YouTuber Jake Paul is now 2-0 in professional boxing after beating a UK vlogger and a former NBA all-star in the ring, but as he calls for a fight with Conor McGregor, is the internet prankster wading out his depth?
The controversial 23-year-old social media star might not be well known to anyone who can remember a time before TikTok, but he is nonetheless becoming a bona fide combat sports draw to a very specific demographic.
Last weekend, Paul fought in the co-main event of the Mike Tyson-Roy Jones card in Los Angeles, faceplanting ex-basketball player Nate Robinson to the canvas in the second round in a fight as bizarre as it was unnecessary. But it is difficult for even the most cynical among us to say that there isn’t an appetite for this type of spectacle.
Saturday’s fight card is reported to have sold as many as 1.5 million pay-per-views – an absolutely astonishing figure for a main event in which the two fighters hadn’t boxed in a combined 17 years, and a co-main event featuring novice boxers with one professional fight (against a vlogger, remember) between them.
So, with Paul’s second round knockout – and the obvious interest in the broadcast – it is understandable why he is seeking further paydays in the ring, and now he has called for the biggest money fight available in all of combat sports.
“I am dedicating my life to beating Conor McGregor,” Paul told ESPN.
“Financially, it already makes sense. Financially, I’m already one of the biggest prizefighters and there’s only a couple more boxes to check off and to beat and to conquer.
“I want to fight a couple more people, I think, first,” Paul added.
“We’re figuring that out. I want to prove to the world that, ‘Yo, I’m gonna knock out all these fighters.’ Conor McGregor can maybe be the final boss. If we were playing a video game, he could be the final boss. And then I’ll probably retire after I beat McGregor.”
Nate Robinson to Conor McGregor is quite a leap, even if Paul inserts a couple of other warm-up fights – presumably against podcasters, golfers or milkmen – in between.
Eddie Hearn, as he does, has sensed a payday and says that Paul vs. McGregor would be more competitive than McGregor’s own foray to the boxing ring against Floyd Mayweather three years ago – almost certainly not true, but statements like that will certainly stir Paul’s 20 million or so YouTube subscribers – and if even a minor percentage of those are to regularly purchase Jake Paul boxing events, he and his promoters will be laughing all the way to the bank.
Speaking at the press conference after knocking out Robinson, Paul attempted to cement his case for a fight with McGregor by talking up his social media statistics. His subscriber base, he correctly says, will guarantee PPV sales. His Instagram following will be a huge boost to any type of fight promotion.
But there will little talk of what he might be able to do in the ring. There are plenty of 2-0 boxers in the world right now who think that they are about to transcend the sport of prizefighting; Jake Paul is just one of them.
And while he will continue to try and talk himself into fights, the further up the ladder he attempts to climb can only have one destination: him lying face down on the canvas, much like Nate Robinson on Saturday.
So Jake, much like his older brother Logan, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. They have cultivated a spot for themselves in a sport which is notoriously hard to break into – and they have done it as boxing novices.
But this isn’t a sport to be trifled with, and whether it be McGregor, Mayweather or anyone, it is a lesson one suspects they will learn before long.