IT SAYS much about the current state of this sport that Jake Paul, boxing’s favourite antichrist, is beginning to sound like the Voice of Reason.

With ongoing, bitter battles surrounding the use of performance enhancing drugs, a continued failure to make the sport’s biggest fights and the rise of utterly unlicensed boxing on one of the biggest platforms, suddenly the self-styled ‘Problem Child’ really isn’t that much of a problem.

And, in truth, Paul’s origin story is not too dissimilar to the thousands of others told in these pages over the last century. A man struggling for purpose, at a crossroads in his life who stumbled across the sport and simply could not shake it off. The only real difference is that his following on YouTube was greater than the entire population of Romania or Chile.

“I think it helped me find out who I actually was,” Paul recalls, when asked ‘why boxing?’. “I think I was a lost individual and I was only losing myself more in Los Angeles.

“I was being a content creator but it wasn’t really who I was. I was getting myself into trouble, hanging out with the wrong people, indulging in too many substances, parties and things like that. I was on a track to end up in jail, end up doing something stupid and ruining my life.

“Really, boxing gave me a routine and it gave me discipline. I was forced into a routine and forced into being disciplined because I wanted to win so badly. That routine and discipline changed the course of my life.

“Then before I know it, I’m falling in love with this sport. The rest is really history. It changed me into a better man, a more driven man and it made me want to give back and uplift this sport and help other fighters. It really changed my whole viewpoint on my life and who I was.”

It was claimed, as he knocked out fellow YouTubers, NBA players or retired MMA fighters, that Paul was simply using boxing as a vehicle for further fame and fortune. His argument is that he’s really not that different to anyone else who has put on the gloves and struggled to take them off again. He rubbed many inside the boxing world up the wrong way with the early claims he made, including the suggestion that he could beat Canelo. It was all part of the plan.

“People look at me and see this young, arrogant, cocky kid so that’s probably why their backs are up and they’re like: ‘stay back, don’t ruin our sport’,” Paul says.

“In the long run I think they will understand and see what I’m doing, and that I have to be loud and arrogant and all this shit to draw attention to myself to be able to change this sport and draw in the casual fan. Then I can get into the controversies with Dana White, fighter pay and long-term health care and stuff like that.

“I think it would be great to be respected but right now it’s not my top priority. I think when it’s all said and done people will look back and see what I did and they will respect it. Right now I’m not too worried about it.”

Jake Paul (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

There is no denying that Paul, his brother Logan and a small clutch of other YouTube megastars have emerged as the most successful marketeers of this generation. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that he has had little trouble generating bewildering levels of interest in his fights despite their low level.

He is currently 6-1 (4) in a career which started back in January 2020. The first fight against another actual boxer, however, did not take place for another three years and it is the only defeat on his record. Tommy Fury, brother of Tyson, has himself trodden carefully along the line between actual boxing and the ‘influencer’ facsimile of it that exists today but he had enough in the locker to win a split decision when they met in Saudi Arabia in February. It is worth noting, too, that both men were paid more than anyone else has ever received for an eight-rounder in the history of this sport.

However, it was this defeat, as opposed to anything else that has taken place since he first set foot in the gym, that has made Paul feel most like an ‘actual boxer’. It had been suggested that a defeat, losing the air of invincibility into which he appeared to buy, would send him back to a world where he doesn’t get punched in the face. He insists, however, it is quite the opposite.

“I’ve learned so much more about myself in that loss than really a lot of other moments in my life,” he says.

“The period after the fight… it was intense, man. Lot’s of deep thoughts, lot’s of changes being made within the camp. Switching things up and having to revisit the drawing board and taking a look at everything; myself, my coaches, my friends, what went wrong.

“It wasn’t necessarily the easiest to figure out and a lot of those answers weren’t fun. So there had to be a lot of these changes but it was a great reality check and man, it’s like I’m going around knocking pretty much everyone out or down to the canvas at least and making a bunch of money doing it.

“And you get kind of caught up in that and you can lose that hunger. And I didn’t even know I did. I thought I still had that same hunger and motivation but it turns out in hindsight, I didn’t. Obviously, I’m new in this game and so there’s so much to learn and the weeks after were really some of the toughest moments of my life but now I’m able to look back at it in hindsight.

“This reaffirmed my belief and almost made me sign this contract that maybe wasn’t even signed yet with boxing, forever. Because when I was winning and winning and winning, I was like, ‘Oh, I might just win a couple more fights and then retire.’

“But now I realise that I need this sport and I’m going to be here for a lot longer than I originally thought.”

Bad news then for those who still consider Paul an intruder to this sport, who might even rage at the idea of this, his first ever interview within Boxing News. And while he lives the life as a boxer and is saying all the right things, his next fight is against a non-boxer again.

This time he will face the MMA icon Nate Diaz over eight rounds at the American Airlines Center in Dallas on August 8. The collision of the pair will possibly generate more money than any fight outside of Canelo or the heavyweight division this year.

But his apparent self-awareness has not always been commonplace during his boxing career and it is reassuring. There was a time when it looked like, for want of a better phrase, he was taking the piss. It turns out, him chinning a washed-up martial artist was pretty small fry compared to some of the scary stuff taking place in British rings under the guise of ‘Misfits’, the brainchild of Paul’s fellow Youtuber and crossover boxer, KSI, which is still not licensed by the British Boxing Board of Control.

“I think it is definitely on the WWE-side of things,” Paul says when asked for his view on Misfits. “And it’s definitely a separate thing to what the boxing purists should be interested in.

“The problem with it is that they call it ‘boxing’ and ‘influencer boxing’ but it’s just more like this circus spectacle, which is fine but let’s not ruin the sport of boxing.

“Because I think influencer boxing added fans to the sport and brought more respect and credibility when people were taking it very, very seriously and putting on really good fights. Now they’re doing tag-teams and it’s all these different weight classes, they’re only fighting like two or three rounds.

“That’s not a sport, go in there fight six rounds, do a proper fucking training camp, get fucking good and respect the sport. I just don’t want it to turn into the WWE.”

It was 1985 when the Irish drug dealer Larry Dunne was sent to prison. As he was led out of court he infamously remarked: ‘If you think we’re bad, wait until you see what’s coming after us.’

The early version of crossover boxing, which Paul was at the heart of, really does seem like the good old days compared to what we are seeing now.

But while you could argue he was partly to blame for opening the door so widely for what has followed, there is no doubt he is doing things the right way now.