson, until 1962. It took nine years for the toughest heavyweight of his time to finally become a champion and receive the recognition warranted by his abilities.
All over the world and throughout the annals of boxing history, there are stories similar to Liston’s. Roberto Duran was incensed when he saw Sugar Ray Leonard on the cover of Ring Magazine being hailed as the fighter of the year. For years, Lennox Lewis claimed that the other big-name heavyweights in the world were dodging him. Pacquiao vs. Mayweather happened about five years later than it should have.
The point is, it takes years of putting on great performances to get the opportunity to enjoy a great payday in front of an international audience. Jake Paul is a children’s television actor and Tyron Woodley is a former mixed martial artist. Neither one of them has paid their dues in the sweet science.
Paul vs. Woodley is taking place on August 28th. As much I hate to admit this, I’ll be watching. The truth is, I won’t be rooting for either man. I’ll be rooting for the sport of boxing. I don’t want to see a YouTuber or a former mixed martial artist gain fame and fortune in a sport that requires years to master.
Boxing’s sanctioning bodies need to do a better job of protecting the integrity of the sport. As with any business, making a profit is important. However, when the money earned is at the expense of the sport’s reputation, it’s just not worth the risk.