Timothy Bradley Jr. breakdown: Can Jake Paul actually fight?

Sports

YouTube sensation-turned-boxer Jake Paul will be back in the ring Saturday for his sixth professional fight. And while he’s not fighting a “real boxer,” he will face former UFC champion Anderson Silva, who owns a victory over former middleweight champ Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

Paul (5-0, 4 KOs) has defeated a fellow YouTuber, a former NBA star and two retired MMA fighters. So the big question remains: Can Jake Paul fight?

Former two-division champion and current ESPN boxing analyst Timothy Bradley Jr. evaluates Paul’s boxing skills and gives his answer to the million-dollar question.

The spark for Jake Paul

Jake is an actor who was popular on Vine and a YouTube star, a rapper and social media influencer when he decided to take on boxing. It started back in 2018 when he had his first amateur fight against another YouTuber, Deji Olatunji. Getting the stoppage in Round 5 of that fight fueled him. Boxing is so egoistic — you’re the show. And I think Jake has always been the show. He’s also always had a tremendous work ethic, because you don’t become famous on YouTube and certain platforms if you’re not a workaholic. Jake has brought that work ethic into boxing. And he’s an athlete. That’s the most important thing — Jake is an athlete.

Success to me has a unique way of opening doors. Opportunities can be foreseen and sometimes opportunities are not. In this case, the opportunity to step in the ring was there. To me, boxing is the land of opportunity. That’s what I believe it is. It’s like, if you’ve ever been to church, when they say, come as you are, it don’t matter what race, don’t matter if you’re rich or poor, whatever. Boxing is like church. It doesn’t matter — we accept it all, from convicts, bullies, honest men, carpenters, roofers, everyone. Anyman with direction or not… but just knows how to throw those hands.

Look at the history of boxing and you’ll see guys like Rocky Marciano, Bernard Hopkins and James Toney, among others, that picked up boxing late. Even Deontay Wilder started late in the game. Jake is only four years into boxing and he has everything set up in the right way. It all starts off with the coach, BJ Flores, a former fighter, former broadcaster with an amateur pedigree. BJ is very smart, understands the game of boxing and has been around the sport for years. That right there is to Jake’s advantage. Flores is a student of the game — he knows what it takes. And he has a pupil in Jake who’s hungry and determined.


Has Jake Paul improved since his first fight?

Yes, absolutely. He has grown as a fighter.

You can always tell if a fighter is trending up or down. And the reason why I say Jake is progressing is because he has a good jab. He understands that the jab is the most important punch in boxing. There are a lot of guys who have been boxing for years who don’t understand that. It sets up everything. Defensively, he’s also gotten better. His footwork, too.

Jake understands competition and one-on-one sports — he was a wrestler in high school. He understands the good shape he has to be in, and that’s the reason why you see him not going just four rounds or six rounds. He’s going eight rounds in only his sixth professional fight.

How do you build a fighter? Let’s say you have a top prospect. Do you give him a tough wolf first? No, you give him some lambs, you don’t give him the lions right away. You’ve got to get him fights to test him just enough. Give him just enough resistance. Let him build his confidence up in the pro ranks.

That’s exactly what Jake has done in choosing his opponents. His first fight was against a YouTuber, Ali Eson Gib. He was at the same level as Jake at the time. Both were just starting out.

Then Jake moved on to facing MMA fighters. This is nothing new for boxing. I’ve seen blue-chip boxing prospects fight against MMA guys. Why did everyone have a problem with Jake doing it? Because he’s already a star.

As far as skills go, Jake is fighting to the level of his competition. He’s green, only four years into the game. He’s learning on the job. So, of course he’s not going to look like a blue-chip prospect, but is he progressing? Heck yeah. I have see a lot of progression in his work. He’s in better condition now. His body looks good. Physically he’s on point, he’s working out, he’s putting the time in the gym, taking it really seriously. He’s not one of those guys that just talks it and doesn’t put in the work. Psychologically he’s strong. Marketability is there because of his business. He understands what he has to do and how to gain attention.

Tactically he’s also getting better, because the only way you can set up that right hand that he landed against Tyron Woodley in their rematch is to understand your tactics. He used his jab. He faked down low with the jab and made Woodley look for it. Woodley stood straight up, expecting the body shot, then Jake came over the top with the right hand. Woodley never saw the punch coming. That was a setup knockout punch. That wasn’t luck. Not only that, but Jake sat down on that right hand.

He also knows how to tie up. You know how hard it is to get a fighter to tie up? Some people call it holding and whatever, but Jake understands he can get his stuff off and then tie his man up, gas him out that way. Remember, he had a wrestling background, so he understands how to close the distance and bag up an opponent. A lot of guys tie up only after they get hurt. If you do it wrong and are out of position, you get hit with shots. Jake understands that.


What does Jake do well?

His powerful right hand has a mind of his own — it’s something that every opponent will need to worry about. It’s heavy, releases quickly, is fast and he can set it up or he can just let it go. And if that thing lands, it’s going to do damage because he puts a lot of torque behind it.

To be able to land the right hand with power you need to have some good footwork, and Jake’s footwork has gotten a lot better. It’s been a work in progress, but he’s light on his feet. He can settle his feet down when he needs to. But in order to be able to line that power up, you’ve got to understand distance. You need to understand where your punch is deadly. And he seems to understand that. A lot of times fighters make the wrong decision at the wrong distance, and the opponents he has been facing lately have made mistakes and he’s made them pay for that.

“Is he a fighter? Heck yeah, he’s a fighter. He’s a tough fighter. He’s a game fighter. And he needs to be respected because anyone that gets in that ring needs to be respected.”

