In his first fight against a "real boxer," Jake Paul failed to emerge victorious, falling by split-decision loss to Tommy Fury on Feb. 26 in Saudi Arabia. After building his record to 6-0 with victories over a fellow YouTuber, a former NBA player and three former UFC fighters, critics wanted to see Paul -- who ahead of this fight asserted that he could become a boxing champion -- against another boxer.
"As long as I stay inspired and continue to be in love with this sport and how rigorous it is, then I can become a world champion," Paul told ESPN.
If he's serious about wanting to compete for championships, now after a loss Paul needs to put in the work. Paul's loss to Fury wasn't solely due to his lack of skill, experience or know-how. Being gifted with exceptional punching power is a blessing and a curse. Paul suffered from what I call "Punchersidis," having the ability to punch but depending too heavily on it while abandoning boxing principles and fundamentals.
Paul tried hard to knock out Fury, and in boxing you don't try to knock out an opponent because the more you try, the more your punches become telegraphed and readable. An experienced puncher adapts to the flow of the fight before making his move, setting up his power naturally. Paul wasted tons of energy searching for the knockout and he became predictable. A boxer with Fury's experience quickly recognized the attack pattern as Paul would enter the midrange behind a jab, slightly change levels while simultaneously shuffling his feet with his head lowered, followed by his famous overhand right. It reached a point where Fury started noticing the difference in level and attempted to time Paul on his way in with his right uppercut.
But that wasn't all that was haunting Paul. Fury's lateral movement presented problems for Paul, whose comprehension of distance isn't a strong suit. To corner a fleet-footed boxer requires basic tactical and technical knowledge of how to cut off the ring. Paul lacked the tactical skill to maneuver and to corner Fury into his power. Everything tactical in boxing doesn't necessarily involve throwing a punch. Positioning and being at the right place at the right time can uphold an enforcer. It also can help a fighter work less to gain an advantage.
Fury and his team need to get credit -- they did their homework. The loss wasn't all Paul's fault; it also had a lot to do with what Fury was doing. Fury started fast straight out of the gate, jumping on Paul before he could even get warmed up. This tactic immediately made Paul frantic, forcing him into his usual high guard and trying to tie-up. Fury's quick get-off combination allowed him to pile up points. The response from Paul (tying up) allowed Fury to evade any counterattacks and put him in a safe position.
With that all said and done, and eight more rounds of experience under his belt, can Paul win a rematch? Here are a few things he must do, from improving the way he sets up his punches to adding new ones and learning how to use the ring to his advantage.
How can Jake win the rematch?
Straighten the right cross: Paul can start by throwing a straight right cross instead of looping it. He can also throw it more to the body. Paul put too much emphasis on the head and not nearly enough on Fury's body. Shortening his right cross could be effective, especially with this setup. It's all in the feet, and requires timing Fury's attacks. Paul must use Fury's aggression against him by laying a trap. He can do that by anticipating Fury's punches with a quick step back, distributing his weight onto his back leg and releasing his right hand as Fury comes forward.
Jab, jab, jab: Paul was able to produce a knockdown from a stiff inside jab in Round 8. He needs to apply more of that moving forward. Just because a fighter is taller, and may possess a longer reach like Fury, doesn't mean you can't win the jab battle. As Paul saw, jabbing from different slots is a valuable tool. He must vary the speed of his jab, changing level, and use it to occupy the space between him and Fury. The jab will also assist in controlling Fury's rhythm, disrupt his timing and help set up Paul's power punches.
Add an uppercut to the repertoire: The uppercut is one of the more effective punches in boxing. When perfectly timed and thrown on the inside, it's a punch that's hard for an opponent to see. Fury isn't the best when fighting on the inside, but he will elect to grab and hold, and when he reaches out there is an opening between his guards. While I am at it, I will give Paul another tip to fight on the inside: Instead of reaching out to grab and tie up himself, he should tuck in his elbows and hands, pulling both close to his centerline to keep his hands free from being tied up or grabbed. That will allow him to work his short punches on the inside freely, including the uppercut.
Cut off the ring: Paul needs to be a leader and not a follower by cutting off the ring. There are different ways to make the squared circle seem smaller for an opponent.
Paul must take a crash course on cutting off the ring and cornering Fury more often than never. Punching toward the location, Paul has to be ahead of Fury as he moves right or left until he has him cornered or near the ropes. Taking away Fury's advantage, his feet movement, is critical if Paul wants to avenge his defeat.
Implement slip-counters: Slip-counters provide shelter as a fighter uses his opponent's thrown punches against him. The provided coverage is only momentary, but learning how to slip and then counter will beef up a fighter's offense. Remember, a fighter with an aggressive defense usually has a prolific, dominating offense. Paul must learn to catch, slip and counter the most basic punches. He should work on slipping a jab, followed by a tailored combination for his counterattacks. He would be taking care of two things simultaneously, defense and offense, and no longer depend on his default high-guard defense.
Vary combinations: To Paul's credit, he implemented some good combinations such as the 2-1 (right cross, jab) and an occasional inside slip followed by a left hook. But he is going to have to change it up in the rematch if he is going to win. He must get creative and learn that every punch thrown need not be a hard blow. Throwaway punches, varying combinations and throwing setup punches can make Paul less predictable and more effective.
Stop moving back in a straight line: Paul tends to move back in a straight line, which allows Fury to follow him out as he retreats. Paul must learn about the two-step-back technique. It's usually one step, with an occasional two steps back, but Paul is a novice so two steps are feasible. He should practice taking two steps back and then rolling under a hook or pivoting off the line to put himself in an advantageous position to punch out safely. Fury made him pay for this mistake.
Is Paul still relevant after a loss?
Yes, more than ever because the fight was entertaining. Fury and Paul needed each other. Many doubted both and questioned whether either of them were real fighters. Their rematch will be even more electric and highly anticipated by the masses. Paul is disliked by many, but people will still pay to see him fight... or fail. However, some will pay to see him rise again. Either way, people are watching.
What we learned after the fight
I'm unsure what the sport learned, but I know what I learned. Everything in life evolves. People, businesses, relationships and even the sport I love, boxing -- for good or bad. On that Sunday, one of my daughters had a gathering at a local bowling alley with her soccer team in San Diego. And, of course, it was right around the preliminaries of the Paul-Fury fight card. The bowling alley was full of families. The music was blaring, and food and drinks passed by my eyes from where I sat while I glanced at my phone, anticipating the main event. But so were the people around me once the fight started.
Grown men and women and a few passersby were jubilant and emotion-filled during the ring announcements. As the rounds went by, a crowd of people began forming behind me, and in-between the rounds they would converse about who won the previous round. One lady asked me, "How many points does Tommy have?" Another asked me how someone judges a round.
Most people watching weren't even boxing fans. I would say not even casual fans. This fight showed me that everyone is naturally a boxing fan, and if you have the right storylines and the perfect two dance partners who demand attention, such as Jake Paul and Tommy Fury, where one portrays a villain and the other reverts to being the hero, people will pay to see the villain fall every time.