Celebrity boxing matches are a sore subject in the fight game.
Boxing purists mock them, but when the sport can’t get its act together and refuses to pit the best vs. the best, well this is what you get: YouTube stars with massive followings and sensational promotional skills stepping in to fill the void.
On Sunday, celebrity Jake Paul will face former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley in an eight-round boxing match at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. Paul has been bet up to a -200 favorite at BetMGM after opening at -150 (see, told you he is popular), while Woodley is the +160 underdog for the Showtime PPV.
Now, Woodley is a former champion who lost his title to current UFC welterweight king Kamaru Usman in 2019. Woodley is known for his wrestling ability and his fearsome power, but as he evolved in MMA that power rarely became a factor. He has not won a fight since losing to Usman, going 0-3 since, and has only two KOs since 2014.
Late in his UFC career, Woodley was known for a shaky gas tank — perhaps why he shunned his wrestling — and a low output of punches, two factors that basically define boxing success.
Paul on the other hand has fought weak competition, but he at least resembles a boxing prospect. He trains, is in shape, hits relatively hard and has done what he’s supposed to do against unworthy challengers, knocking out former NBA player Nate Robinson and non-striking ex-UFC contender Ben Askren.
This a boxing match after all, and only one of these men can be considered a boxer. There’s also the size disparity and age to consider. Paul, 24, has a four-inch height advantage, the bigger frame and a two-inch edge in reach.
Woodley is a 39-year-old whose best days are behind him, and when he fights, fans are usually pleading for him to let his hands go. Although he did do that in his last UFC fight in March against contender Vicente Luque, Woodley was flattened in one round.
Woodley has one pathway to victory: catching Paul with a big punch and knocking him out. And that could happen.
But the most likely scenario is Paul, who has been training in the sweet science for a few years now, to be the more energetic, refined and skilled boxer. He should have the footwork and gas tank to avoid Woodley’s power, and with age on his side, Paul seems to be in position to win by decision or late stoppage.
Look, we're not saying Paul is a great boxer, but he is a prospect with promise at this point. And until he starts facing legitimate boxers, he will continue to have the edge against MMA fighters in boxing matches.
The right side: Paul to win -200 (although much of the value is gone).