Monday, February 27, 2023

Paul-Fury: What We Learned

The question that this observer asked in the days prior to the scheduled Cruiserweight encounter between unbeaten hopefuls Jake Paul and Tommy Fury was whether the third attempt to get the two to face off in the ring would finally result in an actual fight between the two. While I did little to hide my cynicism in asking that question, it was fair to ask after two previous cancellations and a lot of grandstanding between the two and their respective teams that can be described in a single word. “Nonsense.” After those cancellations and endless verbal exchanges between the two, it finally culminated in two men, each very much trying to prove themselves as boxers meeting in a Boxing ring in Saudi Arabia.

Despite the skepticism and cynicism of yours truly prior to the scheduled bout on February 26th, what resulted when it was time for the two men to do battle turned out to be a pleasant surprise. What was surprising? After all the “Nonsense,” the Boxing world was actually treated to a competitive fight. Although if one is objective they would say that both Paul and Fury were at a similar stage in their respective forays in the sport in neither having faced a prospect going into the bout, the difference in experience was apparent from the opening bell in that Tommy Fury’s background in Boxing as a primary discipline showed itself almost immediately.

One thing that stood out that Fury was able to do that previous opponents Jake Paul had faced, who predominantly came from the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), was he used his jab as a primary weapon. Fury’s jab accomplished two things. The first was obviously being able to hit Paul with it as well as being able to use it to both control distance and set up other offensive opportunities and combinations. Secondly, Fury’s use of the jab allowed him to both set the tempo of the combat as well as to be first with his punches. The combination of these aspects did not allow Paul to get into a rhythm and also exposed inexperience in terms of knowing how to deal with a crafty boxer.

Although Paul had established punching power in his previous fights, particularly with his right hand, he appeared dependent on landing it in this fight, appeared to telegraph his punches, and did not appear to know how to set up his offense from a technical as well as tactical standpoint. An additional aspect that was missing from Paul’s approach that can be attributed to inexperience is he also did not seem to know how to try and cut the ring off from Fury, which may have limited Fury’s ability to move. Despite the bout being fought in an eighteen foot ring, smaller than a traditional 20x20 ring, which seemed to favor Paul as the power puncher, Fury did not seem bothered by the smaller ring and continued to get his punches off first. What also added to the difficulty for Paul from a defensive standpoint is he did not move his head as Fury threw his jabs and eventual combinations. This resulted in Paul being hit much more frequently than had been the case in his previous fights.

To Paul’s credit however, he took the punches Fury dished out and kept coming forward, which if one is objective you should respect it as he proved he can take a punch and that is something that all boxers regardless of how they enter the sport eventually have to prove. Despite his inexperience, Paul did hang in there and did manage to land power punches as the fight progressed even though he could not take control of the tempo of the combat. As Tommy Fury also had questions regarding his ability to take a punch, he was also able to show an ability to take punches when Paul was able to connect.

Although I felt that Fury was ahead as the fight progressed due largely to his ability to out box Paul, both fighters would be penalized a point for rough housing while in clinches and Paul was able to connect with a short jab at the beginning of the eighth and final round, which knocked Fury to the canvas. While this was the definition of what is often referred to in the sport as a  “Flash Knockdown” in that Fury was caught off balance and subsequently went down, despite not appearing to be hurt, his gloves nevertheless did touch the canvas and it was thus a clean knockdown.

The two point deductions, plus the knockdown against Fury in the final round did complicate things slightly in terms of the scoring of the fight at the conclusion of the eight round bout. Unofficially, I arrived at a score of 76-73 in favor of Fury having scored the eighth round 10-9 in favor of Paul. While rounds in which a knockdown is scored is usually scored 10-8 in favor of the fighter that scored the knockdown, there are instances where a round can be scored 10-9. This was such an instance where the knockdown of Fury occurred in the early seconds of the final round and he was able to get up and arguably win the remainder of the round, thus resulting in a 10-9 score from yours truly, but it is subjective and often boils down to a judge’s discretion. Coincidentally, my final score of 76-73 in favor of Fury ended up being the same as two of the three official judges, which resulted in Fury winning a split decision.

Although I am curious to know how the three judges scored that eighth round, which due to each fighter previously being penalized a point, turned out to be crucial in terms of the scoring of this fight, I felt Fury simply did too much over the course of the fight to not get the decision. Paul did seem to land the harder punches when he was able to land on Fury, and this in addition to the knockdown he was able to score is what likely resulted in one official judges giving him the nod by a single point 75-74. From my perspective, Paul was not able to do enough over the course of the fight and that is ultimately what led to how I saw the fight in terms of scoring.

As for what will come from this fight, Tommy Fury will supposedly earn a ranking in the World Boxing Council’s (WBC) Cruiserweight ratings. Where exactly Fury will be placed is not known, but there is also a possibility of a rematch between he and Paul as Paul does have a rematch clause. For Jake Paul, if he were to exercise that clause, he will need to go back and not only study this fight thoroughly, but he will also need to make adjustments particularly with regard to learning head movement and defense if he wants to be successful in a potential rematch.

Ultimately, what we learned from this fight is that both Jake Paul and Tommy Fury were indeed serious and it turned out to be a better fight than many had expected. What should also be learned here is if one truly wants to be a boxer, they will need experience against those who have backgrounds in the sport if they want to succeed and there is only so far one will go by choosing to face those who do not have backgrounds in Boxing. While what is now referred to as “Crossover Boxing,” or “Influencer Boxing” where those who come into the sport from other realms will face fellow celebrities and or other combat sports veterans with either limited or no Boxing experience will likely continue as long as it appeals to the casual fan, at the end of the day, the standard of the sport of Boxing needs to be respected as well as the obvious dangers the sport also poses to one’s health. It is not something that can be treated with kid gloves.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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