Monday, August 30, 2021

Paul-Woodley Thoughts


The fight between undefeated YouTube star/social media influencer turned Cruiserweight boxer Jake Paul and former two-time MMA Welterweight world champion Tyron Woodley was as most of Paul’s previous bouts in the Boxing ring have been, a curiosity. While this term “Curiosity” is one that frankly is starting to become overused particularly since the influx of those who enter the sport of Boxing from the outside began in recent years, there is no other term that is suitable to describe it. This is because Paul has not fought someone with Boxing experience as of yet. As such, it is the element of the unknown in his opposition that keeps that phrase “Curiosity” appropriate.


In previewing this fight, this observer said that he was taking the “wait and see” approach as I have done with practically every fight that I have covered that features someone that obtained notoriety from outside of Boxing before choosing to enter the sport. I did however, state that while there was no dispute that the tactics of Jake and his brother Logan Paul in terms of being able to generate interest, despite their inexperience as boxers, that  it was a roll of the dice for United States cable network Showtime to market Jake Paul as a pay-per-view attraction in a period of transition where the model of pay-per-view has been in decline and has given way to digital subscription-based streaming networks that generally offer greater value as compared to such a model. There is no disputing however, that from a marketing standpoint, the Paul brothers have succeeded in generating interest particularly amongst the casual fan. The question will remain whether or not the two brothers are truly dedicated to pursuing Boxing as a serious career and that question will remain at least until each decides to fight legitimate boxers under legitimate Boxing contests and not exhibitions as was the case when Logan engaged in an eight round exhibition with Floyd Mayweather earlier this year.


For Jake Paul, he is competing in official fights, but is doing so against fighters that are coming from the world of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) or against other YouTube celebrities or former athletes as was the case in his second official fight when he scored a first round knockout of former NBA star Nate Robinson in November of last year. Even though there is a benefit to such promotion as it does generate interest, some may wonder whether or not he is serious and will choose to compete against boxers in the future. Paul’s fight against Tyron Woodley was one that I had the same question in mind that I did when Paul fought Ben Askren earlier this year in another pay-per-view main event that pitted the inexperienced Paul against someone making their pro debut as a boxer following being a former world champion in the sport of MMA. While one might argue that this is a way for Paul to test the waters and more or less get his feet wet as a boxer by facing those that are inexperienced in terms of competing in a Boxing ring, but do have a background in combat sports and based on that, thus have the ability to draw interest, it is not the norm for those who are just starting out in Boxing to be in a main event position, much less as a pay-per-view attraction. As for the question that I had in mind prior to Paul’s bout with Askren, I did wonder what the returns would be in terms of pay-per-view buys, but in terms of the action inside the ring I wondered if Askren would be able to test Paul in terms of his ability to take a punch. He was not able to as Paul scored a first round knockout of Askren.


Tyron Woodley much like Ben Askren has an amateur wrestling background, but did score his share knockouts in the sport of MMA with his hands. So, I felt that if Woodley were able to land some offense on Paul that the question my get some clarity even though it would not be at the hands of a seasoned professional boxer. With over 16,000 spectators in attendance at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, OH, Paul’s hometown, on August 29th, the promotion was successful in terms of a live gate attraction. Would the fight be a legitimate contest or would it be something that would ultimately be frowned upon by both experts and fans alike?


The first couple rounds saw Paul dictating the combat in keeping Woodley at distance with his jab and mixing in some combinations. One thing that has been a question in regard to Woodley in some of his recent MMA fights was his inability to let his hands go and stay busy over the course of a fight. In the first three rounds of this fight, I felt that we were seeing some of that inability show itself as Woodley was simply not busy and seemed hesitant at times to throw punches. To be fair, one should remember that this was the first time that Woodley had competed as a boxer and as such it may not have been realistic to expect a high offensive output at least in the early rounds.


Round four however, would see a little bit of a change in Woodley connecting with a right hand to the head of Paul and knocking him into the ropes. Frankly, this sequence where Woodley legitimately stunned Paul gave the appearance that the ropes prevented him from going down and in some cases a referee would be justified in calling that a knockdown. This would not be the case as Referee George Nichols, who was officiating his twenty-first bout as a professional referee, opted to not call it a knockdown. Nevertheless, it did provide the first instance of adversity for Paul in a Boxing ring.


From this point in the fight on, Woodley had sporadic success in landing hooks, uppercuts, and his right hand on Paul. While the pace of the fight slowed slightly down the stretch of the scheduled eight round bout, it was a question of whether or not Woodley’s sporadic moments though eye-catching and appearing to be the harder punches landed, would be enough to get the nod in terms of scoring. To his credit, Jake Paul was able to regain his rhythm after what occurred in the fourth round and resumed throwing and landing combinations in spots.


At the conclusion of this bout I felt that Paul had done enough to win, but as someone who covers Boxing and has done so for most of his life, I had a sense that no matter who won the fight that it did show that Boxing like all combat sports is an extremely serious practice and should not be treated with kid gloves or with a mentality that one can enter the sport and do so in a top position that many boxers work their entire careers to achieve. Although there were some that criticized the result of a split decision in favor of Paul, I felt that he had done enough particularly over the first half of the fight to win.


It should not go unnoticed however, that Tyron Woodley did provide Jake Paul with a test. The question much as was the case after Paul’s knockout of Ben Askren in April of this year is what now? Although credit should be given where it is due in terms of the Paul brothers collective ability to generate interest and create buzz in their respective forays into the sport of Boxing, it is time for each of them to face boxers in competition if they want to continue as boxers.


In regard to Jake Paul, he does show signs of potential, but he needs to show that this is not a hobby of sorts and not a novelty act. While he has called out other MMA fighters and top boxers such as Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, the reality is if he wants to be a boxer he needs to face boxers and give himself the time to hone his skills. While the bout with Tyron Woodley was the first for Paul under a deal with Showtime, both he and the network need to understand that the time for “Curiosity” has now passed and if this is not a novelty, it is time to show just how serious his commitment to Boxing is. For better or worse, Paul for the moment has also established himself to be somewhat of a draw amongst casual observers, but that too will only last so long if he chooses to both not face boxers that will help him not only prove himself, but also develop his skills, and also as a hoped-for draw in the declining realm of pay-per-view.


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”


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