Timothy Bradley Jr. on Jake Paul

His footwork in general shows me that he’s an athlete. That’s extremely difficult for a green guy like him to master. But he understands that the first line of defense is your legs. The fact that he’s able to be mobile makes it even more difficult for opponents. If he’s in the ring with a puncher, that fighter has to pick up his feet and try to locate Jake. And at the same time Jake is looking to set his own traps. He’s looking to set guys up, he’s just not in there just throwing punches and throwing caution to the wind. He’s thinking. You get too close, he’ll tie you up, then he’ll push you off and he’ll use his jab. Then he’ll move again and he’ll look for his right hand.

I also like his jab because it varies. Some people think that you have got to throw a hard jab every single time, but Jake doesn’t do that. He changes the rhythm on the jab. He changes levels with the jab. He faints with the jab. He’ll stick it out there quickly and double up with the jab. Same punch, but adding different movements to it, which opens up all your other power shots — the right hands, left hooks, uppercuts and body shots.

When you have the movement with the jab, you’re able to stay on top of your opposition and also get away from shots coming your way. I like that about Jake.


Boxing style

He’s still learning, but this is what makes him so dangerous. We fighters adapt to certain rhythms. When you’ve been fighting a long time, you develop a style and a certain cadence, and you become used to a certain technique behind your offense and your defense. And then you get these guys who are learning on a job, and they haven’t really gained a rhythm or don’t have a pattern. They’re a little bit sketchy in certain areas. I can see Jake at times being a little awkward, he finds himself in certain positions and you wouldn’t think he can punch from that position, but he can and he surprises you. And the punch that you don’t see will hurt you. So, there’ll be times where Jake can be out of position and you think you’re safe. And he hits you and he hurts you.

People say Jake is knocking people out because they’re not real fighters. That his right hand is not going to knock out real fighters. Woodley’s not a real fighter? He’s not a tough guy? He’s not a guy who has been actively doing combat? Are you serious? Stop playing me. Woodley was a champion in MMA, where he was hit by some big punchers. So, what are we talking about? You get another guy in there with Woodley who is feather fisted and lands the same punch, and Woodley wouldn’t go anywhere. So can Jake Paul punch? Hell yeah, he can punch.


Where can Jake Paul improve?

Body punching. If he’s going to start fighting real boxers and he’s going to be going eight rounds with them, these fighters that he’s going to be facing have ways of surviving, ways of battling back. They have these small little nuances that he hasn’t developed yet. They’re clever and they know how to hide if they get hurt. So, hitting the body is one of those things you have to master. You want to continue to hit the body as often as possible to weaken your opponent. Not only to weaken them, but you want to take their attention so they have to bring their hands down to protect their body. No fighter, I don’t care who the hell you are, likes to get hit with body shots.

When you’re fighting against a mover, you have to know how to slow the mover down and keep him in place. To do that, you’ve got to learn how to cut off the ring and how to hit the body. When you do, one way to corral your opponent is to throw body shots. You throw to where they’re going. So if they’re moving right, you throw the left hook to the body to cut ’em off. If they’re moving left, you throw the right hand to the body to move them back.

So, body work is extremely important for Jake to keep his opponent in hitting range.

Another important element for him is defense. When you’re really good at defense, it heightens your offense. When you learn how to slip punches, those are opportunities for counters. For Jake, if he continues to grow in this area — slipping shots, weaving under shots and coming up with counters, blocking shots — little by little you start getting the craft of boxing, you start developing your own style. Offense can be defense because when you’re throwing firepower at an opponent, they have to respect it. They might try to counter, they might just cover up or they might use their legs to get out. But when you’re letting your offense go, you’re dangerous. Manny Pacquiao was brilliant at that. Fighting from angles and throwing punches unexpectedly from odd angles and throwing them with different techniques, he was a nightmare with that. I’m not trying to compare Jake Paul to Manny Pacquiao, I’m just using Pacquiao as an example.

Paul leans forward too much sometimes, but I leaned forward too. There’s no perfect style in boxing, no perfect way of fighting, and this is the beauty of boxing. Paul is developing his own dance — that’s what he’s doing. And the objective is to make sure nobody can catch on you. Once you find a guy’s timing and rhythm, you got ’em.

The left hook is another thing that Jake can improve. You can set up your right hand off of a lead left hook. It’s all about timing and positioning. He has improved his timing, but now he has to improve on his accuracy. Sometimes he can rush shots. He needs to calm down a bit there at times.

When you lead with a left hook and you miss, you’re going to cross your body and it’s really hard to hold your balance. And if you miss with a powerful hook, you are exposed. Your whole left side is available for a counter right hand, because a straight shot will beat a left hook nine times out of 10. So, I wouldn’t advise leading with a left hook unless you’ve mastered the distance and understand when to throw it. But Jake should work on that punch.


So, can Jake Paul actually fight?

I’m a critical guy. They call me Mr. Negative. And for me to say this about Jake Paul — I expect many to be completely shocked. But I really mean this: Yes, he can fight. I think he’s doing fantastic. I like what he’s doing, how he’s approaching the sport. And I like the fact that he’s bringing attention to the sport in a different way. Maybe there are fans who didn’t like boxing before and the fact that he’s doing it now, they like watching it now.

So, again, is he a fighter? Heck yeah, he’s a fighter. He’s a tough fighter. He’s a game fighter. And he needs to be respected because anyone who gets in that ring needs to be respected.

I know some serious, hard, old-school men who won’t step foot in that ring. It takes a certain attitude, a certain type of heart, a certain type of mind. You just can’t get in that ring just for money. There are people who do and it doesn’t end up too well for them. You’ve got to have a solely different attachment to it — and it could be pride. You want to test yourself and see how great you can be. And I think that Jake understands what he needs to do to get to where he is. He has that team around him, too. And the fact that he came into the game late, and already established as a star from something else? He’s an anomaly. He truly is.

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