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On Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021 YouTube celebrity Jake Paul defeated former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley with a split-decision victory in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.
Paul, whose record in professional boxing now sits at 4-0, defeated retired UFC fighter Ben Askren back on April 17, 2021, only 4 months before this recent fight.
Jake Paul’s brother, Logan Paul, who also boxes professionally, recently faced-off against undefeated world-champion boxer Floyd Mayweather back in June. The brothers have carved out a business model that runs on fans, and more importantly, haters wanting to see the infamous influencers brawl with other celebrities and established martial arts figures.
This phenomenon of cross-disciplinary boxing fights, that get both hyped and torched in the mainstream for being grand spectacles, have become more prevalent after former UFC double weight-division champion Conor McGregor, boxed Floyd Mayweather on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017 at the T-Mobile Arena in Nevada. This watershed fight posed a solution to boxing’s waning popularity by getting the biggest names in mainstream fighting to face-off, regardless of differences in expertise.
The Paul brothers have appeared to use this cultural shift to their benefit, using their YouTube fortunes to pay for the best training camps money can buy and setting up their own professional events marketed on name alone. However, boxing purists have railed against this shift, claiming the fights aren’t legitimate, lack respect for the sport, and are a disgrace to the athletes who have had to work their whole lives to get any kind of recognition.
Regardless, these celebrity matches have made great amounts of money, with the pay-per-view buys of Jake Paul vs. Tyron Woodley being projected to land close to the recent Floyd Mayweather vs. Logan Paul bout, making them some of the most viewed fighting events of the year.
As for the fight: many were disappointed by the eight-round bout which featured one close call when Woodley landed a right-hand in round four that Paul quickly recovered from. Both men’s newness to boxing was apparent with awkward footing, tying up of attempted counters and inefficient clinches being the story of the night. Paul maintained a solid jab throughout most of the fight, choosing to circle the ropes and stick-and-move whereas Woodley stalked and looked for moments to charge, not being as successful in his approach.
Both fighters’ awkwardness led to a familiar kind of stalemate that’s seen with a lack of boxing experience. Ringside, the three judges scored the bout 78-74, 77-75, 75-77 for Paul by split-decision. The decision left viewers launching a multitude of accusations, including suggestions that the fight had been rigged. Otherwise, most of the outcry stemmed from viewers feeling that it was boring.
Although this negative reaction has been the status quo for most of the Paul brothers’ fights. Viewers are intrigued by the fantasy of a grand knockout or unexpected victory. If that doesn’t happen there’s a collective sense of having gotten your hopes up and ultimately being let down.
So the question still remains: is celebrity boxing a fad that’s sucking the last few drops out of an already fraying sport? Or is this the beginning of a new class of martial arts events that do away with established titles and thrive off of celebrity and capital? Only time will tell.