IT COULD finally be over. The Jake Paul… experiment? Farce? Circus? Roleplay? Whatever you want to call it, the YouTuber’s chokehold on a surprisingly large portion of the boxing world looks to have loosened. And it went out with a bit of a whimper more than anything else.
His fight with Tommy Fury was staged in Saudi Arabia and aired on BT Sport Box Office – it had all the trappings of a meaningful event, but those elements – bright lights, celebrities like Cristiano Ronaldo and Mike Tyson at ringside, Michael Buffer on MC duties etc. – never married up to create any sort of substance.
The overall production of the event – not the broadcast itself – left plenty to be desired. There were audio issues, the atmosphere felt very flat. And if there were one word that best describes the show, that would probably be it: flat.
Buffer phoned in the introductions and at times looked like he was fully dissociating – can you blame him? – while the tale of the tape included stats about social media followings. There was a promo video that ran before the main event featuring footage from Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson’s careers. At that point, I was convinced the showrunners were purposely trolling boxing fans but everything appeared to be done in earnest. They even piped in the national anthems of the UK and USA before the fight started while the hideously vulgar WBC ‘Diriyah Champion’ belt was displayed.
While it’s shameful that BT Sport made this pay-per-view, their broadcast was professional and level-headed. The same can’t be said for the US broadcast. The American commentary team were an embarrassment, particularly Shawn Porter. They lost their minds every time Paul even attempted to throw a punch and their unofficial scoring of the bout was ludicrous.
If Paul wants to be treated as a legitimate fighter while boxing another professional in the form of Tommy Fury, those covering the event should do just that. That appears to be the stance BT Sport took, so their commentary didn’t devolve into the exaggerations and barefaced lies of the US commentary. Instead, they assessed what they were watching: Fury, for the most part, outboxing Paul.
The only slight criticism of the commentary would be that it was a little too complimentary of both fighters in the main event. In reality, the standard was pretty low and that could have been highlighted more. BT Sport also pulled something of a masterstroke by drafting in Carl Froch to work as a pundit from their London studio. The former super-middleweight king has previous with Paul as the pair have traded barbs on social media, but he is also typically quite blunt in his assessments when covering fights. His analysis of Paul was suitably scathing and quite fun to watch.
There were some bizarre moments in between rounds as well, one of which was almost worth the price of admission on its own. Radio Rahim was on hand to interview prominent figures in the crowd, though mainly focused on Jake’s older brother Logan. At first this amounted to Logan just shouting petulant things at Fury, who likely couldn’t hear him, but later in the fight Logan was speaking to Rahim about his brother and what he would be saying to him if he was in the corner, finishing off by saying “I love you.” Rahim’s response? “I love you too, man.” You couldn’t script it. It was perfect. As soon as the words left Rahim’s lips you could see the light leave his eyes as he realised Paul was, obviously, referring to his brother and not the man interviewing him on live television.
After the fight, Paul began listing off reasons as to why he lost to Fury – illness and injury supposedly being the main culprits – but apart from that he largely took the loss in good spirits. It’s highly likely that his apparent efforts to be considered a “real” fighter will now come to an end. He can still earn a decent chunk of cash in novelty events with the likes of former UFC star Nate Diaz and fellow influencer KSI.
Fury was visibly emotional after he was declared the victor, which some fans took umbrage with given the level of opposition he had overcome. Despite the relatively low bar he had to clear, there was an enormous amount of pressure on Fury heading into this fight – both from his family and the wider boxing community – so his reaction to winning looked more like a celebration of being liberated from that pressure more than anything else.
With the WBC releasing the results of its investigation into Conor Benn’s failed drug tests – which state that no conclusive evidence of intentional ingestion of banned substances was found – the Brit has been on a Scorched Earth campaign. He’s taken to social media, again, to slam those who have criticised him, including former opponents Chris Algieri and Chris Van Heerden. He snapped back at Errol Spence Jnr, who himself had spoken out on social media about the situation. Benn even posted a picture of himself sticking out his middle finger on Instagram, the gesture directed at those who question his alleged innocence.
To cap it all off, Benn told the Daily Mail that he intends to sue the British Boxing Board of Control to the tune of £3.5m. That brings about a whole host of issues and questions, but the one thing that is clear is the fact Benn appears to have made a full ‘heel’ turn and has no problem with upsetting people. If he didn’t still have the cloud of these failed tests lingering over him, you’d have to respect that attitude.
Boxing on the Box
Angel Fierro-Eduardo Estela
Coverage begins at 8pm