License To Trill

Just a heads up, I’m about to say a whole bunch of stuff that sucks. And not in the way I normally say stuff that sucks. This will not be fun or funny. This will hurt. We might not be friends after this. Hopefully you will find room in your heart for forgiveness and reconciliation will one day be possible. Hoo boy, here goes…

Jake Paul is the biggest boxing star on the planet.

Calm down. Breeeeath. Let’s talk about this.

To what degree you want to consider Paul an actual fighter is up to you, but to deny that he is the most famous person who currently partakes in the act of professional prizefighting is to blindly accept an outdated role as a custodian for the sanctity of boxing, a thing which you absolutely should not do.

Boxing, as an enterprise, long ago ceased being an endeavor to determine who the best fighters are. It will always choose profit over merit and step over any bodies it has to along the way. The current business model is corrupt down to the proteins in its DNA. To impulsively attempt to safeguard the virtues of the sport by eschewing change is to help nail its corpse to the cross yourself.

And buddy, trust me, I get it. For long-suffering fans of a sport largely ignored by mainstream media outlets to have its time in the sun come at the hands of a few Gen Z dipshits with sub-novice skills is a tough pill to swallow. But as Jake Paul prepares to step into the ring on a Triller broadcast card this Saturday against someone or something called Ben Askren, relegating accomplished, champion-caliber boxers to undercard status, there are a two things to I want you to keep in mind:

  1. This shit isn’t going anywhere. Might as well get used to it.
  1. There is clearly money to be made from boxing. If traditional promotional models can’t figure out how to make it, don’t expect Triller and other newcomers to jog in place and wait for them to catch up.

I’ve been trying myself to figure out what bugs me so much about this stuff. How come people I hate all of a sudden infiltrating a thing I enjoy causes me so much cognitive dissonance? You’d think with all the horror currently infesting our world there would be far more important things to obsess over but apparently it’s Jake fucking Paul that keeps me up at night. I have emotional issues, I know. But here’s what I’ve come up with.

First, there’s a very punk rock mentality boxing fans share about this sport. As much as we tell ourselves that this isn’t a niche sport, it very much is. Constantly having to defend it and do its bidding online builds a cosa nostra type of camaraderie. Having outsiders come along and piggyback onto our thing feels unearned and seeing them succeed stings like hell.

Second, and most importantly, this perceived infiltration forces boxing fans to face our hypocrisies and come to terms with our logical fallacies. No matter how much righteous indignation you’ve mainlined over the years, getting called on your shit still sucks.

Let’s take a look at a few of these cognitive duplicities and see if we can’t find a way out of this self-made labyrinth of epistemological pluralism. We don’t have to love our new Triller overlords but we can at least learn to live with them.

“I want the fighters to make as much money as possible”

Most boxing fans are Marxists, even if you can’t get them to admit it. We’re a working-class, proletarian sort and we want the money to go to those that earned it, if for no other reason than it keeps it out of the ghoulish hands of promoters and sanctioning bodies. Fighters put their lives on the line and they should reap the benefits of those risks.

Apparently though, this courtesy isn’t extended to Triller fighters such as Jake Paul. We’ve decided that they haven’t yet “earned” the right to be properly compensated for getting their beans knocked from side to side. After all, who are these guys to come along and bring in dump trucks full of cash by doing a thing none of us have the balls to try and actually want the  commensurate compensation we demand for “real” fighters who can’t sell out a yard sale? Truly ridiculous.

So really, we want fighters to make as much money as possible but only within the exact specific parameters which we’ve outlined in our heads.

Having a worldview requires consistency and that can sometimes be uncomfortable. But if you want to be pro-worker and support fighters, then that has to extend to all fighters, not just the ones we deem worthy. Wantonly choosing to withhold proper payment from workers makes you a member of the bourgeoisie, or even worse: a promoter.

“I respect any man who steps through the ropes”

I don’t care if you’re fighting at Madison Square Garden or behind the local Chili’s, getting punched in the head is getting punched in the head. And guess what? It fucking sucks.

