Boxing goes the celebrity route once again Saturday night in Cleveland as faded former UFC welterweight champ Tyron Woodley takes on YouTube sensation-turned-pugilist Jake Paul. Woodley has guaranteed the victory, but Paul, despite a discernable lack of experience, is a decent favorite -195 (Woodley +125), according to MaximBet.
This was initially booked as an exhibition fight, but it is now completely sanctioned by the boxing gods, and that is the domain in which we are getting most of the excitement in the sport that was once dominated by actual boxers.
It is what it is, and it ain’t Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao or even Tyson Fury, but you take what you can get distraction-wise in this day and age. So, stock up the cooler and consider your wagering options with MaximBet and then break out the poker chips.
Remember a few things when making your wager: Woodley was a top-notch college wrestler at the University of Missouri who was smart enough to graduate with a degree in agricultural economics and then put his farming career off for a decade and a half while raking in the big bucks as an MMA fighter. He moved up the ranks and was crowned a UFC welterweight champion who successfully defended his title four times – even though that was a while ago.
The origins of this particular fight go back to a backstage encounter Woodley, 39, had with Paul, 24, after the boxing match in which Paul knocked out Ben Askren.
Paul has only three fights under his belt and has never faced anyone with the career accomplishments of Woodley. Both fighters are walking around in the 200-pound range, and Paul is trying to line up as many fights as possible in the weeks and months ahead.
There has been speculation that Paul is paying Woodley to take a fall (he has lost his last four fights and is looking at this bout as a way to focus entirely on boxing), and even celebrity podcaster Joe Rogan has been touting Paul as a legit fighter.
If Paul wins this one, and if his brother Logan keeps doing the same, we will remember this as the era when non-boxers became boxers and changed the sport. Bert Sugar never would have seen this coming.
This much we know: Paul has balls. Not only did he steal Floyd Mayweather’s cap by pulling it off his head (and subsequently getting his ass kicked by Mayweather’s entourage), he went out and had a “Gotcha Hat” tattoo inked on his calf.
Woodley hasn’t won a fight in four years and is pushing 40, and there is chatter that he will make more money from this one fight (streaming on Showtime PPV) than he made over course of his MMA career.
But Woodley needs to defeat Paul to do two things: Silence the Paul brothers for a little while, and launch his boxing career with something other than a first loss.
Woodley has more to lose than Paul, who can find another fight and not have to explain away whatever happens against Woodley. Paul will be fighting in the future because making the jump from YouTube sensation to Everlast warrior is the new new thing.
Woodley, who is being trained by Mayweather, encouraged people to bet on him and guaranteed a knockout in a recent interview on YouTube.
But talk is cheap. Just ask the aforementioned mainstream media gabbers who make their livings from being abrasive. None of them will ever put on boxing gloves to back up a boast, but Woodley and Paul will.
After the week we’ve all had, at least there is one thing we can probably all agree on: This is going to be a helluva fight.