5 things Jake Paul needs to do for diehards to accept him as a legitimate boxer

Jake Paul has a bit of work to do if he wants the boxing community to view him as a legitimate member of the boxing world.
Aug 5, 2023; Dallas, Texas, USA;  Jake Paul reacts after the win against Nate Diaz in a boxing match at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 5, 2023; Dallas, Texas, USA; Jake Paul reacts after the win against Nate Diaz in a boxing match at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Paul is one of the most divisive figures among casual and diehard boxing fans alike. His impact on the sport is undeniable, but his acceptance by diehards will require a multitude of changes to his career and promotional path. Paul has been vocal about his long-term goal of winning a world title. Paul's entry into the sport was more sideshow than actual boxing. With no amateur record to speak of, this was forgivable.

Fighting a basketball player and a few older MMA fighters with boxing rules in the social media influencer space seemed like a logical move. His physical commitment to the sport is evident. He trains hard, always makes the contracted weight, and is determined to improve his craft. Paul can definitely be a positive for boxing. He brings new viewers and lots of attention. But to win over diehards, Paul has a long road ahead. And it's just not winning fights and selling tickets, it's winning fights that matter. Here is what he can do:

1. Cancel the fight with Mike Tyson

The bout with Mike Tyson is problematic on many levels. The aura of Tyson that still exists in the public consciousness is far from reality. Tyson hasn’t won a professional boxing match since 2003, a few weeks after Paul’s sixth birthday. The final two bouts of Tyson’s career ended in KO losses to Danny Williams and Kevin McBride, two guys who will get into the Hall of Fame by buying a ticket for a tour like the rest of us. Tyson turned 58 on June 30. His carefully selected and edited training videos have captured the public imagination, but what we don’t see are the videos that aren’t posted or what happens after the recording stops.

Did we learn nothing from the Evander Holyfield vs. Vitor Belfort debacle? Age matters. There’s a reason it’s listed first on the tale of the tape. Tyson was recently hospitalized for ulcer issues following a domestic flight. This is not a man who should be engaging in a professional boxing match at any level, even with shorter rounds and heavier gloves. Shame on the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation for sanctioning this bout as a legitimate boxing contest. Other than people watching (which may be all Paul cares about these days), Paul is in a lose-lose situation. If he wins, he just beat up an old man. If he loses, he just loses to an old man. 

2. Stop the MMA crossover bouts

As a diehard boxing fan I have to acknowledge that MMA is a legitimate combat sport. And while some things do translate to the boxing ring, it is simply a different sport. NFL fans would never tolerate the Kansas City Chiefs asking the best rugby team in the world to strap on football pads and play an NFL game at Arrowhead. It’s laughable to think that would be competitive. 

Of Paul’s nine recorded wins as a professional boxer, five of those opponents were former MMA fighters. If Paul had decided to enter MMA instead of boxing but only fought former boxers making their MMA debuts, he would be scorched by the MMA community, and rightfully so.  Paul’s victories over Ryan Bourland and Andre August are the best of his career. Even though they are just below journeyman status, they were at least professional boxers with double-digit wins. This is a step in the right direction for diehards. Fighting Tyson's replacement Mike Perry is not. Perry’s lone professional boxing bout ended in him being knocked in four rounds at super middleweight. Paul fighting him at cruiser does little to legitimize his boxing career. 

3. Avenge the loss to Tommy Fury

Paul’s lone loss came via a split decision against Tyson Fury’s brother Tommy. This was Paul’s first bout against a “real boxer,” even though Fury’s boxing bonafides have much to be desired. The fight was close and competitive with Paul even scoring a knockdown in the final round, but Fury won more rounds and was given the decision. This is a marketable fight and a solid win for Paul in a rematch would go a long way. Paul could clear up that blemish on his record and a win over a member of the Fury family never hurts. Diehards are bound to destroy me over this suggestion, but hear me out. Cancel the Tyson fight and instead, rematch Fury on the undercard of the Fury-Usyk rematch on Dec. 21 in Saudi Arabia. The Fury brothers fighting on the same card would make for amazing marketing. Paul would bring casual eyes to the main event and have his chance at revenge. The poster slogans write themselves.

4. Challenge a fighter ranked in the top 30

All of Paul’s fights have taken place within the cruiserweight division. It’s time to challenge someone who is actually ranked by one of the sanctioning bodies in the top thirty. Paul doesn’t have to challenge Jai Opetaia to win the respect of diehards. But he does have to fight someone above club fighter status. Even having someone ranked at light heavyweight move up to cruiser and fight Paul would give Paul much more legitimacy. Names like Joe Smith Jr., Sergei Kovalev or Callum Johnson would make diehards give a second look to Paul. It’s a win-win for Paul. If he wins, he beats someone legitimate, if he loses, he dared to be great.     

5. Continue to be an ambassador for the sport, especially woman's boxing

The previous suggestions could come off as criticisms, this one should not. Paul has done an amazing job of bringing casual eyes to the sport and has done more than any promoter in recent memory to bring women’s boxing to the forefront. He has also made a point to pay women boxers more and more. When Amanda Serrano’s bout with Nine Meinke was canceled at the last minute due to Serrano sustaining an eye injury during a hair appointment, Paul still paid Meinke her full purse. This is gracious beyond words, especially in a sport known for promoters screwing over their fighters. Paul will win over boxing diehards by continuing to be a promoter with this kind of character. His accolades inside the ring have much to be desired. His accomplishments and benevolence as a promoter are a breath of fresh air. Hopefully, he keeps it up.