It’s a stretch to say that Jake Paul was a changed man after his convincing, unanimous-decision win over Nate Diaz in Saturday’s catchweight boxing match in Dallas. He was still the same cocky salesman after punishing the UFC legend for 10 frames, including a fifth-round knockdown.
But whereas he entered Saturday’s bout eyeing a future boxing match and massive payday against Conor McGregor — once calling it ‘inevitable’ — he didn’t even want to hear the Irishman’s name after his win.
‘I don’t care about that guy. He needs to go to rehab,’ Paul said, leveling a cryptic dig against the troubled McGregor, who has denied rape allegations as he aims to return from injury in 2024.
‘I want Nate in MMA,’ Paul (7-1) continued, repeating his offer to face Diaz in what would be his first MMA bout. ‘I want more professional boxers and I want [Saul] Canelo [Alvarez].’
On its surface, the statement sounds farcical (does he really think he can outduel Canelo?). But for a former YouTuber and Disney star fighting for legitimacy as a boxer, it’s a sign of progress: Maybe he doesn’t need to fight McGregor after all.
Jake Paul has plenty to be pleased about after his win against Nate Diaz on Saturday night
Paul delivered 10 rounds of action and knocked the UFC legend down in the fifth in his victory
Paul dismissed any suggestion of taking on Conor McGregor in the aftermath of his fight
‘Nate was the toughest person I’ve fought yet for sure,’ Paul told reporters in the early hours of Sunday morning. ‘Just getting more and more comfortable in the ring. Learning to box, learning to slow things down… that experience is priceless.’
On paper, the Paul-Diaz matchup wasn’t an obvious choice for boxing fans. Who among us truly cared if a 30-something former MMA star could out-box a YouTuber with seven career bouts, only one of which was against a career pugilist?
So to give Saturday’s fight some juice, Paul added his customary dash of sophomoric chest thumping: He flipped off Diaz fans, whom he dismissed as ‘virgins’ at Friday’s weigh-in – and again after the fight – and painted his opponent as an unprofessional stoner.
‘Like, what kind of example is that to set to everyone, just smoking all the f***ing time?’ Paul asked of Diaz earlier in the week.
Throw in the brawl between their respective camps at Thursday’s press conference, and presto chango, Paul-Diaz had the kind of schoolyard atmosphere we’ve come to expect from crossover fights and ‘influencer’ boxing — a loaded term that has haunted The Problem Child.
The exact definition is tough to pin down, but to hardcore fight fans, it’s a warning: Boxing without boxers.
The controversial subgenre encompasses a wide spectrum. Anyone from novice professionals, like Paul, to breast-baring OnlyFans models can be considered to be an influencer boxer.
Paul admits his first few fights fell under the ‘influencer’ label, but he made a point to distance himself from the term on Tuesday.
Paul is still the cocky salesman that he needs to be – but is improving as a fighter as well
Paul said that his showdown with Diaz was the hardest fight of his career so far
‘I’m not in the YouTube boxing world,’ Paul told reporters. ‘That whole crazy, tag-team style stuff, influencers versus influencers – that was my first fight three and a half years ago. I’m not in that world. My cards are filled with world champions, the best of the best and highest levels of competition. And that’s what I think others should do.’
If anything, Paul’s lone defeat — February’s split-decision loss to cruiserweight Tommy Fury — proved he can hang with a well-trained boxer. Tyson’s 24-year-old half brother has spent half his life in the ring, whereas the 26-year-old Paul put on the gloves in the last five years.
Going the distance, scoring a knockdown and winning on one of three judges’ cards against Fury was a step in the right direction. Winning a 10-round decision against Diaz is even better.
‘The loss, seriously, was the best thing,’ Paul said early Sunday morning. ‘It sent me on the path that I was supposed to be on. You can’t cut corners in this sport. I was in the gym the day after the loss, flew back from the middle east, I was in the gym every single day until this fight because I knew I was going to come back and get back stronger.’
But for all of his legitimate progress as a fighter, it was still a big ask to charge $59.99 for the Paul-Diaz PPV.
Only one week earlier, boxing fans shelled out $84.99 for Terence Crawford’s dazzling welterweight-title victory over another undefeated champion, Errol Spence Jr. And to anyone who watched Bud Crawford’s clinical win, he and Paul are simply in different lines of work. Calling both Crawford and Paul ‘pay-per-view boxers’ is like saying the Denver Nuggets and Washington Generals are all pro basketball players.
Of course, experience and ability aren’t everything in boxing. McGregor had never boxed professionally before stepping in the ring with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2017, and he still earned a whopping $130 million for his doomed effort against an invincible foe.
That crossover matchup still ranks second in PPV history with $390 million in TV revenue and paved the way for MMA stars like Diaz to make their own seven-figure paydays in the ring (Saturday’s pauses have not yet been revealed).
But unlike Paul-Diaz, Mayweather-McGregor benefited from the former’s reputation as a boxer and the curiosity of seeing UFC’s greatest star in the ring.
Yet, despite Paul’s limited boxing resume, Saturday was an unqualified success.
Paul showed signs of his legitimate progress as fighter in his victory against Diaz
Diaz took plenty of punishment but Paul wants to take him on again in the future
The matchup generated $3.1 million at the gate, which is the second most for any combat sporting event in American Airlines Center history. And judging by that crowd, which was standing throughout much of the night, Paul’s Most Valuable Promotions should expect solid PPV sales, surpassing the reported 200,000 purchases he did for his bout with Fury.
For Paul — both the promoter and the boxer — that is a genuine accomplishment.
It’s hard to envision him ever generating Mayweather-McGregor’s profits, but on Saturday in Dallas, his product was much more watchable than the eminently disappointing 2017 crossover bout, which was hindered by persistent clinching.
Paul-Diaz didn’t have any of that. Instead, it gave fans exactly what they paid for. And if that’s Paul’s ultimate legacy as a fighter, it’s something he can be proud of.