News broke Wednesday that Jake Paul, the social media persona who has taken on boxing as a side hustle, along with his older brother Logan, had signed on the dotted line with Showtime.
That came as a surprise to many, being that Showtime is the stable stalwart of the industry, among platform providers. But it wasn’t a jaw-dropper, because the cabler had sent signals that it was re-thinking strategy on how to carve out a niche in the new normal of pugilism. Showtime will put together and push out a Floyd Mayweather pay per view, like they did after HBO decided to part ways with “Money,” but this one, on June 6 with Logan Paul on the other side, is an exhibition situation.
“Jake Paul, one of the most polarizing up-and-coming stars in boxing, has a new home,” wrote Marc Raimondi on ESPN.com. “The YouTuber-turned-prizefighter has a deal in place for his next boxing match to be promoted by Showtime Sports, Paul's adviser Nakisa Bidarian told ESPN on Wednesday.”
TMZ followed up with confirmation on Thursday, and they didn’t add much to the story. There’s no word on what Paul would and will make on the Showtime deal, nor on who he might fight, and when.
The ESPN story continued, “Paul's team and Showtime are in advanced talks about the potential opponent, date and location, Bidarian said. A network source confirmed the news. Paul had previously been associated with the upstart Triller Fight Club.”
Indeed he was; Paul headlined the second Triller boxing card, and he went knife through butter on ex MMAer Ben Askren, who showed up for the fight in Atlanta in full dad-bod mode.
The KO got some viral traction, and was part of a potpourri—pun intended—of skits, and Pete Davidson guerilla-style comedy, and music performances which had people talking about the show days after. The buzz wasn’t all across the board thumbs up, some people didn’t like how much music was on the four hour PPV, while others thought Paul got a gimme matchup against a dude who came for a payday, and trained like he was entering the Nathan’s hotdog eating contest.
Triller boxing boss Ryan Kavanaugh told me on Wednesday night that yes, it’s true, Triller Fight Club talked to 24-year-old Jake about options. But the fighter’s ask has risen to the point, Kavanaugh said, where it didn’t make financial sense for the newbie org.
“Jake’s team said they got offered $10M (for his next in ring appearance), with upside,” Kavanaugh told BLH. Jake has gone on record as saying that Dana White and the UFC have talked to him about fighting under that umbrella, and, Kavanaugh said, the Jake crew didn’t tell him who floated to $10M figure. “And so we said, ‘We don’t want to hold you back, we wish you good luck.’’
Kavanaugh didn’t seem close to crushed at the word Jake, 3-0 as a pro boxer, will be playing his trade elsewhere. He did say never say never, that he didn’t shut the door on Paul doing his thing on Triller Fight Club.
But, he made clear, he’d want a stiffer test than an Askren for J-Paul’s next assignment, and he didn’t seem too confident that the dilettante pugilist will be open to taking on harder opposition.
“We tried to look at what makes financial sense,” Kavanaugh said. “I just don’t know how anybody can make money at the level he’s asking for.”
It seems as though Triller and Jake weren’t, perhaps, on the same wavelength about what level of foe Jake might take on if he were to do a third Triller bout. Is he wanting stiffer tests, to prove his bonafides in boxing, or is he looking for an opponent with a glaring deficiency, so he can feel assured he would stay undefeated? That’s for Jake to answer moving forward, and the answer will come when we learn who he’ll scrap with on Showtime.
How to fit Jake into the mix wasn’t easily answereable for Kavanaugh, he said, when Jake showed resistance to taking a backseat on the marquee. Jake apparently didn’t get enthused when it was floated that he could support Oscar De La Hoya, who is hoping that ex UFCer Georges St Pierre will be available for what would indeed be a pretty alluring novelty pairing, or Evander Holyfield.
