With his return to the ring against former UFC Champion Tyron Woodley just days away, we look back on Jake Paul’s evolution in the ring:
After YouTuber KSI defeated fellow online personality Joe Weller in an amateur bout that attracted more than 1.6 million live viewers, the opportunity for huge events consisting of white-collar bouts between big-name stars was clear. After KSI called out Logan Paul for a cross-Atlantic event scheduled for summer 2018, Jake was drafted in to make his amateur debut in the co-main event.
Also known as Comedy Shorts Gamer, Deji Olatunji first developed a following online thanks to his appearances in his brother KSI's early videos. Despite having no previous combat sports background, and amidst several public rifts with his brother, Deji signed to fight in a six-round amateur clash.
With both fighters so relatively inexperienced the fight was not exactly a technical affair for the five rounds that it lasted. However, Paul demonstrated an ability to effectively utilise his jab and landed the more impressive strikes throughout against his determined opponent. Deji rallied back as the fight wore on, landing some nice uppercuts but ultimately fatigued. In the fifth round, Paul landed a flurry of punches with his opponent against the ropes and Deji's corner threw the towel in to save their fighter from any further punishment and kickstart Paul's boxing career with a win.
More than a year after his win against Deji, Paul returned to the ring in a six-round contest featured on the undercard of a Matchroom Boxing event headlined by a WBO Middleweight Championship bout between Demetrius Andrade and Luke Keeler. Overseen by legendary British promoter Eddie Hearn, the bout would mark two significant firsts in Paul's career: His first fight as a professional, and his first fight on home soil.
A British YouTuber with more than 2 million subscribers on the platform, AnEsonGib was a more experienced boxer than Deji, having amassed an amateur record of 2-0 against fellow online personalities in 2018. The fight was initially scheduled after Gib used his social media sway to win an online poll to determine Paul's opponent for his professional debut.
Paul started the bout confidentially, maintaining his distance and landing shots on his incoming opponent. Gib meanwhile employed an unconventional gameplan in which he repeatedly squatted down between exchanges, often leaving himself open for counter strikes. Gib remained the aggressor during the early exchanges, but his eccentric style left him susceptible to being knocked off balance leading Paul to force two standing counts. Paul maintained his composure throughout the contest and landed a heavy right hand that prompted the referee to stop the fight just two minutes into the first round.
As Paul's status as a special attraction in the world of pugilism continued to grow, his return to the ring was confirmed as the co-main event for the return of Mike Tyson in an exhibition bout against fellow boxing all-time great, Roy Jones Jr. Initially scheduled to take place in September 2020, the event would be postponed until November in order to maximise revenue. Packed with celebrity appearances, the event would ultimately garner more than 1.5 million pay-pay-view buys making it the highest-grossing boxing event of the year.
After accusations emerged that Paul's previous opponents had not been on his level athletically, it was announced that the burgeoning boxer would face former NBA slam dunk champion, Nate Robinson. Though Robinson's status as an elite-level athlete was never in question, his lack of boxing experience and questionable pre-fight training videos did not inspire confidence in his fighting abilities in the combat sports world.
Robinson's lack of sparring experience was immediately evident from the moment the bell rang as the former New York Knicks star charged forward with reckless abandon. In fact, Robinson's predilection for charging forward led to much of the early exchanges resulting in the fighters becoming trapped in clinches. Towards the end of the first round, Paul landed a counter right hand on the approaching Robinson, immediately dropping him to the canvas. Robinson would survive the remainder of the opening round but the second frame brought much the same for the fledgling fighter. Paul dropped his opponent again early in the second round, before finishing the fight with a powerful right hand just moments later that left Robinson unconscious.
Having consistently scaled up with the quality of his opponents and with a polarised following intently watching his fighting career unfold, Paul embarked on his first pay-per-view headline spot in an event promoted by the upstart Triller Promotions. The card featured a variety of bouts, including a six-round bout between MMA legend and former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir, and former IBF Cruiserweight Champion Steve Cunningham.
Though initial speculation centred around BJJ expert and Bellator welterweight Dillon Danis as Paul's opponent, the Problem Child would ultimately face off against the 36-year-old Ben Askren. A two-time NCAA wrestling champion, Askren represented the US in the Olympics in 2008 before moving into a successful career in the cage, capturing gold in both Bellator and ONE Championships and being ranked as one of the premier talents outside of the UFC before embarking on a three-fight stint in the promotion and retiring from MMA in 2019.
Paul pressed the action from the opening bell, taking the centre of the ring and keeping Askren on the back foot with a series of jabs to the body and head. Askren began wading forward, looking to corner Paul but was repeatedly unsuccessful in doing so. After landing another jab, Paul committed to using his right hand for the first time in the fight, connecting behind Askren's ear and sending the former MMA world champion tumbling to the mat. Askren returned to his feet but the referee had seen enough and the fight was stopped less than two minutes into the very first round.
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