No Joke: Jake Paul and Nate Robinson Mean Business When They Step into the Ring

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistJuly 31, 2020

FILE - In this Feb. 13, 2010, file photo, New York Knicks' Nate Robinson leaps during the slam dunk contest at the NBA basketball All-Star game Saturday Night in Dallas. The Seattle Seahawks gave the former NBA standout and one-time college football player a tryout on Monday, June 13, 2016. Robinson gave up his chance at football after his freshman year at Washington, where he was a standout defensive back.  He played for eight NBA teams in his career and was a three-time winner of the slam dunk competition.  (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)
Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Nothing is more universal in the sport of boxing than being the right kind of different that ends with throwing and catching punches with the same seriousness that most people only reserve for their religious practices.

So, I couldn't help but ask YouTube celebrity/upstart professional boxer Jake Paul whether he planned on grabbing the mic after his undercard fight against retired NBA star Nate Robinson on September 12 and calling out Mike Tyson.

"Absolutely not," Paul said. "I want to live."

And just like that, Paul had revealed a couple of important things about himself.

First, Paul's answer showed that he takes the sport of boxing seriously. Judging by how straight and fast his punches have become over the last two years, the 23-year-old had already shown the world a bit of that.

But Paul giving that answer even straighter and faster, noting he would not want to jump into the incredibly deep water that is a relative novice taking on one of the best professional boxing champions in history in a legitimate prizefight, says much about Paul's honesty and integrity.

More importantly, though, it also proves Paul is able to accurately measure his ability in comparison to someone else's.

What Jake Paul and his older brother Logan Paul have been able to do in the sport of boxing shouldn't go unnoticed. Boxing might seem simple from the outside looking in, but up close, it's an incredibly complicated decision tree that has to constantly be completed in real-time during the ever-present now.

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It isn't easy, and the consequences of making mistakes are dire.

That both Paul brothers, as well as their YouTube rival KSI, have been able to perform so competently in boxing rings under such intense and bright lights is truly admirable.

On the other hand, I'm not quite sure what to make of 36-year-old Robinson just yet. Some of the only available footage of the former NBA dunking champion hitting the mitts doesn't compare to what you see from other professional boxers or even most fighters in the amateur ranks for that matter.

Then again, Robinson told me he just started boxing around two weeks ago and that he's already improved tenfold since that video was released.

"It's good that they're only seeing my mitt work," Robinson said. "I'm only giving them what I want them to see."

Indeed, Jake Paul confirmed that is exactly the kind of thing he wants to see from his upcoming opponent.

Because if the 1-0 Paul is a novice professional boxer, then his opponent Robinson will be that times infinity come fight night, and he'll be working with a much older body, too.

"Yeah, he looked very green," Paul said. "They're arm punches. He's not using his body weight."

Still, Robinson said he believes his natural athleticism is what will allow him to catch up with Paul's two-and-a-half years of training in just a fraction of the time.

"Honestly, that was my first week of boxing," Robinson said. "I've learned so much in the last week, you know what I'm saying? And then I get all this time to continue to grow and learn and be a student of the game and they're YouTubers. I'm an athlete."

Whatever you think about YouTubers, athleticism does count in the sport. That's for sure. Look no further for evidence of how much it can matter to a career than Tyson's upcoming opponent Roy Jones Jr.

Perhaps no fighter in boxing history relied on athleticism so readily than Jones Jr. did during his incredible prime years in the sport during the late 1990s.

Of course, boxing isn't just about athleticism. It took Jones Jr. years to become his era's "Superman."

Boxing also isn't just about hitting mitts or pads or any other particular skill set.

Rather, it's all those things put together at the same time.

Still, hitting targets with serious force is an important part of the equation. Hitting those same targets while keeping your chin tucked, hands up and eyes wide open for return fire is another thing altogether.

Because anybody can look like a champ hitting the mitts or attacking a heavy bag. None of those things hit back.

Paul knows that, and he believes that's why his overall greater experience inside a boxing ring will carry him to victory over Robinson.

"I think it'll be a short night," Paul said. "I don't think Nate will make it out of the first round. I think my punches are too sharp, fast and powerful. And I think he's going to be overwhelmed with a flurry of combinations and pressure in the first round."

But Robinson isn't one to back down from a challenge.

Despite standing just 5'9", Robinson never stopped taking it to the hoop at full speed during his 11-year run as a professional basketball player, and he packed at least two or three times the amount of chippiness in his body than most other NBA teams had on their entire rosters.

Robinson's unique blend of aggression, athleticism and professional experience should end up paying dividends in the fight.

On top of that, Robinson thinks the time he spent in the NBA will help him prepare for the fight.

"Everything [in boxing] goes like you do in basketball. You prepare yourself. You watch your opponent. You go to practice. You scrimmage. And then you get in the game and it becomes first and second nature," Robinson said. "And that's something that I'm trying to emulate and try to mimic."

As someone who has been on the receiving end of punches to the face inside a boxing ring at my local gym, I can tell you unequivocally that what Robinson is attempting to do in fighting someone who has literally been training 65 times longer than him is amazingly courageous.

That, or it's super dumb. Those lines can blur.

But Robinson won't be alone in his endeavor, either. He told me he'll be training with Floyd Mayweather Jr., Terence Crawford and several other high-profile boxing champions who all reached out to him saying they wanted to help him train.

"They believe that I have something special within me, and they want me to kick his ass," Robinson said.

So despite the negativity about the fight between Paul and Robinson that exists in some pockets of the boxing world on social media, the truth of the matter is that it's an incredibly intriguing fight between two people who are as excited and grateful for the chance to support Tyson's and Jones Jr.'s comebacks as anyone could be.

In that way, both Paul and Robinson are the right kind of different.

In fact, while each seems incredibly different from the other in various unimportant ways, the principal parts of Paul and Robinson seem to be the same.

Both love and respect boxing.

Both possess the good fortune of having the chance to participate in the sport in a big way.

Both have enough courage to do the thing that the vast majority of their most vocal critics would never dare to attempt to do themselves.

Perhaps most astoundingly, each wants to fight for the same reason.

"I just want to be a big-time inspiration to the kids," Robinson said. "So that everybody knows that with hard work and dedication, you can put your mind to accomplish something so cool."

Paul relayed the same message.

"I'm from a small town in Ohio, and I just had a dream and went after it. I just want to be able to be an inspiration for other young kids. Six years ago I was falling asleep in class, not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life. And here I am in this crazy world and living this crazy life and it's all so amazing."

Jake Paul vs. Nate Robinson will be featured during the Mike Tyson vs. Roy Jones Jr. pay-per-view card on September 12 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. The action is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m ET and air on pay-per-view for $49.99 through cable, satellite, and Triller.


Follow @Kelsey_McCarson


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