The ex Hollywood dealmaker knows that the April 17 gig was polarizing, and he’s inclined to lean harder into “normal” fight fare for the next production, which unspools June 19, in Miami, with Teofimo Lopez headlining. There’s a WBA world title heavyweight eliminator bout between Michael Hunter (19-1-1, 13 KOs) and Mike Wilson (21-1, 10 KOs), and a WBC International super featherweight silver championship matchup between Andy Vences (23-2-1, 12 KOs) and Ireland's Jono Carroll (19-2-1, 5 KOs) on the docket. The co-main bout will feature a four-belt undisputed super middleweight championship between WBC/WBO titlist Franchon Crews-Dezurn, who has been doing commentary for the Fightnight Live series, as she builds her brand up, and Elin Cederroos, who holds the WBA and IBF belts.
Kavanaugh is confident that some of the polarized persons will decide to buy the Lopez PPV, and they will be satisfied with their decision, because the quality of the fighting will be solid. So, there will be some bells, whistles, and frills, there will be a massing of 100 salsa dancers, and the introduction of American Idol’s Nigel Lythgoe will tighten up the visual appeal of the fight action. “We do want to shock people every time,” said Kavanaugh, but we can assume that the hijinks won’t “go to 11” on June 19 as they did April 17.
Speaking of hijinks, Triller dodged one, it could be argued, when a bad buzz stemming from some existing legal issues for Jake didn’t infect the show April 17. Media didn’t much pick up on it—I certainly didn’t, I wasn’t aware of the chatter—but Pete Davidson actually referenced some allegations that had been directed at Jake leading up to his third boxing match. He made veiled allusions while interviewing Jake during fight night, and also when talking to Askren in his locker room right before the bout, referring to 24 year old Jake Paul as a “piece of shit.”
“He has this whole following, so he thinks he can do whatever he wants, and didn't he get busted by the feds with AKs and a bunch of machine guns? Like, why isn't he in jail,” Davidson said on air.
If there is no more dirty laundry to be aired out, then a suitor like Showtime could feel as fortunate as Triller that they didn’t get tainted in the process. If not, then the roll of the dice on this Paul play could yield a downside dividend.
On social media, there is speculation at what Showtime has in mind. Me, I enjoyed Jake’s hat snatch on Floyd Mayweather at the presser to bang the drums for the June 6 Floyd Mayweather/Showtime PPV which has Floyd doing an exhibition match with Logan Paul, Jake’s older bro, at age 26.
But cynics are thinking that it will be more WWE than anything else on June 6, that the whole exhibition will be story-boarded, while being sold as real-deal.
Could we picture a play where 44-year-old Floyd takes out big bro, and lil bro comes out to avenge the honor of the Paul family? That would make the Showtime Paul play more understandable, I guess.
And here’s a suggestion for a foe for Jake: how about Jake Paul versus Jeff Mayweather, uncle to Floyd Mayweather? Jeff Mayweather is 56 years old, last gloved up in 1997, held a 32-10 record, and is still in good shape.
Kavanaugh says the fights he’s putting on June 19 will pass the purity test for boxing fans, the people who aren’t so much looking for a variety show type of cavalcade. “In between the fight, there will be performances, not long ones, and they will be organically connected to the fight,” he said. “People won’t be waiting for the next fight to come on. We didn’t and don’t want to just do another ‘Jake event.’ We did that, to show the young audience that boxing is cool. So for the next one, we will get plenty of those young people, and the purists. Many purists weren’t so happy with the Jake fight, and this event will make up for it. At the end of day, I’m happy for Jake, and this maybe also shows that Showtime is saying Triller isn’t crazy. We appreciate you saw what we saw, but, frankly, we don’t see what you see now, we don’t think the economics works.”
Reading in between the lines, it feels like maybe Jake was thinking that the last event succeeded because it was fueled by him, and Kavanaugh and company are more so of the mind that the show as a whole was and will be the draw moving forward. The Triller front man went on record after the Askren rubout and admitted he didn’t think Askren took the challenge seriously. Jake’s asking price shot up like Dogecoin, like he had knocked out prime Mike Tyson, not dad bod Ben.
Now, it’ll be up to Showtime, apparently, to incorporate Jake into their mix. “I told Jake after the show, we had a great show, we made ‘The American Meme,’ but next we’re not doing that,” Kavanaugh said. “We’ve got the young kids, but we’ve got to keep the boxing purists or there’s the danger we fizzle out. And we ain’t going nowhere! I think we’ll set new records this year.”