Three years ago, Jake Paul, now 24, ranked among the Internet’s most popular social media influencers. He attracted some 20 million fans to his YouTube channel by posting wild videos that depicted him in outrageous form: say, riding a motorcycle into his swimming pool or setting a mattress on fire for laughs. Along the way, he’s accrued an estimated net worth of $20 million.
These days, he stands as the influencer most likely to get his clock cleaned by professional athletes.
After making it big on social media, Paul, somewhat bafflingly, decided to bulk up, get in shape and become a professional boxer. Some people think it’s just one big hoax — just another stunt to get attention. But he’s been working his way up through the ranks.
Soon after Paul won his fourth professional boxing match in a row, beating former UFC champion Tyron Woodley on Aug. 29, UFC contender Jorge Masvidal made clear that he wants to take a shot at knocking around Jake “The Problem Child” Paul. In fact, according to ESPN, he’d like to take on Jake and his brother Logan (also an online influencer, Logan gloved up for an exhibition match with Floyd Mayweather and comported himself surprisingly well).
“I’m gonna beat up all the Pauls,” Masvidal announced during “All Out,” the All Elite Wrestling pay-per-view event. “If they put money in my pocket … of course I’d like to break some Disney characters’ faces. Fighting guys like [the Pauls] is a bonus, man.”
Masvidal’s bid will hinge, weirdly enough, on whether or not Woodley gets a tattoo.
While most boxers leave rematches to management, Paul took matters into his own hands. He promised Woodley a fresh shot, so long as he gets a tattoo that reads “I love Jake Paul.” Woodley has already said he’ll get the tattoo “on my thigh or some shit.”
Why does everyone want to punch Paul (and, maybe, big brother Logan) in the head, body and face? “I think Jake is misunderstood,” his trainer BJ Flores told The Post. “He says what is on his mind. He doesn’t care what other people think. He doesn’t always do things that are politically correct and doesn’t always do things that a 4-and-0 fighter normally would” — i.e., act modestly because he is still green at the sport. “But it works for him. Jake has people coming for his scalp – and he relishes it.”
Among those who’ve taken abuse from 6-foot-1 Paul: Conor McGregor (“You’re probably beating up old dudes in a bar,” Paul said on Instagram before trashing the Irish UFC star’s wife), Canelo Álvarez (“My pay is going up and yours is going down,” Paul taunted the respected boxer on Instagram), UFC president Dana White (“You ugly bald bitch,” he crowed during the McGregor tirade) and Floyd Mayweather (during a press conference, Paul tried to steal his hat; Mayweather’s response: “I’ll kill you, motherf–ker”).
That said, Paul does not need to cop a fighter’s cap to earn his enmity. “Let’s be honest, the guy sucks,” UFC pro Uriah Hall said during a UFC press chat. “He really sucks. He humiliates what I call real athletes.” If offered the opportunity to fight him, however, Hall admitted that he would accept. “I’d say, ‘I will knock you the f–k out and thank you for the opportunity’ … And I will do it for free.”
The Cleveland-born high school dropout, who went from social media to Disney to the ring, welcomes controversy and negativity. Paul laughed hysterically when he attended a UFC fight and the crowd loudly chanted, “F–k Jake Paul! F–k Jake Paul!”
Paul was already a hot commodity on Vine when he quit high school in Westlake, Ohio, and moved to Los Angeles. That was back in 2014. He and Logan got their start by shooting funny videos at home. They used the camera that their dad gave them as a Christmas present. While in Tinseltown, things blew up. Young fans of social media dug the brothers’ rebellious antics, which led to Paul being cast on the Disney show “Bizaardvark” in 2016. He played Dirk Mann, a TV version of himself.
By 2017, though, his worlds collided. KTLA in Los Angeles sent a news truck to investigate reports that Paul and his crew were upsetting neighbors in posh Beverly Grove. The news truck pulled up to the $17,000-per-month house that Paul and fellow YouTubers were renting. Reporters became targets of T-shirts shot from a cannon before Paul and his gang jumped onto the roof of the news truck.
Soon after, he got dropped by Disney. When asked about the shenanigans, Paul told the Hollywood Reporter, “Yes, we had a furniture fire, but nobody got hurt.”
That comeuppance from Disney did not exactly temper Paul’s behavior. He appeared on a video (shot by his videographer) that showed him watching protestors looting a shopping mall after a George Floyd protest turned into an unlawful assembly (authorities charged Paul with a misdemeanor, which was later dropped).
Paul characterized COVID-19 as a hoax (he maintained that the quote was taken out of context) and threw a giant party in his Calabasas mansion as the pandemic surged. Soon after, FBI agents raided the pad in a link to the shopping mall incident. This past April, TikTok star Justine Paradise accused him of committing sexual assault against her in 2019. Paul denied the allegation.
Paul has no illusions as to the fate that fight fans desire for him. “I think most people want to see Jake Paul get knocked out,” Paul proudly told LA-based radio host Big Boy. “A lot of the world wants to see me lose. I love that. I love putting my back against the wall. It drives me during training. I just think about the things people said about me on Twitter and the comments during interviews. It drives me to be the best version of myself and to work even harder.”
Prior to Jan. 30, 2020, and his fight against British YouTuber Ali Eson Gib (which he won via technical knockout; it was Gib’s first and only pro bout), Paul had never before stepped into the sanctioned ring. Since then, he remains undefeated — admittedly against oddball opponents who include retired NBA player Nate Robinson and once middling UFC fighter Ben Askren — and is trying to establish himself as a serious pugilist. Already, he has pay-per-view appeal and a multi-fight contract with Showtime.
While Paul has sped his ascent by getting into the fight game with fame behind him — no doubt contributing to hefty purses: a reported $690,000 for his third fight and $2 million for the most recent one — he is clearly doing what is required to succeed.
Yet to take on a serious boxing opponent (MMA requires different skill sets than boxing does), he has still managed to beat at least two fighters with much more experience.
He seems to make up for the lack of ring time with sheer drive.
“Jake is very raw and in great shape; he sparred every single fighter I could find him,” said Flores. “There has never been a new guy like Jake who can talk the way he does and back it up. He has a lot of toughness, a lot of tenacity, a lot of physical attributes.”
What motivated Paul to don gloves and exchange blows? Amazingly, he told Big Boy, it was a desire for control: “There was a point in my life where I felt like I was fighting for everything I had — and losing. I kept getting beat up by the media.”
He continued: “When I got in the ring, I could actually control the outcome. It gave me something to fight for. The fight game proved that this kid isn’t going anywhere. I let go of the anger and the negativity. It fell off me. I fell in love with the feeling of cracking somebody in the face.”
Whatever the case, he makes it sound like boxing leaves few hours for offensive behavior. “It takes up 110 percent of my time,” Paul told Cleveland.com. “I’ve dedicated myself so much to this sport. I forget what it’s like to talk to people, be social or even go out to a restaurant.”
Despite threatening to hang up his gloves, Paul is anything but retired. His fifth fight is anticipated for the latter part of this year. Flores told The Post that we should not expect Paul to match up with a pushover who will want to do anything less than lay him out. Cakewalks are not his style: “He is a fearless, tough, crazy kid who likes to put himself to the test … He will not take a fight unless the public thinks the other guy can beat him. Jake does not do things the conventional way.”