Hey, whaddya know?
It’s the penultimate Tuesday in 2021’s boxing reality.
Yes, that reality.
The one that’s been overtaken by the likes of Jake Paul.
Love it or loathe it, the bratty Ohioan and his wannabe older brother have become the straws that stir the in-ring drink.
Don’t think so? Still refusing to believe it?
Ask yourself a simple question.
Of all the high-profile boxing shows this year, which have generated the most buzz?
And by buzz, we’re talking not just PPV buys – but also the sort of high-profile product placement that yields live remote commentaries on ESPN while it also generates chatter in the office lunchroom.
Here’s a hint, it’s not anyone whose name can be found in the Ring rankings.
And if that doesn’t tell you something, it should.
Rightly or wrongly, fairly or unfairly, wisely or stupidly, people like this stuff. They’re intrigued by it. They’re entertained by it. They want to hear more about it. And they’re willing to pay to see it again.
Whether Jake Paul can work the mitts or Logan can skip a rope is immaterial to them.
They simply want to watch.
The younger man’s first defeat of Tyron Woodley five months ago apparently racked up around a half-million buys, and Showtime’s clip of his Saturday night vaporization of the ex-UFC champ already has better than 8 million views as I type this on a frigid Tennessee morning less than 36 hours later.
That’s the resonance that used to be reached routinely by guys named Mayweather and Tyson.
Meaning when you take an influencer’s existing cache and meld it with a top-shelf public relations apparatus – like the Showtime Sports conglomerate and its myriad branded tentacles – it’s a match made in short-attention span Millennial heaven.
Leaving “real” fighters wishing, at least when it comes to bank balances, they were them.
Or at least wishing to hang around them long enough to get their own names out there.
Amanda Serrano, Miriam Gutierrez, Liam Paro and Yomar Alamo were prime weekend examples.
All are more accomplished fighters than Jake Paul.
But none were the star of the show, nor the reason most fans came to downtown Tampa.
The venue in which they fought on Saturday night – corporately dubbed Amalie Arena, for those who keep track of such things – was pulsating with a Paul-created energy.
A 10-foot robot giving fist bumps. Bratty TikTok personalities drawing heat upon emerging from backstage. Incessant chanting about whatever topic could be crammed into four melodic syllables.
Not to mention, of course, the requisite fight in the stands.
And unlike many of the crowds you’d typically see at a fight venue, this one skewed young.
Or at least far younger than BoxingScene hero Jake Donovan (alongside whom I sat) and I.
Which, depending on your point of view, may mean society is doomed or that any fight crowd is a good fight crowd, particularly if all 18,000 of them – outside of the Tampa Bay Lightning players camped in front of the press table, that is – paid at least 40 bucks to get through the door and at least that much more to get the Problem Child T-shirts they snapped up upon arrival.
After all, Team Paul isn’t selling Ali-Frazier or Leonard-Hearns or even Mayweather-Pacquiao.
They’re selling a spectacle. A circus. A break from reality.
Or a farce if you prefer.
But they’ve done their homework. They know their audience. And they delivered exactly what it sought.
Naturally, it leaves the legit boxing fan feeling one of two ways.
Either they beat their chests and insist no one actually pays attention to this nonsense – you know, kind of like they did about the UFC so many years ago – or they recoil in fear at the specter of their sport being overrun by grudge matches between fundamentally bereft social media celebrities.
Truth is, it’s probably somewhere closer the middle.
The market for this stuff is hot right now. And Saturday didn’t hurt.
Neither guy was a title contender, but it was an evenly matched scrap with a viral ending that, had it happened in a “real” boxing match, would gain instant KO of the Year votes.
So if you wanted to see Jake Paul in competitive peril, you did.
But if you wanted to see him lose, you didn't.
Paul has gotten his stiffest in-ring tests from an aging Woodley, but gutted out a decision in the first one and showed legitimate technique and pop in finishing the second one.
"Jake Paul just put the wood in Woodley, rendering him stiff as a board," Showtime's Mauro Ranallo bellowed from ringside. "What a punch. What a knockout.”
In the aftermath, he’s got a laundry list of would-be foils for the next one.
And the longer he stays successful, the longer the momentum will last.
But it won’t be forever. Nothing ever is.
He’ll win a couple more. He’ll eventually lose a few. People will enjoy it, then they’ll get bored and start sniffing around for the next ridiculous diversion.
Gymnastics on ice skates. Full-contact bowling. Obstacle courses with live ammunition.
Ultimately, when it comes to boxing, the craving for authenticity will win out.
But in the meantime, buckle up. We’re in for an unconventional 2022.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
No title fights scheduled.
This week’s trash title-fight schedule:
WBA “world” minimum title – Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Victorio Saludar (champion/No. 5 IWBR) vs. Erick Rosa (No. 1 WBA/Unranked IWBR)
Why it’s trash: OK, we’ll concede. Rosa may be one of those guys. He may be a truly world-class operator after four fights and worthy of title recognition soon. But if you like him and you want to put a belt on him, make it a valid one. The only WBA title at 105 pounds worth winning isn’t Saludar’s to lose.
Last week's picks: 3-1 (WIN: Niyomtrong, Inoue, Beterbiev; LOSS: Mendez)
2021 picks record: 52-17 (75.3 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,208-392 (75.5 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.