After almost two years of back and forth insults, contracts, promises, and clashing over social media, boxer Tommy Fury and Youtuber Jake Paul finally met on Feb. 26 2023, for a bout titled “The Truth,” held in the Diriyah Arena in Saudi Arabia. Paul, who is now currently 6-1 with four knock-outs (KOs), was handed his first loss in the sport of boxing, ironically by the first actual boxer he has fought. With his antagonistic presence on social media, Paul has stirred up much controversy in the boxing world over his legitimacy as a fighter. Paul’s past opponents range from YouTubers to basketball players to former wrestlers, but no professional boxers, until he set his sights on Tommy Fury. Fury is the younger brother of Tyson Fury, former World Heavyweight Champion, and has a standing record of 9-0 (8 KOs). Fury, who was born in the United Kingdom, has been fighting since he was young and came from a family of professional boxers. Many were surprised to see the two in the ring together, and questioned whether Paul would be able to keep up with Fury’s experience in the ring. However, Paul and Fury went the distance for all eight rounds, ultimately resulting in a split decision (when the majority of the fight judges are in favor of one fighter) with Fury emerging victorious.
The two fighters have rescheduled their fight in the past multiple times, with Fury having to pull out twice due to sparring injuries, family events, and trouble with getting through U.S. customs in order to be present for the weigh-in. Because of the rescheduling, Fury was criticized heavily online and in person by Jake Paul and his followers, who accused him of being scared to face Paul in the ring. But Fury put the criticism to rest after winning the fight, earning him a total of $6 million from the pay-per-view pay out, as well as a $500,000 bet between Fury and Paul. With this new fame and money, Tommy Fury is making a name for himself in the world of professional boxing. Still, the question arises, is crossover boxing, influencers entering the professional boxing world, changing the sport that draws millions of viewers each year on main events?
Crossover boxing was popularized by YouTubers like Jake Paul, Logan Paul, and KSI, in which people with almost no boxing experience advertise an extremely large main event fight, complete with undercards and promotions, and sell millions of dollars in pay-per-view sales, as well as filling out arenas. These fights prove to be almost as popular as original professional boxing main events, but come with more controversy. Boxing fans from around the world have taken to social media to debate the legitimacy of these fights instead of discussing skilled professional fighters on their platforms. Consequently this overshadows young professional fighters who have been training their whole lives, and in almost every case have many greater times the skill of these YouTube fighters. “Sometimes, it’s difficult to see people like Jake Paul and other YouTubers receive the world’s attention for a fight that they only trained three to six months for, when young fighters have trained their whole lives, and are still stuck fighting in the amateurs,” states Finn Hanrahan, Franklin student and member of Portland City Boxing. “However, It’s great to see all of this attention brought to the sport I love, as many people who follow these celebrities online go to watch their fights,” Hanrahan adds. Many times, young and popular YouTubers use boxing as a method to gain more popularity and cash out a quick couple-of-a-million dollars. Still, they find a way to bring a wildly popular event to the world every year, even to go as far as to have Jake Paul be featured on an undercard fight for the Mike Tyson Vs Roy Jones Jr. bout in 2020. Paul faced off against Nate Robinson, a former NBA player, and scored a spectacular knockout against the retired basketball star, which went viral online. Jake Paul went on to fight more retired athletes, chipping away at a winning record, and scouting possible opponents for his next bout. Until around January of 2022, when he saw Tommy as an easy pay out.
Tommy Fury vs. Jake Paul took place in Saudi Arabia, which became the new “center of boxing” after featuring heavyweight fighter Anthony Joshua’s return to fight Oleksandr Usyk in Jeddah, titled Rage of the Red Sea. This was their second fight, and the country of Saudi Arabia fought hard to host this bout. Due to the large amount of money that the royal family in Saudi Arabia puts towards fight events, boxing is growing rapidly in the country and many fighters have pledged to fight there in the future. Surprisingly, the Paul V Fury fight brought in at least one good fight on the undercard, featuring Badou Jack going up against Ilunga Makabu, who was the WBC cruiserweight champion. Jack beat Makabu via a TKO (Technical Knockout, where the fight is stopped early by the ref if he thinks it can not continue safely) in the final round, sparking much talk around the future for Badou Jack. However, much of the world’s attention was on the main event, as thousands of people attended the Paul vs. Fury fight, including stars like Mike Tyson and Christiano Ronaldo. The fight proved that Jake Paul has indeed grown in skill, as he lasted eight rounds against the seasoned pro. Ultimately, poor defense coupled with failure to counterpunch efficiently led to the YouTuber’s first loss. Fury had a lot riding on the fight, as weeks before the Fury family came out with a statement stating how important his win was to the boxing world. They stated that Tommy Fury would have to change his last name and retire from the sport, should he lose.
We are certain that a rematch will take place, as both Paul and Fury agreed, even though Fury’s contract against Paul stated that should Fury win, Paul is allowed a rematch clause, but should Paul win, Fury would not be given the chance to rematch. This agreement should serve as a good reflection of Jake Paul’s identity as a boxer. As much as people would like to see him return in another ridiculously large fight, the continuance of Jake Paul’s fight career will most likely come with more antics, insults online, and a never ending stream of arguing over social media. However, if it brings more attention to boxing as a sport, maybe the future generations can return the competition spirit back to boxing.