Are fighters really afraid to box Jake Paul?




Jake Paul (left) was set to face Hasim Rahman Jr, a replacement for Tommy Fury

Rahman Jr – son of former heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman – did not technically withdraw from his fight with his fellow American, nor did the man he replaced, Tommy Fury – half-brother of heavyweight champion Tyson. Rather, Rahman Jr was ousted for failing to cut enough weight in time for a showdown at Madison Square Garden, where Fury was due to box Paul but was himself removed from the event by the YouTuber for failing to solve issues that prevented the Briton from entering the US.

Fury, though, had pulled out of a scheduled clash with Paul in December, citing illness and injury, while Rahman Jr admitted to aborting his weight-cut. Could either have done more to ensure their respective bouts with Paul went ahead? Fury received the benefit of the doubt in December, but Paul fairly criticised the 23-year-old’s lack of proactivity in addressing his travel issues this summer. Meanwhile, Rahman Jr suggested last month that he was given “45 minutes” to accept the offer of a contest against Paul, lest the opportunity to box his old sparring partner evade him forever. It is possible that the 31-year-old, presented with an awkward choice and forced into a swift decision, believed that his best bet was to accept the fight and negotiate weight at a later date.

Tommy Fury has twice seen fights with Jake Paul fall through

That decision brings us to Paul’s own cost-of-risk analysis. Having weighed in at 191lbs before knocking out ex-UFC champion Tyron Woodley in December, Paul was contracted to fight Rahman Jr at 200lbs. He accepted a revised limit of 205lbs but would not budge when Rahman Jr proposed a clash at 215lbs. For some time, fans and critics have called on Paul to fight a professional boxer – dismissing his dedication to training and his victories over a fellow YouTuber, former NBA star Nate Robinson, and ex-MMA champions Ben Askren and Woodley. Paul’s opponents have been of increasingly impressive sporting (and combat sporting) pedigree each time, though all have had weaknesses that have made them sensible foes. Now, however, Paul is willing to fight a professional boxer – but only on his terms, and those terms may not make his chosen opponents especially willing themselves.

Rahman Jr was presumably deemed a suitable opponent due to factors visible to Paul’s team during the 25-year-old’s sparring sessions with his compatriot, and only with Jr’s weight advantage stripped away. Fury’s 7-0 record (8-0 by the time his clash with Paul was rescheduled) is superior to the YouTube star’s, but the Briton seems set to be remembered more for his Love Island appearances than his outings in the boxing ring. Either way, both Rahman Jr and Fury have boosted their profiles significantly without even stepping into the ring with Paul. They have done so simply through association to the 25-year-old, such is the size of his following and strength of his influence.

And had they stepped into the ring with Paul? Both would have seen the biggest payday of their lives. Neither, it could be argued, deemed the reward worth the risk of embarassment on a global stage – which social media undoubtedly provides.

Paul outpointed Tyron Woodley last August then knocked him out in December (pictured)

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Rahman Jr could have made a more concerted effort to cut weight, or he could have refrained from agreeing to the fight in the first place. The latter decision might have been ridiculed publicly by Paul, but the retort of being too big to box the social-media influencer would have been widely accepted. Meanwhile, one would think the Fury family would not entertain the idea of a ‘withdrawal’ in this situation, yet John Fury – father of Tommy and Fury – admitted that he did not believe that the 23-year-old was in shape to box Paul. Perhaps the elder Fury did his own cost-of-risk analysis on behalf of his younger son. In any case, Paul was not prepared to allow Tommy Fury’s procrastination to put his event in peril.

No fighter is truly afraid of another fighter; to suggest so is to disrespect and belittle the most courageous athletes on the planet. That said, the reward isn’t always worth the risk. For some opponents, the potential to be embarrassed by a 25-year-old former Disney actor is worth millions of dollars. For others, it is not. To each their own.

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