Jake Paul's latest adventure in boxing could be his most compelling yet. He's in the final preparations for his fourth professional bout against what should be a dangerous opponent in former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley.
This time around, Paul isn't just taking on another mixed martial artist; he's going after the MMA establishment as well.
The 24-year-old YouTuber is set to fight Woodley on Sunday in an eight-round match at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. The pay-per-view card starts at 8 p.m. ET and will be live streamed on Showtime and FITE.TV.
Woodley, 39, is making his professional boxing debut. He holds a 19-7 overall record in MMA, and he successfully defended his welterweight world title four times from 2016-2018. Recently, he's struggled in the Octagon, losing his last four fights.
While he comes from a wrestling background, Woodley has proved to be a powerful striker in UFC, winning eight times by knockout, most of those on punches. He's expected to be a tougher test than Paul's previous opponent, former MMA fighter Ben Askren, who was never known for his striking ability and was knocked out in the first round.
Woodley is promising to make Paul reconsider his nascent boxing career, saying on the MMA Hour (h/t MMAFighting.com) that he will "get hurt in a way you'd never imagine. He may not want to do this again after this."
Paul, who is 3-0 as a boxer with three knockouts, will have to be focused against the hard-hitting Woodley, but he's confident he will have the upper hand.
"I think I'm exposing the UFC a bit with their striking capabilities," Paul said after a July press conference, per MMA Junkie's Farah Hannoun and Ken Hathaway. "He's fought the 'best in the world' in the UFC, but that's not boxing. People think they're very similar sports, which they kind of are. But it's really relating swimming to basketball. It's two very different things."
Paul is also working on exposing UFC in another way by bringing attention to the financial challenges many fighters face. He's criticized UFC President Dana White on fighters' pay multiple times in recent months. Now, it appears he's gone from merely talking about the issue to taking action.
According to the Mirror's Donagh Corby, the social media personality says he's taking a smaller purse on Sunday to ensure Woodley and undercard fighters Amanda Serrano, Tommy Fury and Daniel Dubois get a bigger cut.
"Look, these fighters deserve more and I want everyone to be excited and I want everyone to know that we as fighters should take care of each other," Paul said.
The fact that he became wealthy and famous long before taking up boxing gives him a bit more freedom than most fighters to discuss these issues. While some purists may not like Paul's celebrity-boxing exploits, the comments are also a sign he's taking this venture seriously. He sees himself as a legitimate fighter.
Will Paul's dedication to boxing be enough to get past Woodley? The oddsmakers think he has a chance. According to FanDuel (as of Aug. 25), Paul is the slight favorite at -190 odds, while Woodley sits at +148.
Paul does have some distinct advantages here. He's 15 years younger than Woodley and has taken hardly any punishment in his three professional bouts. Woodley has years of wear and tear on him and is coming off a submission loss to Vicente Luque in March. Paul is also on home turf in the boxing ring, while Woodley is the newcomer.
There's a good chance this fight goes longer than any of Paul's previous bouts. Paul should respect Woodley's power, while the latter might take some time sizing up his opponent before going in for any big swings.
Look for Woodley to take this one, either by a close decision or a late knockout. Paul isn't going to be as easy to take down as some might suspect.
Prediction: Woodley wins
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