IT is clear why Showtime have signed Jake Paul on a multi-fight deal. They are not boxing people, they are entertainment people. But the fact is there are only a limited amount of boxing shows each year and a limited budget to stage events. To turn it all into a sideshow and take opportunities and income away from guys who are really struggling to feed their families through the only means most of them know, well, it’s a tough pill to swallow.
It remains to be seen if it is true that millions of people watching Jake Paul-type events will result in more people watching real boxing and therefore create more opportunities for everyone. I don’t know how many of these people, who are sadly under the impression that this is all legit, will actually turn around and become true boxing fans. For now there are different kinds of fans, and a lot of them, who actually believe guys like Jake could beat guys like Errol Spence or Floyd Mayweather. Within boxing, we know it’s bogus, we know this is not the real thing. For our own sanity we have to separate these circus acts from the real fighters.
But as a guy who has been in boxing my whole life, and recognised the struggles many endured just to get a step on the ladder, I feel like it is all very disrespectful to those real fighters. Guys like Scottie Pemberton, for example, who had to endure an amateur boxing career and then deal with several setbacks before engaging in two slugfests with Omar Shieka just to put himself in a position to fight Jeff Lacy for the IBF title and make a career-high $100,000 dollar payday.
People like Jake Paul are able to infiltrate our sport because the commissions allow them to. No other sport would throw a complete novice on the field of play and dress it up as legitimate competition. Yet Paul is fighting in real gloves and fighting under the same rules as those who have been doing it all their lives. These are the same commissions who allowed a virtual novice in boxing, Conor McGregor, to fight one of the greatest fighters of all time, Floyd Mayweather, in an officially sanctioned fight. We thought that farce was the end. It was just the beginning, it seems.
The fact is it could never happen in baseball because a novice player cannot choose who pitches to him so when he had to face a real live major league baseball pitcher he would get annihilated at the plate. In boxing, though, they can manoeuvre and protect a guy like Jake Paul just long enough to fool a bunch of people into thinking it’s all real and, as a result, pay even more money to watch him compete. In other sports they would have no choice but to get exposed immediately. Perhaps there’s some comfort we can take from that because against real opponents and in real competition, Jake Paul would get badly hurt.
For me, someone who is active on social media and who takes pride in the history of our sport, one of the worst things about dealing with all of this is that I am forced to encounter people who rank Jake Paul somewhere in the top 15 pound-for-pound in the world already. It should be laughable but I struggle to raise even a smile at the level of insanity out there.
Many people are going to see Paul’s success and end up even further removed from the knowledge and understanding of what real fighters actually have to go through in order to reach anything approaching similar levels of fame and financial success. There are quite a few fighters in the world today who would line up 10 deep in a gym somewhere for a crack at sparring a YouTube fighter and showing him what real boxing is. Behind all the fanfare and publicity and manipulation of minds, boxing is still one of the toughest and most unforgiving trades on the planet, regardless of what the YouTube generation are being led to believe.