Almost as soon as Jake Paul’s company, Most Valuable Promotions, had announced the cancellation of the YouTube star’s upcoming fight and the entire card surrounding it, Paul himself took to social media – his spiritual home – to issue his own statement.
MVP’s release had criticized Hasim Rahman Jr for “deceptive and calculated” behavior and a “lack of professionalism”, and Paul echoed his sentiment that his opponent’s refusal to cut weight was to blame for the bout(s) falling through. The 25-year-old was also quick to add: “This is just another case of another professional boxer, just like Tommy Fury, who is afraid to fight me.”
Some will find the show ridiculous. The thing is: Paul might be right, in a way.
To be clear, you will never find in these pages any suggestion that a martial artist has “dunk” or intends to “dunk” another fighter. It’s a concept fans stomp on apathetically, one that bounces around electronic echo chambers and grows in credibility, sustained by ruthless criticism from rabid followers of the sport. Fighters, on the other hand, aren’t really afraid of other fighters.
So, instead of suggesting that the breakdown of Paul vs Rahman Jr. was due to any real fear in the latter, or that Fury before him was afraid of Paul, the point here is to acknowledge the cost-of-risk analysis used by each opponent of the YouTube star. To do that, one must also recognize that Paul has also always done his own cost analysis since starting his professional boxing venture in 2020. It has been an important and distinct part of his progress to 5-0, with knockouts wins over every man he have fought against.
Rahman Jr – son of former heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman – did not technically withdraw from the fight with his fellow American, nor did the man he replaced, Tommy Fury – half-brother of heavyweight champion Tyson. Rather, Rahman Jr was kicked out for failing to cut enough weight in time for a showdown at Madison Square Garden, where Fury was scheduled to box Paul, but was himself removed from the event by the YouTuber for failing to resolve issues that prevented the Brit from come in. USA.
Fury, on the other hand, had pulled out of a planned clash with Paul in December, citing illness and injury, while Rahman Jr admitted to aborting the weight cut. Could either have done more to ensure their respective battles with Paul went ahead? Fury received the benefit of the doubt in December, but Paul criticized the 23-year-old’s lack of proactivity in addressing his travel issues this summer. Meanwhile, Rahman Jr suggested last month that he was given “45 minutes” to accept the offer of a contest against Paul, lest the opportunity to box his old sparring partner elude him forever. It is possible that the 31-year-old, faced with a difficult choice and forced into a quick decision, believed his best option was to accept the fight and negotiate weight at a later date.
That decision brings us to Paul’s own cost-of-risk analysis. After weighing in at 191lbs before knocking out former UFC champion Tyron Woodley in December, Paul was contracted to fight Rahman Jr at 200lbs. He accepted a revised limit of 205lbs but would not budge when Rahman Jr suggested a clash of 215lbs. For some time, fans and critics alike have called for Paul to fight a professional boxer — dismissing his dedication to training and his victories over another YouTuber, former NBA star Nate Robinson and former MMA champions Ben Askren and Woodley. Paul’s opponents have been of increasingly impressive sporting (and martial arts) pedigree each time, though all have had weaknesses that have made them reasonable foes. Now, however, Paul is willing to fight a professional boxer – but only on his terms, and those terms may not make his chosen opponents particularly willing themselves.
Rahman Jr was presumably deemed a suitable opponent due to factors apparent to Paul’s team during the 25-year-old’s sparring sessions with his compatriot, and only with Jr’s weight advantage removed. Fury’s 7-0 record (8-0 when the fight with Paul was rescheduled) is superior to the YouTube star’s, but the Brit seems to be remembered more for his Love the island appearances than his outings in the boxing ring. Regardless, both Rahman Jr and Fury have boosted their profiles considerably without even stepping into the ring with Paul. They have done so simply through association with the 25-year-old, such is the size of his following and the strength of his influence.
And had they entered the ring with Paul? Both would have seen the biggest payday of their lives. Nor can it be argued that the reward is worth the risk of embarrassment on a global stage – which social media undoubtedly provides.
Rahman Jr could have made a more concerted effort to cut weight or he could have refrained from agreeing to the fight in the first place. The latter decision may have been publicly ridiculed by Paul, but the retort about being too big to box the social media influencer would have been widely accepted. Meanwhile, you’d think the Fury family wouldn’t entertain the idea of a “withdrawal” in this situation, but John Fury – father of Tommy and Fury – admitted he didn’t think the 23-year-old was fit to box Paul. Perhaps the elder Fury was doing his own cost analysis on behalf of his younger son. In any case, Paul was not prepared to let Tommy Fury’s delay jeopardize his event.
No fighter is truly afraid of another fighter; to suggest that is to disrespect and belittle the bravest athletes on the planet. That said, the reward isn’t always worth the risk. For some opponents, the potential to be embarrassed by a 25-year-old former Disney actor is worth millions of dollars. For others, it is not. To each his own.