Anderson Silva boxed better on Saturday than anyone could reasonably have expected of him. The 47-year-old mixed martial arts legend, who held the UFC’s middleweight title for more than six full years, fought a man nearly half his age toe-to-toe in a battle that had the crowd at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona, in a full-throated roar for much of the night.
It wasn’t enough, though. Silva didn’t teach the 25-year-old Jake Paul a lesson. He didn’t “expose” Paul and show him up as a social media creation.
Paul punctuated a unanimous decision victory by dropping the legendary Brazilian with a counter right during a fierce exchange in the final round. It helped Paul to a win by scores of 78-73 twice and 77-74.
Before the fight, a photo surfaced of a 13-year-old Paul photographed with Silva before a UFC card. Paul vowed he’d knock his idol out, and though he wasn’t able to do that, he showed well for himself.
“Anderson was my idol growing up and he inspired me to be great,” Paul said. “He was the first celebrity I’ve ever met. Without him, we wouldn’t have had a fight this year. He’s a tough mother f***er, a real legend. I have nothing but massive respect for him.
“ … Kids, even if you’re 40, 45 years old, chase your dreams. It’s never too late. I started boxing 2 1/2 years ago and just beat one of the greatest ever because I’m obsessed with this.”
Silva, who was only in his fifth boxing match, played true to form. He only threw five punches in the first round and tried to get Paul to throw at him so he could counter. Silva was frequently talking to him and when Paul clinched, Silva feigned anger. He was trying to rile Paul up, get him to extend himself and land counter shots.
He landed plenty of good ones, and ate more than a few. He raced out of the corner in the final round and went right at Paul, sensing he needed to win the final round to win the fight.
They both began to throw, though in the final flurry Silva was getting in more than Paul. But as Silva was backing out, he threw a left at the same time Paul fired a right. Paul’s punch got home a split second sooner and Silva went down.
Silva said he had no problem with the scoring, even though the fight was close. And he acknowledged the 22-year age gap was difficult.
“It’s tough to come in here and fight with these young kids,” Silva said. “I tried to do my best and I trained hard every day. Jake was better than me today. I don’t have nothing bad to say about my opponent. I think everybody needs to respect this kid because he’s doing the best job.”
Paul, who gained his fame as a YouTube star, is now 6-0 as a boxer but none of his fights have come against traditional boxers. Four wins are against former MMA fighters, with the other two coming against YouTube star AnEsonGib and former NBA player Nate Robinson.