Boxing commentary by Donn K. Harris: I may have lost some readership by not putting the name of Jake Paul in my headline, but he isn’t worthy of a headline and I’ll take the hit as a matter of integrity. I will mention the name a minimum number of times in this piece and I hope to never write about the guy again. He does nothing for me, in or out of the boxing ring. I love You Tube, it single-handedly enriched my boxing pleasure and knowledge and it’s my go-to entertainment – it’s not their fault the public has bad taste.
But it’s our fault if in the course thinking about and writing about and projecting boxing possibilities we include Jake Paul as a viable part of anything. I’m particularly writing about the recent travesty of including his name in the same sentence with that of Canelo Alvarez, the current unified 168 lb. and consensus pound-for-pound champion, just because the fool started screaming, ‘I want Canelo.’
STOP! Stop it right now! Paul had his moment with a retired Mayweather, and Floyd took it lightly enough that it didn’t tarnish the great fighter’s legacy, and remember Floyd had Justin Bieber (a You Tuber with some talent, at least) on a couple of ring walks with him for some important fights (Cotto, Pacquiao), so it was in keeping with the Mayweather aura to be mixed in with current trends. But the Mayweather/Paul event was an exhibition, a sideline curiosity (for some, not me) with a retired fighter, all well and good if it brings attention to boxing and some become regular fans of the true sport (not sure that will happen, but OK, it’s worth a shot) – and I thought Roy Jones Jr. vs. Mike Tyson was OK as well, although it’s hard to know what is going on, how hard they are trying, and if we keep having these kinds of things what happens if one guy really goes for it while the other guy is at half-speed?……… in any event we need to keep that stuff in its lane. No mingling that shit with the real thing, and don’t report anything that comes of out of Jake Paul’s mouth. We can’t let that guy make his own boxing news. He can scream Canelo like Marlon Brando yelling Stella for all I care, I ain’t reporting on it. It diminishes all of us to let that self-promoting empty-headed egotist set any kind of boxing agenda. Canelo Alvarez is a class act, a serious professional, an athlete for the ages in one of the most difficult sports imaginable – I don’t want the other guy anywhere near him.
It’s up to us who are writing about boxing to just say no. Keep JP in his lane if he has to be around at all. His brother too, and the next loudmouth who tries to scream his way to riches. Not in boxing. Go try WWE or Reality TV or the Harlem Globetrotters (who would school these guys in about 5 minutes, but at least we know it’s pure entertainment, not a sporting competition with people’s lives on the line) ………
We have men and women who have worked their whole lives to be proficient at this sport, have given up countless other opportunities, have risked their health, spent months away from their families, lived on credit and packaged soup to follow a dream and make weight and burn for greatness, and Jake Paul’s sudden prominence is just an insult, it cheapens everything, and to be frank it’s pissing me off in case that wasn’t clear.
Look, we have a treasure trove of scintillating fight possibilities and human drama on the horizon, with Canelo Alvarez at the center of many of them. Canelo-Caleb Plant for the 168 lb. unification, with 24 year-old David Benavidez waiting to fight the winner. Coming up to 168 lbs. we have the dynamic and fierce Jermall Charlo and the insufferable but worthy Demetrius Andrade, undefeated with a middleweight belt but untested because nobody wants to fight a scraggly Pernell Whitaker knock-off. Andrade was a bit of comic relief at the post-Canelo/BJ Saunders fight press conference, where Canelo was ebullient and expansive, joking with reporters in English and looking as comfortable in public as we have ever seen him.
When Andrade spoke up at first it was cordial as Canelo acknowledged him, but when the undefeated New Yorker began pestering Canelo for a future fight, Canelo eventually lost patience and began taunting Andrade: ‘Who you fought? Nobody. You have a belt but fought nobody. Get the fuck outta here. You a horrible fighter, horrible.’ It was good theater as BJ Saunders, another cocky braggart, was in a hospital, learning that his orbital bone was shattered. Saunders was undefeated until a Canelo uppercut put the Brit’s career in jeopardy. These serious craftsmen, however annoying they might be, earned the right to express their idiosyncrasies. Jake Paul hasn’t earned squat.
For Canelo there’s also a trilogy fight looming with Genady Golovkin, and the ultimate challenges at light-heavyweight with Dmitry Bivol and the crazed beast Arthur Beterbiev – the latter being my choice to sic on Jake Paul once and for all – give it a round, 3-4 punches and have the stretcher ready and the best medical help available, and maybe then the Jake Paul-wannabees will be discouraged forever and we can be rid of the Hollywood and Internet stupidity fouling this pure and elegant sport.
I mean it when I use the terms pure and elegant – boxing can create events that reach sublime levels of meaning and artistry when the different facets of our world blend just right. Joshua-Klitschko comes to mind as a modern example; go back a bit to Leonard-Hagler; further to Ali-Frazier I and III. Has anything in any sport had the import and majesty of the Rumble in the Jungle? You don’t think that crowd in Zaire yelling Ali bomaye had anything to do with the genius Ali displayed that night? Worlds came together in these events; our lives were uplifted, made grand by combat and courage on the global stage. We want greatness? How about the tenacity and 150% output of combat veteran Timothy ‘Desert Storm’ Bradley; the wizardry of Roy Jones Jr. and Manny Pacquiao; the near-perfection of Floyd Mayweather and Andre Ward? Will Naoya Inoue sprout wings and take flight, or will we discover that he’s going to live to 1000? I have to remind myself to breathe when Emmanuel Stewart is calling Gatti-Ward I, each ohmygod outdoing the last in amazement and awe and near-reverence – transcendent, brutally beautiful.
But for all of this, it’s a fragile set of qualities that elevate violence to art and rage to respect. It can fall apart and grow sordid quickly. For every Canelo we have an Adrien Broner with his hairbrush and classless rear-end gesture to Marcos Maidana; Alexis Arguello’s gentlemanly strength is countered by fellow Nicaraguan Ricardo Mayorga’s howling profanity and degrading commentary about his opponents’ wives; we can watch Tank Davis grow into a man but still remember Andrew Golota falling apart and Deontay Wilder coming unglued by losing; Anthony Joshua and Big Baby Miller cancel each other out precisely; in Iron Mike Tyson we had every psychological extreme, every moral contradiction, every emotional polarity existing in one person, the great microcosm of boxing and of our age.
Do we want Jake Paul anywhere near this exquisite, fascinating, fragile universe? F*k no. The TV execs and promoters can play on that level if they must. But the rest of us need to be disciplined and keep the buffoons and that whole stupid scene in its lane, and when someone from that world veers over the line and mentions Canelo Alvarez or Jermall Charlo or Terance Crawford, counter with Arthur Beterbiev. The Russian light-heavyweight had part of his prime interrupted by COVID and he’s hungry and looking for victims and he doesn’t do exhibitions. He can be our enforcer; we need to protect the legacy of Jack Johnson, Rocky Marciano, Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Carlos Monzon. This is an exclusive club, and some people only get access to the general admission party. The inner sanctum is off-limits, and we’re the gatekeepers.