Jake Paul: Is the "Problem Child" good or bad for boxing?

Paul has fought four times in his career so far, and returns to the ring this weekend in a rematch against Tyron Woodley.

Boxing is very much a sport of opinion. Endless debates on numerous topics.

Who was the greatest? Who hit the hardest? Who deserved a title shot? Rarely do us fans or scribes agree. Such is the nature of the sport; divided opinions will always be its lifeblood.

One such question that seems to have been asked repeatedly over the past year or so is whether Jake Paul is good for the sport.

I'm sure before you read on, you'll have your own opinion. Whatever has been said about Jake Paul, the one thing we can agree on is that he has certainly made a name for himself. Not as a boxer, of course, but we'll get to that later.

A professional loudmouth, a marketing genius or something in between?

While opinions remain very much divided, there can be little doubt that Paul has mastered the art of bluster.

Mr Marmite (does anyone really like marmite?), Paul, 26, has fought just four times. Four. He has yet to even fight a boxer. However, despite his boxing inexperience, the Californian has amassed millions of followers on social media since following in the footsteps of his older brother Logan into the world of YouTubing and video content production (a generous description, I would suggest).

On Twitter alone, Paul has 4 million followers. By way of comparison, Tyson Fury, the universally recognised heavyweight champion, has two million. Canelo Alvarez, the sports Pound for Pound #1 and considered the biggest draw in boxing today, has 1.9 million. Josh Taylor, an undisputed champion at light-welterweight, has a mere 150,000.

Of course, sport shouldn't be a popularity contest. The barometer for success should always be an achievement. However, boxing is and never has been an ordinary sport. Showmanship and the rare gift of the gab have taken many a fighter to loftier heights than mere skill would have usually allowed. Bravado and bluster remain a low-brow but richly rewarding mechanism for achieving fame and success in this ever so complicated sport.

So, before we can analyse whether this four-fight novice is actually good for the sport, the question should be asked, just what is good for boxing?

Was Mike Tyson good for boxing?

That might seem like a silly question for many, with Mike Tyson one of the most popular champions of any era and a brilliantly engaging character in 2021. However, at the height of his fame in the latter part of the 20th century, there were many who despised the controversial champion. Numerous incidents inside the ring, not to mention those outside it, lead to not only calls for his licence being permanently revoked but for the sport itself to be abolished.

Talk about making an impact.

Ultimately, in Tyson's case, it would be unfair to suggest he did anything other than divide opinion, but as we mentioned earlier, this sport thrives and lives on the energy its endless debates evoke.

Of course, Jake Paul is no Mike Tyson, not by a long shot. However, he, too, is no stranger to controversy.

And controversy, inevitably, sells tickets.

They don't call it prizefighting for nothing

Jake Paul June 2021

While it might grate for the young pro boxer trying to make his way in the game, this sport has rarely been fair or just.

Known as prizefighting, professional boxing is all about the lolly. While times may have changed, the almighty dollar remains divine. Followers have replaced fans - image and perception versus a hidden reality.

However, the reality is that Jake Paul is not a very good boxer. But he certainly talks a good game. Indeed, it's hard not to have a degree of admiration for a man with the conviction to claim, "I'm the best thing that's happened to boxing in a century." with a straight face.

Right or wrong, and it's hard to offer any kind of legitimate conviction to support that weighty claim, it's equally hard to say that Paul is actually bad for the sport.

Certainly, there is a legitimacy over the frustration of champions like Josh Taylor, who, despite remarkable achievements inside the ring, continue to be denied the kind of tv coverage afforded to the beach blonde Californian novice.

Indeed, it is patently absurd that someone with such limited experience in the sport is being discussed and debated at such length. But, in 2021, some might suggest that absurdity is becoming increasingly synonymous with an everyday event.

In many ways, Paul's rise is very much a reflection of the society we now live in. Patience is no longer a virtue. Fame and money remain God for the many. The path to quick riches has never been so achievable nor desirable.

Whatever you might feel about him, Paul followed his own route, and irrespective of detractors or the envious, he got there. Millions of followers on social media, many more millions in the bank, Paul has achieved something that so many crave. Power and attention.

Now that he has it all, all he has to do is fight. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, he could run into an actual boxer one of these days and but for Tommy Fury's withdrawal from their now-cancelled December bout, we would have finally seen whether Paul can actually put some of his money where his mouth is.

Sadly though, the former Youtuber will instead rematch with retired UFC fighter Tyron Woodley as he continues his rise in the sport without actually fighting a boxer.

Always room for a villain

YouTuber Logan Paul goes the distance with Floyd Mayweather

Still, an undoubted phenomenon, Paul is certain to continue to divide. His presence in boxing remains an odd side-show, but one that is undoubtedly drawing new eyes to the sport.

Naysayers might well be right when they question the validity of such attention or whether this kind of attention is one the sport needs. Paul is hard to like for those of a certain generation, but then again, so was Muhammad Ali. So, for that matter, is Tyson Fury.

Floyd Mayweather, another pantomime villain of the boxing world, was derided, even hated by a large majority of those forking out $99.99 to watch him fight the likes of Robert Guerrero, Andre Berto and Conor McGregor.

Of course, 'Money' had the skills to pay the bills and plenty of credit in the bank. In contrast, Paul's limited fighting ability is sure to catch up with him eventually, but there should be little doubt that boxing has always had room for the unique and the absurd.

Good or bad for boxing, Paul's continued presence in the sport seems inevitable. While it might leave a sour taste for purists and nostalgics, those in the younger demographics seem to have largely bought into his somewhat comical boxing persona.

Like him or loathe him, Jake Paul might not be the greatest fighter or even a decent one, but he might well be one of the greatest marketers in recent memory.

Boxing, if anything, could certainly learn a thing or two about self-promotion from a man who has amassed more followers on Twitter than Fury and Canelo combined, another painful demonstration of the sports inability to generate serious buzz to a mainstream audience.

Rightly or wrongly, it might just well be the case that boxing needs the very things Jake Paul brings. Attention and power.

If only he could actually fight.

Read more: Dillian Whyte's long road to a heavyweight world title shot

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