We ascribe a sort of mythical pain tolerance to those who fight for our amusement. We trade their bravery for our respect and I can tell you right now who’s getting the short end of that deal. A future of pudding cups and flash cards in exchange for the adulation of demanding strangers? No thanks, pal.

But fighters are a different breed and as much as we joke around at their expense, there is an intense admiration all of us feel for the fighters we watch day in and day out. So why then do we get to minimize and ridicule the efforts of Triller and gamers who climb through the ropes? Sure, the quality is lowered but the risk is still very much the same. Any grown man or woman who gets hit in the head by another better be on good terms with the laws of physics or shit can go wrong rather quickly.

Just because someone can’t hook off the jab or grapevine a jump rope doesn’t mean their fights are any less dangerous. Remember that thing we said about having a worldview? It unfortunately applies to dipshits too.

“Jake Paul would get annihilated by a ‘real’ fighter”

This is a classic “yeah, no shit” situation but people always feel the need to bring it up. You could take any top 100 ranking of whatever weight class he fights in (don’t tell me, I don’t care) and throw a dart at the bottom half and whomever you landed on would eat his soul inside of four rounds. That’s how experience works.

But wanna know something? There’s these people called matchmakers and their entire job is to, get this, make matches. They do this based on an intricate knowledge of fighters’ skill level and career trajectory. A lot of the “Put Jake Paul in with _____ and see how he does” crowd might as well just be saying “Put a baby in with a woodchipper.” Not much of a fight but more importantly, a terrible business decision for fans of the baby.

Jake Paul’s participation in professional boxing is a money-making venture, full stop. Getting vaporized by an accomplished fighter with 20 years of experience on him ends that endeavor in rather swift fashion.

So yeah, Jake Paul gets lit up by a “real” fighter but he also won’t because it’ll never happen. It’s  a classic Schroedinger’s Ass-Kicking.

“Jake Paul isn’t a ‘real’ fighter himself”

How do you wanna approach defining what constitutes a “real” fighter? Is it number of fights? Hours in the gym? Level of CTE? By any metric you choose, you end up at the uncomfortable position of begrudgingly accepting Jake Paul as a fighter. But let’s break it down anyway.

If you wanna say “well he only has two pro fights” wanna know who else only had two pro fights at one point? Every single god damn fighter ever. I doubt you’d watch a guy making his pro debut on an undercard and have the nuts to tell him he’s not a real fighter. Try it sometime and let me know how you plan to piss with your dong punched up into your asshole.

At what point in someone’s development do they cross the threshold into “real” fighter status? Is there a certain number of push-ups or rounds sparred where you get a membership card into the club? That’s literally the hairs people are trying to split here. Jake Paul isn’t good at boxing but he clearly has trained a lot and showed improvement between his two fights. Yeah, he’s fighting other goons in what amounts to a bit of a freakshow, but he’s putting in the work. He’s running the miles and taking the punches. That’s all you can ask of him or any fighter.

He may not ever earn the respect of hardcore fight fans but I promise you that’s not his goal. If you want to say he’s not an actual fighter, you’re gonna have to drop that same distinction on a lot of people you may not realize. There’s a lot of things Jake Paul isn’t, but unfortunately a fighter isn’t one of them.

So yeah, this shit sucks and I hate that I just clacked out 1700 words defending it. But know that this is for the greater good. This is for your mental health. This sport can drive you insane if you let it and the shifting tides can drag you out to sea. If there’s any lesson to take away from this smash and grab looting of boxing’s coffers by millennial goofballs it’s maybe not to take this, or any, sport too seriously.

Like what you like and like it on your own terms. Don’t let anyone tell you how to enjoy boxing. If Jake Paul fights excite you, dive in with both feet. If some crusty old-timer tells you this isn’t real fighting like back in the old days, be sure to wave to them as the train passes them by.

There’s very little you can control in this life. Your enjoyment of something as silly as boxing happens to be one of them. Go nuts.