The 25-year-old internet bad boy is riding his brashness to seven-figure paydays as a fighter and promoter – with more to come.
IIt’s the eve of the most important fight in women’s boxing history, but the center of attention is Jake Paul. Holding court onstage at the Hulu Theater in Madison Square Garden, wearing an all-beige Gen Z-approved outfit and pink lace-up sneakers, he sits across from famed boxing promoter Eddie Hearn. Although Hearn has worked with some of the biggest names in the sport – Canelo Álvarez, Anthony Joshua and Gennady Golovkin – audience members are more interested in what Paul has to say. In particular, who he plans to fight next.
A fan rattles off the names of potential opponents. “I don’t know who these people are, like any of them,” Paul said. “Everyone has to line up. I think everyone wants to beat me to be the person who knocks out Jake Paul and make a lot of money.
There is undoubtedly a long line of people who would love to knock Paul out, and some who would do it for free. A prominent member of the first wave of artists to achieve online-only fame and notoriety, the brash and arrogant Paul, 25, has amassed a list of reasons why people don’t like him. He has twice been charged with sexual assault, publicly denying the first allegation and calling it “100% false”. (Paul’s representatives declined to comment on the charges and no charges have been filed.) The FBI raided his home in 2020 after video showed him in a mall being pillaged (charges dropped). He called Covid-19 a “hoax”.
His internet antics, which included lighting bonfires in an empty swimming pool and dirt bike racing on the streetsattracted one type of fan and repelled others, including Disney, who fired him from his TV show Bizaardvark. Paul’s Team 10, a reality project featuring influencers living in the same house, has racked up a long list of complaints, including exploitation of participants, a charge that Paul denies. In 2017, Paul’s older brother Logan, a controversial YouTuber in his own right, uploaded the infamous “Suicide Forest” video, which claimed to show a dead body hanging in the woods, and Jake was swept away in the fallout. “No one wanted to work with us,” Paul told a Interview posted on YouTube. “My life was practically wasted.”
None of this stopped him. Paul is proof that being a bad boy can pay off. He seems to have found his niche, and less than three years after his first professional fight, Paul has transformed from a shock content internet star into a boxing force and, he’d like you to believe it, the future Sport.
Hate him a lot or hate him a little, it works: Paul, who lives in Puerto Rico, is the 46th highest-paid athlete in the world, according to Forbes, having earned $38 million before tax in the last 12 months. His two fights during this period earned him around $30 million, although he still has never fought a professional boxer.
“That doesn’t make any sense, but hey, that’s what it is, right?” Paul tells of his astronomical earnings. “People want to see the fights, I guess, and the money comes with that.”
Click here for full coverage of Forbes’ list of highest-paid athletes.
For once, he shows modesty. With over 60 million social media followers and a penchant for hurling catchy insults at boxing’s biggest names, Paul has injected the kind of desperately needed viral attention into a sport trying to break through with young fans. . Now, in partnership with former UFC chief financial officer Nakisa Bidarian, he’s using his company, Most Valuable Promotions, to reshape boxing standards.
It is already paying dividends. Paul teamed up with Hearn to stage what would become the most successful women’s fight ever, a sold-out event between Amanda Serrano and Katie Taylor at The Garden in April that paid both fighters over $1 million. dollars each.
“This is just the beginning, and I love proving you wrong, and I will continue to prove you wrong.”
Bad behavior is not an obstacle to notoriety in boxing. If Jake Paul turns out to be exactly what the sport needs, and it looks like he is, it won’t be despite his attacking nature. It will be because of that.
The fact that Paul rose to fame as an unsavory internet prankster might be one reason the boxing community has been so reluctant to accept him. “Certainly a lot of people still see him as a gimmick,” says Will Harvey, head of boxing at 258 Management, which works with boxers like Joshua and WBO heavyweight champion Lawrence Okolie. He adds, “There are a lot of fighters who are way more talented than Jake who work for years, decades sometimes. I just think they don’t appreciate the fact that he was able to get to the top and make so much money so quickly.
