A brutal knockout of retired NBA player Nate Robinson in November elevated Jake Paul’s status as a boxer. But not enough to end the skepticism.
Dana White, the president of UFC, has said he would bet $1 million that Paul will lose to retired MMA fighter Ben Askren Saturday during their boxing match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
When asked about White’s comment, Paul replied, “He is one of the many bird-brained people out there who don’t understand that Jake Paul is a real fighter.”
On the undercard of Mike Tyson’s comeback fight against Roy Jones Jr. on Nov. 28, Paul landed a crushing right hand that left Robinson face down on the canvas and unconscious. But here’s what White and the other “bird-brained” people out there know:
Paul, 24, is entering his fourth boxing match (third as a pro) and has yet to fight a trained boxer. Although he is undefeated, Paul’s first two opponents were YouTube celebrities, followed by a retired NBA player who was making his boxing debut.
So, real fighter? Or just a celebrity boxer?
The answer should be clearer Saturday night.
“Jake thinks he’s a high-level boxer,’’ Askren said. “I think he’s fairly delusional.”
Askren, 36, will be making his pro boxing debut, but he has legitimate fighting credentials. He was 19-2 as a professional MMA fighter and beat Robby Lawler, a former UFC welterweight champion.
JAKE PAUL VS. BEN ASKREN: How to watch Triller fight card, start time, odds, live streaming info
Askren also was a two-time NCAA Division I wrestling champion and competed at the 2008 Olympics.
“Yeah, he’s a real fighter,’’ Paul said. “And that’s why I wanted to do this fight, is to show the world like this real fighter is getting with Jake Paul and he’s going to get KO’d in two rounds.”
The eight-round cruiserweight fight will be available on FITE TV, a subscription fee streaming site, and on pay-per-view for $49.99 at Triller and through other outlets.
During an interview with USA TODAY Sports, Paul addressed a variety of topics, such as whether he needs to fight a trained boxer to be considered a real fighter.
“To be honest, I don’t think the answer is yes,’’ he said. “I think if I was trying to become a world champion, then, yes.
“Then I would have to fight someone who was trained in boxing their whole entire life. But that’s not my goal.
“I think the goal is I want to become the biggest prizefighter in the world, which would mean getting paid more than (Floyd) Mayweather and getting paid more than (Conor) McGregor.”
Paul said he’s had brain scans to see what degree of trauma he has experienced. Then why expose himself to more risk?
“I figure I’m smarter than the average person anyways,” he said. “So if I take a couple of hits to the brain, I’ll be fine.”
Regarding the brain trauma, Paul said, he said he suffered “a ton of concussions’’ playing football and wrestling when he was growing up in Ohio. He began boxing about three years ago.
“Even when I got my brain scan before I was boxing, it already wasn’t good,’’ he said. “I’ve had three fights, which isn’t a lot on paper. But what people don’t see is the 400 sparring sessions that I’ve had in the past 3½ years. So it’s really something that has been developed in sparring because even in my past two fights I didn’t get hit once in the head.”
Asked about his symptoms from brain trauma, Paul said, “It’s very subtle. But it goes to show I am sacrificing everything quite literally to do this. I’ve changed my whole entire life to dedicate myself to this sport.
“Just nonstop boxing, nonstop recovery, nonstop strength and conditioning. You’re eating healthy, you can’t party, you can only have sex once a week. You’re sacrificing pretty much everything. And I wouldn’t want to have it any other way.’
Though he called White a bird brain, Paul said he welcomes the naysayers and doubters.
“It motivates me more than words can explain,’’ he said. “There’s some days where I don’t feel like practicing or stretching or doing ice baths or eating flavorless chicken with rice. But I just remember all these people, all these millions of people, waiting to see me fail.
“And it’s almost like I put my back against the wall on purpose, so that I’m forcing myself to work harder and become greater. It’s no pressure, no diamond, right? The pressure for me has always driven me to be amazing.”
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