AFTER some gratuitous post-fight flashing and some deeply tasteless press conference sausage stunts, somehow Jake Paul seems like a bastion of normality in this realm we call ‘influencer boxing’.

The 26-year-old returns to the ring in Dallas on Saturday for the first time since February and his one and only defeat as a professional boxer, when he dropped a split decision to Tommy Fury, the one and only professional boxer he has faced thus far.

And he is back to fighting MMA stars now, after previous victories over Ben Askren, Anderson Silva and Tyron Woodley (twice). But given what this sport has had to endure by way of other influencers trying their hand in the ring, Paul moving around with UFC icons is actually pretty palatable.

Even Eddie Hearn, who has promoted Logan Paul, for instance, before, has told anybody who will listen that ‘we’ must ‘distance ourselves’ from all that caper. He’s right. The fact it is broadcast on DAZN alongside his Matchroom events means influencer boxing and the proper stuff might just be merging into one in the eyes of the ordinary sports fan. Let’s hope not.

And, although after this weekend only one of his eight boxing matches will have involved another boxer, Paul is at least going about his business in the right way. It must be said, however, that the bar is astonishingly low these days.

But he trains like a true professional, he is improving with every fight and he is harnessing his huge following in a genuine bid to enhance the sport in other areas – just ask Amanda Serrano. And, as it happens, a fight against Nate Diaz is an intriguing one.

Diaz is one of the most famous faces in the UFC, knows how to fight and this encounter will do huge numbers. It is quite obvious to see why Paul would choose him over another boxer of similar experience. A pick with any certainty is hard though. Diaz is a mixed martial artist and Paul has beaten all of those he has faced so far, regardless of their experience level in the octagon.

And, with February’s experience, where he dropped Fury, under his belt, Paul should have grown massively. Indeed, during an interview with Boxing News earlier this year, Paul said that the defeat in Saudi Arabia finally made him feel like a real boxer. The fact this is over 10 rounds will almost certainly benefit Paul, who negotiated eight against Fury without falling apart.

“I think in this arena here in Dallas it’s mostly going to be Nate Diaz fans,” Paul said. “He’s obviously super loved, he’s had a long career, a legendary career.

“And I respect him as a fighter and as an MMA juggernaut. He’s innovated the sport and been a part of some of the biggest pay-per-views. And that’s why it’s awesome to be fighting him. Unfortunately, I’m going to knock him out, but I do respect him.

“He and his brother [Nick] haven’t changed for anybody and they have a belief system and values that they follow and abide by. They’ve gotten crazier and crazier over the years – but it’s entertaining, right? It’s very, very entertaining and that’s what the fight fans want to see.

“This is the most brutal sport in the world, this is the most violent sport in the world and so it’s filled with lunatics and the Diaz brothers are at the top of the list. The lunatics come in all different colours and shapes and sizes but for me it’s entertaining.”

These 10 three-minute rounds will be uncharted waters for both Paul and Diaz but it is the former who has had more of the requisite swimming lessons. He has also previously talked up his punching power but gone the eight-round distance twice in a row now – against Silva and Fury – and you do not have to be an MMA fan to know that Diaz is about as tough as they come. Paul on points is the pick but it’s not a confident one at this point.

Speaking of Amanda Serrano, the iconic Brooklynite and current world No.1 at featherweight takes on another big name in women’s boxing, Heather Hardy, over 10 twos in the chief support at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. This will be a rerun of their 2019 fight, which Serrano won handily on points at Madison Square Garden, and there is nothing to suggest that Hardy, now 41, has any chance of making it 1-1 against her New York rival.

That defeat four years ago was the first of her career and Hardy took 20 months away from the ring thereafter. She returned with a second successive defeat in May 2021 but has since won twice. Serrano, a big puncher at the weight, might just grind Hardy down to an inside-distance win but that won’t be easy.

In the other women’s fight on the card, undefeated puncher Shadasia Green takes on Chicago’s Olivia Curry. Green, 12-0 with 11 inside the distance, is hoping to set up a showdown with Savannah Marshall for all the super-middleweight belts and will tick over with what looks like a straightforward night’s work against Curry.

The 33-year-old underdog has never mixed in the company of Green’s level and will do well to make it through all 10 rounds without becoming her 12th KO victim. Rest assured, Green-Curry will not end in a tie.

Notable picks on the rest of the undercard include undefeated Ashton ‘H20’ Sylve, from Long Beach, California, who is currently 9-0 (8) and takes on experienced Brazilian William Silva over eight. Silva has lost to the likes of Felix Verdejo, Teofimo Lopez and Arnold Barboza before and Sylve will be the next man to beat him here.

There are also eight-round run-outs for Las Vegas resident Kevin Newman II, who will face Quilisto Madera, who is, like Diaz, from Stockton. Before that, Guadalajara-born Californian Alan Sanchez will fight Mexican Angel Beltran Villa in what looks like an eight-round firefight waiting to happen.