For much of his fledgling boxing career, social media content creator turned boxer Jake Paul has been criticized for not actually having fought a boxer. He's fought another YouTuber, a retired NBA player, and three MMA fighters (with two bouts against ex-UFC champion Tyron Woodley). His last fight was a win over a 47-year-old Anderson Silva.
So Paul is promoting Sunday's bout (2 p.m. ET, ESPN+ PPV) against Tommy Fury in Diriyah Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as a turning point in his career. He's worked hard with trainers B.J. Flores and Danny Smith in an attempt to turn himself into a legitimate boxer.
And maybe he will.
But fighting Fury, the half-brother of lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, won't do it.
Not by a long shot.
It's basically a pro wrestling match, where they create a phony beef, set up a storyline that Paul is facing his toughest challenge yet and go out and put on an embarrassing fight in order to sell pay-per-views and sell sponsorship. Good luck to the poor simps who actually buy this considering the wonky nature of ESPN+ PPV offerings and the "talent" that this so-called real boxer brings to the table.
There is one number that defines this fight:
That's the record of Tommy Fury's eight opponents prior to Paul.
You may remember that scintillating battle that Fury won on points in his pro debut against Jevgenijs Andrejevs, who was 10-102-3 at the time. Nobody I can remember has compared that to Evander Holyfield-Riddick Bowe 1.
And you may still be talking about his second bout, against the Callum Ide, whom Fury stopped in 1:34. Nobody has compared that to Mike Tyson's first-round KO of Michael Spinks in 1988 in a heavyweight title unification bout because Ide was 0-26-2 at the time he faced Fury.
And you may remember the shootout between Fury and Przemyslaw Binienda, whom Fury stopped in 1:02 of the first. It wasn't Marvelous Marvin Hagler versus Thomas Hearns, but this kind of matchmaking has been a theme of Fury's career. Binienda was 0-26 going into that.
We could go on, but you get the point. Fury's half-brother is one of the greatest heavyweights ever. Whatever Tommy Fury is, he's not a boxer who poses any kind of threat.
This, though, is what counts as a "big fight" in the sport of boxing, which can't get fights like Tyson Fury-Oleksandr Usyk and Terence Crawford-Errol Spence done but can put a YouTuber against a reality TV star and act like it's significant.
Making this bout an even bigger farce is that the WBC is going to give Paul a ranking in its Top 30 for having beaten a YouTuber, a retired NBA player and three MMA fighters if he gets past "real boxer" Fury.
Someone should remind WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman about Andrejevs' 10-102-3 record when he fought Fury, or Ide's 0-26-3 mark or Binienda's 2-26 record when they fought Fury.
That's like a mediocre Division III college football team beating a high school football team from New Hampshire and getting into the NCAA Division I Top 25 as a result. It's also why nobody who seriously follows boxing gives the sanctioning bodies any credence.
Paul is, by all measures, trying to turn himself into a legitimate boxer. And he may yet succeed, though the odds are against him. Fury, it's hard to know what to make of him because he's fighting opponents who are markedly worse than those that Paul's been criticized for facing.
The big loser in this may be ESPN+ PPV, because they'll find out that the majority of Paul's fans are the young kids who either don't purchase pay-per-views or know how to find illegal streams to steal the signal and circumvent the payment that otherwise their hero would get a cut of.
It's not going to be good boxing, though the broadcast is liable to make it sound like Ali-Frazier III.
If you choose to watch, good on you. Just don't expect a classic battle, or even anything resembling decent pro boxing, by any means. Go into it with your eyes open and prepared to drop $49.99 and you'll be fine.