By Elliot Worsell

(Note: This was written before the announcement of Jake Paul fighting a 57-year-old Mike Tyson on July 20, live on Netflix. However, rather than date the following piece, it makes its message all the more urgent.)

NO different from any other addict, Jake Paul’s attention seeking and distorted view of his place in the world – both the boxing world and the wider world – can only be managed if he first hits rock bottom and then, upon landing, acknowledges all that led him to that position.

Until then, he remains a functioning attention seeker. Unchecked, and yet to be humbled by an embarrassing and regrettable episode, Paul is free to say what he wants, do what he wants, and continue cosplaying as a professional boxer with ambitions of proving he is the best in the world. And who’s to say he shouldn’t behave like this? He is doing nobody any harm, after all. He hurts opponents every few months, true, but rarely are these opponents recognisable and rarely are the fights involving Paul anything other than sideshows (therefore, we are told, not hurting the boxing business). What is more, he has done plenty of good things for the sport in recent times, so the narrative goes. He has, for instance, elevated the profile of Amanda Serrano, a long-time pro who has only really come to the fore since Paul promoted her and gave her the push she has for years deserved. He has also, perhaps inadvertently, taught others in the sport how to self-promote and how to use social media as a tool – this for better or worse.

Not only that, Paul has managed to win nine of 10 fights as a pro. This, regardless of the level of opposition, shows he clearly has something, and given his background – non-existent – he should be applauded for even reaching 9-1, particularly when seeing the improvements he has made since “turning pro” at the start of 2020.

It would have been easy for Paul to just use his considerable profile and boxing’s weakness for big names to pillage the sport and make money offering a pale imitation of a boxer to screen-obsessed children who don’t know any better. Yet, to his credit, as well as doing that, Paul does at least now strike a correct pose and offer a decent enough impression of someone who earns a living inside a ring.

That’s not to say he belongs, but certainly Paul has used everything at his disposal to get better and try to fit it. He has spent time in actual boxing gyms, training alongside and sparring actual boxers, and he has used his vast fortune to invest in the very best camps. He has given it a go, in other words, and done enough to have you wondering how Paul would have fared as a boxer had he (a) not been a wealthy and privileged kid growing up and (b) started off in the sport at a much younger age.

Jake Paul throws a jab at Nate Diaz during the third round of their fight at the American Airlines Center on August 05, 2023 in Dallas, Texas (Sam Hodde/Getty Images)

As it is, Paul, now 27, is too old to get much better and too set in his ways – attention seeking, chronically online, somewhat delusional – to understand why this is the case. He is getting by on his athleticism, his training, and his ability to cherry-pick opponents on account of being the A-side and the man everybody wants to fight, but these luxuries can only take him so far.

Presumably at some point, in order to make the leap and fulfil his ambition, he will have to confront reality. Meaning: like all addicts, he will have to face himself in the mirror, or stand up in a room of strangers, and concede he got carried away before hitting rock bottom.

In boxing terms, rock bottom comes in the form of someone like Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, whom Paul has called out in recent times – with a straight face no less. Alvarez, for Paul, likely represents the drug that brings him to the room; the one that threatens to wreck his life and change him irrevocably.

This he won’t realise until it is too late, of course, true of any addict, but whereas Paul may be oblivious the same cannot be said for everyone looking in from the outside. We, the outsiders, know where this delusion potentially leads. We also find ourselves increasingly unnerved by the fact that Paul, once cheeky with his call-outs and seemingly aware of his limitations, appears to have been altered in a dangerous way by the ease with which he is beating no-hopers. Suddenly now, with adrenaline coursing through his veins, his muscles engorged, and his ego inflated, Paul feels no way about standing before a mic and mentioning Canelo’s name post-fight. Suddenly now the call-out is not a punch-line but something Paul, the one delivering it, believes is his destiny; part of his story.

One way or another, that may be true. He may need to experience Canelo in order to stop talking about him and imagining the experience as something it is not. Equally, the rest of us may need him to experience Canelo just to restore some sanity and perspective, two things easy to lose when you are being told black is white by a man as powerful and pervasive as Jake Paul.

Otherwise, this charade, or obsession, will keep going and going, with the man at its centre free to build a fantasy world in which he is safely cocooned; accompanied only by people who repeat to him everything he has already said. Enablers, the lot of them, if enough bag-carriers tell Jake Paul he can beat Canelo Alvarez no longer will it seem like such a far-fetched proposition.

Canelo, meanwhile, should probably pick up the phone and call Paul’s bluff. Up to now he has so far ignored the influencer, undoubtedly the correct approach, but with no opponent booked for May 4 – the proposed date of Alvarez’s next fight – and with Paul boxing again on April 26, there could be no better time for the Mexican to finally acknowledge his unlikely rival’s existence and set the wheels in motion.

In the process, he would be doing us all favour. He would be cleaning house, restoring order, and sending a message. Most of all, though, by providing his rock bottom, he would be doing Jake Paul a favour, granting him the wisdom to know the difference.