Ben Askren said it best.
“People love fist fights. People love circuses.”
That quote came from Askren’s Twitter feed ahead of his highly-anticipated exhibition boxing match against YouTube star Jake Paul, who has taken the combat sports world by storm throughout his rise as a boxer.
Unfortunately for Askren, that fist fight lasted less than two minutes, and the circus didn’t come to an end.
In the main event of a card broadcast by Triller on April 17, which ran well past midnight ET and featured musical performances from Justin Bieber, The Black Keys, Diplo, and more, Paul knocked out Askren in just one minute and 59 seconds.
While many tuned in with the hope of seeing Paul get knocked out by a former UFC star, the YouTube star proved that he isn’t a joke when it comes time to step into a boxing ring.
“This is the craziest moment of my life,” Paul said during his post-fight interview. “I told y’all I was gonna do it in the first round. I told y’all I’m a real fighter. I don’t know how many times I gotta prove myself that this is for real.”
Many compared Paul’s presence to that of UFC star Conor McGregor, specifically as it relates to the buildup to the fight and each fighter’s meteoric rise in combat sports.
Similar to the former UFC champion’s antics before fights against Khabib Nurmagomedov and Nate Diaz, Paul wound up in the spotlight because of his comments and actions during a pre-fight press conference, along with his antics at the fight’s weigh-ins.
However, similar to the Irishman, he also found himself in legal trouble outside of the ring, with TikTok star Justine Paradise accusing him of sexual assault in the days leading up to the fight.
He negatively added fuel to his own fire, claiming that a doctor told him he has “early signs of CTE,” and then retracting those comments via social media.
Even after winning the fight against Askren, Paul caught some additional flack, with many questioning the validity of the fight due to its short length, and wondering about Askren’s boxing ability as a whole.
Then, he had people wondering if he would be willing to step into the ring with a more striking-focused UFC fighter or a professional boxer in the future.
With all of that in mind, there’s plenty to go off of when it comes to forming an opinion of the YouTube star, and many have shared their displeasures when discussing Jake Paul as a person.
But, sheerly focusing on Paul from a boxing standpoint, fans should at least recognize one thing: the YouTuber-turned-boxer is good for the sport.
As the saying goes, “Any publicity is good publicity.” In this case, Paul’s ability to bring eyes to the sport with his appearances in the ring should be viewed as a positive.
Many who followed boxing in the sport’s heyday, back when Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Sugar Ray Leonard, and other superstars were roaming the ring, should be able to appreciate the fact that people are paying attention to boxing, rather than MMA.
Even Tyson himself, one of the sport’s all-time greats, mentioned the positive impact the YouTube era has had.
“Boxing was pretty much a dying sport,” Tyson said in 2020. “The UFC was kicking our butt.”
“Boxing is going back, thanks to the YouTube boxers.”
Paul creates a conversation and gets people riled up, in one way or another.
He calls out UFC fighters, and attracts a new audience that may have gotten into combat sports by watching MMA events.
He certainly talks the talk, running with a McGregor-esque style on the mic to become a polarizing figure, guaranteeing that fans either completely love him or utterly hate him.
It makes every fight feel like a big deal. It gets people tuning in to either find out if he can win, or see him get knocked out and silenced by a professional fighter.
Then, most importantly, he can apparently walk the walk, evident by his record in the ring. Sure, his last two wins have come against Askren and former NBA star Nate Robinson. But, he has shown that he at least has the basics down, along with the power to compete at the professional level.
As each fight passes, and as each victory gets added to his record, Paul continues to become a hotter and hotter topic in the sport. Somehow, people continue to get more excited for his next bout as a result.
If Paul, coming off a knockout win against a retired basketball player, was able to generate more than a million pay-per-view buys for a fight against a retired UFC star, then there is some serious potential if he were able to book a fight against a more powerful or popular boxing/MMA star.
Then, there are fans that get back into boxing as a result, but despise the idea of watching a YouTuber in such a classic arena. So, they may decide to tune in to fighters who have amassed serious amounts of success in the sport over the years.
It makes those fans appreciate the highest level of the craft, and almost unintentionally helps other big-name boxers, like Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder, Anthony Joshua, Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, become bigger stars to usually-casual followers in the process.
No, Paul shouldn’t take credit for the successes of top-tier performers, like Fury or Wilder. Nor should he feel responsible for the successes of the most technical talents of the bunch, like Alvarez or Golovkin.
However, it’s all helpful for the younger boxers that need the extra help to get into the spotlight, or the more established veterans that may not realize what kind of power social media holds when it comes to promoting fights.
Knock it all you want, and think whatever you’d like about YouTubers in the boxing ring.
But, like Askren said, “People love circuses.” If you’re invested enough to have an opinion of someone like Jake Paul, you’re one of the millions who has done the equivalent of buying a ticket to that spectacle.