The bad blood between Jake Paul and Tyron Woodley is building in the final days before their pay-per-view boxing match on Sunday night.
Woodley, a former UFC welterweight champion, is looking to hand Paul his first loss when the two square off in an eight-round bout at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. Paul is 3-0 with three knockouts since embarking upon a lucrative path as a celebrity boxer. Woodley, a newcomer to pro boxing, is expected to pose a real challenge to Paul thanks to his years of combat sports experience and knockout power.
Both combatants have traded verbal jabs in the days leading up the fight, and the animosity between the two reached a fever pitch Thursday at a pre-fight press conference. According to ESPN's Marc Raimondi, a scuffle broke out after Woodley got upset with a member of Paul's camp for talking to his mother, Deborah.
MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani captured video of the incident (warning: videos contain profanity):
Woodley says Paul's team "crossed a line" on Thursday, per Raimondi. He's going to be plenty motivated to dish out some punishment in the ring on Sunday.
Paul vs. Woodley Fight Info
When: Sunday, Aug. 29 at 8 p.m. ET (main card)
Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland
TV: Showtime pay-per-view
Odds (via DraftKings): Paul -210 (bet $210 to win $100), Woodley +170 (bet $100 to win $170)
Paul isn't new to stirring up controversy, whether its with YouTube pranks or pre-fight trash talk, and he's made himself hard to ignore in the buildup to this fight.
The 24-year-old internet personality has criticized UFC's Dana White for the pay his fighters receive, implied Cleveland Browns star Myles Garrett would lose a fight to his brother, Logan Paul, and—as part of some more typical pre-fight chatter—downplayed the threat posed by Woodley, per Showtime Boxing:
In short, Paul is making sure you're invested in Sunday's outcome, whether you love him or hate him. The showmanship is crucial because his ring resume is still lacking. To date, he's beaten a fellow YouTuber in AnEsonGib, former NBA point guard Nate Robinson and former MMA star Ben Askren. The latter fighter was touted as a real challenge, but instead, Askren put up a tissue-thin defense and was knocked out by Paul early in the first round.
Woodley may be new to pro boxing, but he should be dangerous because of his size and striking ability. Although he comes from a college wrestling background, Woodley has scored several knockouts on punches as an MMA fighter. The key for him will be to get his conditioning and technique right so that can cut down on mistakes and keep his work rate up if the fight goes into the later rounds.
"This is an opportunity for me to sprint into the boxing lane, but also I'm preparing accordingly–I'm preparing as if I were fighting Canelo (Alvarez)," Woodley told reporters in July, per MMA Junkie's Dan Segura and Ken Hathaway.
Paul does have an advantage in that he's focused solely on boxing up to this point, presumably the main reason he's the betting favorite going into this matchup. There's also the fact that Woodley's best fighting days are behind him, as he's 39 years old and has lost his last four fights in UFC, the most recent of them in March.
By all accounts, Paul takes his training seriously. He's had at least two years now to work on his craft as he ratchets up the competition against him. It's entirely possible he's getting ahead of himself by scheduling this bout with Woodley, but if he's done his homework, there's no reason to think he can't pull off another victory and keep his wildly unorthodox boxing career going.
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