Look at Jake Paul stepping up his competition — in name recognition in the fight world at least.
The social media influencer turned pugilist has moved deftly through his professional fighting career. He started with the first-round knockout of a YouTube star, AnEsonGib. He then knocked out former NBA guard Nate Robinson — famous for needing 15 attempts in a dunk contest and tackling J.R. Smith. Paul then knocked out Ben Askren nowhere close to fast as Jorge Masvidal did.
Most recently Paul took on a real former combat sports champion, Tyron Woodley. The former UFC Welterweight Champion made Paul look vulnerable for the first time in his career. Paul won the first fight by split decision, and then he won some real respect as a fighter when he knocked Woodley out in the rematch.
It appears that Paul has settled on his next opponent, the biggest name of his short professional career. The opponent is still not a true professional boxer, but he is one of the most legendary fighters to ever hit another human being in exchange for money. According to multiple outlets, Paul will be fighting Anderson Silva — UFC record holder for most consecutive victories — in October. Combat sports insider Ariel Helwani tweeted out that discussions are serious, but nothing is final.
Silva has fought two professional boxing matches since leaving the UFC. He defeated former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Tito Ortiz, who is also a former Huntington Beach, Calif. mayor. Then in his second fight, Silva took on an actual former professional boxing champion, Julio César Chávez Jr. The son of the legend whose name he bears had a successful career of his own with 59 wins, six losses, and once held the WBC Middleweight Championship. He missed weight for his December bout with Silva and still lost by split decision.
When Silva was winning those 16 fights in a row in the UFC, at the time he was the greatest striker that the sport had ever seen. He dodged opposing strikes like Roy Jones Jr. and Muhammad Ali, and while his nickname is The Spider, Silva would strike like a cobra.
As great as he was, time eventually comes for everyone. Once he got knocked out in the octagon against Chris Weidman in 2013 and broke his leg in the rematch the legend was no more. He fought in the UFC for eight more years but only recorded one victory.
This new success he’s having as a boxer is a testament to Silva’s skill level, but he’s 47 years old. Chávez Jr. is younger than him, but at 36 he’s fought professionally more than 60 times. Paul does not have anywhere near the pedigree of Chávez Jr. or Silva, but he’s only 25 years old.
A 22-year age difference. Again, a great choice by Paul. Most boxers early in their careers participating in these six-to-eight round fights are people whose names have zero cache. Paul was already a star, although he has been accused of bullying in the workplace and sexual assault during that time in his career which he denies. His career transition into getting punched in the face for a living was strange, but it made him a draw immediately. As he and his team carefully choose his opponents while he gradually improves, he can make large amounts of money in the early stages of his career by fighting people with a name, who also aren’t likely to hurt him in the ring.
Silva, however, does pose a legitimate threat to Paul’s undefeated record. He’s the first person Paul is facing up against that can literally look him in the eye. Woodley was good, but he’s only 5-foot-9. Part of Robinson’s fame comes from his lack of height, and Askren also doesn’t crack the six-foot barrier. Silva is 6-foot-2 and won professional fights at a 205-pound weight limit.
If Silva was 38 years old, with the same two professional boxing wins under his belt, I’d think that Paul was in trouble. But being that Silva is not a boxer, and he’s pushing 50, I don’t see victory in The Spider’s future.
This fight is most certainly a step up in competition for Paul, but it’s the perfect choice. A win here and Paul takes another giant leap forward in credibility for again beating someone who’s not a professional boxer, and in this case, is closer to AARP age than the prime of his career.
Paul is setting the blueprint for anyone who is famous enough to make a lot of money without getting hit in the face, to make as much money as possible going from living the life of a social media star to the life of a fighter. Good for him I guess.