Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Paul-Diaz Thoughts

The question this observer asked prior to social media celebrity turned aspiring boxer Jake Paul's fight against MMA veteran Nate Diaz was whether it was more of an event rather than a fight. A question rooted in curiosity in that Paul, who was coning off of his first loss as a boxer against Tommy Fury earlier this year, a fighter with a Boxing background, was returning to what had been a successful formula in facing someone with combat sports experience, but someone who had never boxed professionally. For better or worse, it has been a formula that has shown Paul to be a successful promoter in routinely drawing massive crowds whenever he fights.

This occasion would be no different as a massive crowd turned out to see Paul box Diaz at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX. What was particularly impressive about that accomplishment was that the arena was filled almost from the first bout of the evening, several hours before Paul and Diaz entered the ring. This differs from many normal Boxing events in that the crowd generally builds over time where the venue is at or close to capacity by the time the main event enters the ring. In that aspect even though many in the sport, including yours truly have been lukewarm and critical of the influx of social media influencers that have entered the sport, if one is objective, you should tip your hat to that as the ability to fill an arena for most, if not all of an event, which includes the undercard as well as the main event is not an easy thing to pull off.

As for the fight itself, I was not expecting much as it seemed to be a bout if nothing else, designed to allow Paul to get his confidence back after the experience of being out boxed by someone with a Boxing background in his previous fight. What we saw was Paul showcasing his continued development against a fighter in Diaz with what could best be described as an awkward Boxing style that did not see him throw many punches unless he were in close striking range to Paul as well as awkward movements throughout the scheduled ten round Cruiserweight bout.

One thing that stood out about Diaz' approach was he did let his hands go while in close and to his credit, did manage to pressure Paul and land effectively in spots as the fight progressed. Like many seasoned Mixed Martial Arts fighters who try their hand in the sport of Boxing, Diaz did not seem to turn many of his punches in. In that, many of the punches he landed were not turned in where the knuckle portion of the glove could land solidly. This gave an appearance as though many of his punches looked more like slaps simply because he could not get the leverage on the punches he was able to land, with the exception of when he was able to catch Paul with uppercuts on the inside.

In contrast, Paul displayed a calm tempo throughout this fight in using lateral movement, angles, and timing to throw and land short combinations many of which appeared to stun Diaz. The one thing that this observer pointed to as a potential red flag going into this fight, despite not being able to offer much analysis due to the obvious differences between the sports of Boxing and MMA and Diaz' lack of Boxing experience, was that he had shown decent hand speed and punching power in several of his MMA fights, but had also shown a tendency to be caught and knocked down by right hands.

Paul meanwhile had shown in almost all of his previous fights in the Boxing ring that his primary weapon was his right hand. A weapon that had ended several of his fights. In an example of his continued development as a fighter, Paul would drop Diaz hard in the fifth round of this fight, but it would be a short counter left hook to the temple that would drop Diaz. To Diaz credit, despite being hurt and for a time struggling to get up, he was able to beat the count, and showed the ability to recover. 

As the fight progressed, Diaz did step up his pressure and it seemed to create a competitive difference as compared to the first half of the fight. Whether it was because of his inexperience as a boxer or a strategic choice, Diaz' limited offense early in this fight proved to work against him as Paul was able to box his way to a significant lead and that in addition to the knockdown against him in the fifth round, ultimately led to Paul winning a convincing ten round unanimous decision, despite the rally that Diaz was able to build in rounds six thru ten.

While this victory for Jake Paul will not do much in terms of moving him towards being considered a contender, he did succeed in getting a confidence boost and to be fair, he is continuing to develop his skills as a fighter. Although influencers like Paul will continue to draw attention regardless of who they fight and continue to draw interest in the form of ticket sales and viewership, these type of "Curiosity Fights" as I call them, which in reality is one of the aspects of the sport of MMA that made it appealing in its early days in that the concept was largely based on fighters from different backgrounds/disciplines facing each other, when it comes to Boxing there is only so much one can learn in terms of developing one's skills when one chooses to box against opposition that do not have a background in the sport.

There will come a point where those that have entered Boxing from a different background whether they be from YouTube or other forms of being an influencer, will have to realize that the standards of the sport will need to be respected. This means if you are an influencer that truly wants to box and fight for world titles as Paul has said is one of his goals, you need to fight those with a Boxing background and get the experience needed to get into a position to fight for a world title, which is no different than any other boxer who turns professional after competing as an amateur or those who have no amateur background and go directly into the professional side of the sport.

Getting the opportunity to fight for a world championship is not something that can be achieved by facing those who may have combat sports experience, but do not have Boxing experience or by facing other influencers or YouTubers. At some point, the structure of the sport needs to be respected. For now, at least one influencer Jake Paul is showing improvement both in his skillet as well as showing he could go ten rounds for the first time as a boxer, whether he will silence his critics by facing boxers exclusively that will only continue to help him in his development remains to be seen. The jury however, is still out as to whether or not the influencer influx in the sport of Boxing is something that will serve to the sport's benefit in the long run and should be taken seriously, or if the "Influencer Boxing" concept is merely a new term for "Celebrity Boxing" and as such should be viewed as being for entertainment purposes only and not as a legitimate part of the sport of Boxing.

"And That's The Boxing Truth."

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