While not impossible, it’s unusual for professional boxers to learn the sport in their twenties. It is a discipline that requires years of mental and physical training, as well as rehearsals for matches. Although Paul has improved, experts remain divided on how far he can go. Both Oscar De La Hoya and Joe Rogan called Paul the real deal. Hearn isn’t so convinced.
“He’s not terrible, but he’s not very good,” said Hearn, chairman of UK sports promotion company Matchroom. He “will never be a world champion, will never be a world class fighter, will never be able to compete with someone who is even close to world level. But I’ve seen worse.
Paul’s entry into boxing was not for the love of the game; it was opportunistic. His internet career was on the skids when, in 2018, British YouTuber KSI and his brother, Deji, called Paul and his brother, Logan. With no previous boxing experience, Paul defeated Deji by TKO and, he says, “fell in love with the sport.” He turned pro 17 months later and beat fellow YouTuber AnEsonGib. Then Paul picked up four more wins, three over MMA veterans that featured eight-figure paydays. An ESPN Ringside poll dubbed his most recent fight, against former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley in December, the “Knockout of the Year.”
“This is just the beginning, and I love proving you wrong, and I’ll keep proving you wrong, and hop on the train or get the hell out because you’re gonna get run over,” said Paul. “I’m hungry, I’m motivated and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop me.”
Paul could not have timed his arrival better. Boxing has taken a hit from the pandemic, causing promoter revenues to plummet 47% in 2020 to $236 million, according to a report by IBISWorld. Big name companies such as Mayweather Promotions, Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank have all applied for PPP loans from the government to keep the lights on.
For years, the limitations of the pay-per-view model limited exposure to new fans, so much so that declining ratings prompted HBO to put an end to its 45 years of association with boxing in 2018. But the emergence of new media platforms eager to reshape the business and a growing global audience have breathed new life into boxing, and the sport is gaining traction with younger fans thanks to crossovers of the pop culture, like Paul, who was more recognizable boxing fans than megastars like Álvarez, Joshua and Golovkin, according to a May 2021 Harris Poll. It’s also a hotbed of shareable, short-form internet content. Paul’s Conor McGregor’s blasphemous challenge a year ago generated nearly five million views on YouTube, and his knockout of Woodley more than doubled that figure.
An incredible ability to attract attention created another opportunity for Paul. Previously, he hired Bidarian as an advisor for his boxing career and other business deals. When Paul’s wins started piling up and the money poured in, he figured he could produce the same kind of attention for other fighters. The couple founded Most Valuable Promotions in 2021.
After meeting Serrano in her pro debut—she was on the undercard—Paul signed her as the first MVP fighter (apart from himself), and he later added rising star Ashton Sylve. MVP had mixed results on the pay-per-view promoting Paul’s last two fights, but Serrano’s match with Taylor was a resounding success, with 19,187 spectators packing the Garden for the event and DAZN announcing 1.5 million viewers tuned in worldwide. Not that he deserves 100% of the credit, but Paul’s aptitude for marketing is hard to ignore. “This fight would have never been more important if Jake Paul hadn’t been involved,” said Harvey of 258 Management. “You can’t ignore the positive impact he had there.”
Yet despite what Paul says, his only focus isn’t boxing. He plays venture capital with a $15 million fund that invests in web3 developer Alchemy, blockchain game Blocktopia and Elon Musk’s edtech startup Synthesis. In the pipeline, he has another fund, this one close to $50 million, and a sports betting business he is keen to keep quiet about. Because he has severe attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Paul says, “doing a bunch of things is actually better for me.”
Paul plans to fight twice a year and aims to return to the ring on August 13, with his opponent to be announced. It will be a test of his combat and promotion prowess. Paul’s fight in December disappointed commercially and reportedly drew just 65,000 pay-per-views after Woodley became his 11th-hour opponent. Continuing to move towards his goal of becoming a “world champion, personally, just to laugh in everyone’s face,” means continuing to raise the bar.
“If I don’t win the fights and all that shit, it doesn’t matter,” Paul says. “So that comes first. »