When I first learned Jake Paul was fighting Saturday, I had a strong, almost visceral reaction. "Wow," I thought, "Dirk Mann from Bizaardvark has really come a long way!"
The more I learned, the more astounded I became. Apparently almost as many people are subscribed to 23-year-old Paul on YouTube as live in the entire state of Florida. These are amazing times.
On top of that, Paul is now a professional boxer. Imagine the skill set someone must acquire in order to earn that distinction. You know who else was once a pro boxer? Sugar Ray Leonard. Would you want to fight Sugar Ray? I rest my case. So, all to say, this was all rarefied air here for Paul, and in no way a publicity stunt. (wink, wink!)
Saturday’s fight was actually Paul’s second as a pro. In his first, in what became known as The Battle of The YouTube Influencers, Paul needed barely two minutes to wash online gamer AnEsonGib (real name Ali Loui Al-Fakhri, on the off chance it’s important).
I know he’s young, but after watching a performance like that—in his pro debut, no less—onlookers had no choice but to ask: Where’s the ceiling for Jake Paul? How high can he climb in the boxing world? Because it felt so real, you know? Even the haters had to admit the truth: We just don’t know for sure.
But now we know. With that undefeated 1-0 record gleaming proudly in the Carson, California, sun, Paul absolutely knocked out retired NBA point guard Nate Robinson with a monstrous overhand right at 1:35 of only the second round.
"I've been training my a-s off, for like the last year," Paul told broadcaster Jim Gray after the fight. "I've been taking this seriously. There’s a long list of opponents that I want. … Being one of the most hated people in the world, I’ve had to fight through [stuff]. It’s not easy. But I’ve found my lane."
But let’s back up for a second and take a look at Robinson. Paul was fighting another pro athlete. And even if you did need further proof of this bout's non-publicity-stuntness, the fight preceded the big heavyweight main event between Mike Tyson (age 54) and Roy Jones Jr. (age 51). It was a special night with a very special main event, but Paul took a back seat to no one.
In the other corner, I just assumed Robinson was the number-one contender in whatever division they were competing in (author’s note: I looked it up, it was cruiserweight). But it was the Robinson who used to play for the Knicks and who, despite standing just 5'9", won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest a record three times. It’s not a coincidence or anything like that. But this was Robinson’s first pro boxing match. Stepping in against Jake Paul, would Robinson be great, or would he look out of place? We simply didn’t know! Either way, we take all of this with the utmost seriousness.
Robinson down off a counter hook in the first. Grabbing the back of his head and complaining to the ref. #TysonJonesJr
— Bloody Elbow (@BloodyElbow) November 29, 2020
Paul set the tone by walking out to Kurtis Blow's classic "Basketball," another swipe at Robinson, especially after he said he’d bounce Robinson's head like that very same item.
The action started and Robinson's strategy instantly became clear: run, head down, directly at Paul and then just swing. Paul didn’t seem to have much trouble cracking the code. At first, he was tying up Robinson, and then he was knocking Robinson on his head. It happened twice in the first before the finale in the second. At no point after the first knockdown did Robinson look like he wanted to be in there.
Nate Robinson boxes like Giannis driving into a quadruple team.— Mookie Alexander (@mookiealexander) November 29, 2020
Paul threw lefts, rights, uppercuts and maybe, just maybe, a jab found its way in by accident. Robinson and his team appeared to forego any notion of defense, having committed so thoroughly to the running-and-swinging strategy that defense simply seemed secondary.
It's pretty much indisputable at this point that YouTube is a better base for boxing than being in the NBA.— The Naked Gambler (@NakedGambling) November 29, 2020
After the fight, Paul called out Conor McGregor, as well as McGregor's henchman and jiu-jitsu trainer Dillon Danis. I know in my bones that both of them would do it. Paul also mentioned Austin McBroom, another YouTube influencer potentially encroaching on Paul’s territory. Is that how it works? They each have territories? And did we make Paul’s next bout yet? And if it is, and it wasn’t for a title or against McGregor, then why is that? (In all seriousness, Paul-Danis would be fun stuff.)
At the end of the day, respect goes to Paul for getting in there and fighting. It's not something anyone can do. On the other hand, let's not make this out like it's anything other than what it is, which is the beginning of what is obviously the greatest story in the history of boxing.
"I'm in love with this," he told Gray after the bout. "So why not? ... But for now it’s time for focus on my music. New music video, it’s called 'Go Crazy.'"
Do your thing, Dirk Mann. Do your thing.