If Jake Paul really wants to be taken seriously as a boxer, he took a step in the right direction Wednesday. Paul announced that he’ll meet 35-year-old Andre August in an eight-round cruiserweight bout Dec. 15 in Orlando, Florida.
Now, this is hardly like he’s stepping up in competition. August’s record is 10-1-1, but let’s be honest, he’s not very good. Of course, Paul's sycophants will defend this as some kind of a challenge or step in his development.
If August really had a chance to win, he wouldn’t have been picked for the bout, period, end of story.
Look, August faced opponents making their pro debuts in three of his first four bouts. In the only one of those four fights he didn’t meet an opponent making his pro debut, he faced the 1-1 Patrick Simes.
And the opposition hasn’t gotten much better since. Yes, he’s 10-1-1, which is an excellent record. Yes, he has five knockouts, which is one more than Paul. If you know anything at all about boxing, though, you understand that records are essentially meaningless. A good matchmaker can, in the blink of an eye, find a 8-15 guy to beat a 15-0 guy any day of the week and not even work hard.
That being said, there are several positives about this. The first is that a truly good women’s world title fight will be on the card and will get attention because of the notoriety Paul brings. Amanda Serrano was a superstar long before she signed with Paul’s Most Valuable Promotions, but it was her connection with Paul that significantly raised her visibility and her paydays.
Former undisputed super middleweight world champion Franchon Crews-Dezurn will meet unbeaten Shadasia Green for the WBC super middleweight belt in what should be an outstanding match. And credit to Paul and his team for putting it together and putting it on the card with him, guaranteeing it will get far more attention than it would have otherwise.
That’s a positive and Paul deserves a double thumbs-up for making it and giving it the kind of visibility it deserves.
The other positive revolves around Paul himself. Eight fights into his pro career, what do we know about him as a boxer? Not much. He lost to Tommy Fury, who is more of a reality TV star than an actual boxer, and that didn’t cover him with greatness.
No boxer should ever be criticized for losing if he or she competes against evenly matched opponents and fights hard. Where fighters deserve criticism is if they continually take the easy way out by facing soft opposition and if they go through the motions and not put out a significant effort.
Paul’s effort has been fine; it’s just that he hasn’t faced anyone with any kind of boxing skill. Despite how close former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou came to defeating WBC/lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury when they met Oct. 28 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, that was more of a function of Fury basically not training.
Tyson Fury said before that fight that his diet consisted of “marshmallows, Big Macs and McDonald’s.” It was meant as a joke, but then he looked like it and then, worse, fought like it was true.
Paul’s opposition is what causes problems. Now, he’s just starting out as a fighter, and those fighters tend to be matched easily. I have no problem with him facing less-than-stellar opposition on the way up, but there has to be some reason they’re chosen.
Hall of Famer Bruce Trampler is arguably the greatest matchmaker in boxing history. He guided the careers of two of the best fighters of this generation, Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather, making their matches for them on the way up.
He didn’t put them in with killers in their opening bouts, but he found opponents who had a skill he wanted to see them tested against. Maybe it was a left-hander who was fast or a tall guy or a pressure fighter.
All of the early opponents of both De La Hoya and Mayweather had flaws, but they were also good enough that De La Hoya and Mayweather were challenged and thus learned from each bout.
Paul says he wants to be a world champion — “I’m a professional boxer and I want to be world champion, so I need to pursue the path towards greatness against people who have been boxing their whole life,” Paul said in Wednesday's news release — and so he needs to be facing boxers.
He’s doing that by fighting August, though what he’ll learn from the bout is certainly a legitimate question. Boxing and MMA aren’t the same sports, and as Fury said in the days before he fought Ngannou, asking a credentialed MMA fighter to defeat a credentialed boxer in a boxing match is like asking a pingpong star to face the No. 1 tennis player in the world in the Wimbledon finals.
Paul is unlikely to become a world champion, but there is nothing wrong with making a legitimate effort. Boxing would be vastly better off if it were hard instead of the cakewalk it often is for the well-connected or high-profile fighters. Good on Paul for trying, if he’s serious in the effort.
He’s got the promotion thing down pat, for sure. But if he truly wants to make it all the way, he’ll dispense with the bouts against MMA fighters and other celebrities and instruct his matchmakers to choose his opponents the way Trampler did for De La Hoya and Mayweather.
Do that, and then he’s really proving he is serious about this whole boxing thing.