Boxing is back on Saturday night in Atlanta as Triller Fight Club presents its latest PPV card. The event, slated to take place at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, will see YouTube star Jake Paul facing off with former MMA champion Ben Askren in a crusierweight contest over eight scheduled rounds.
The event is certainly appealing to a different crowd than the standard boxing card, but Paul has proven to be nothing if not a big draw. He has brings tons of controversy from his time as a Disney Channel star to YouTube influencer, and during his short career as a boxer, he has tried to call out big names ranging from UFC megastar Conor McGregor to UFC president Dana White. Instead of McGregor, Paul will face Askren, who retired from the UFC in 2019.
It's an odd fight, but one that is going to draw plenty of interest. With that in mind, let's take a look at three of the storylines to watch when Paul and Askren throw down in Atlanta.
What else is Jake Paul supposed to do?
"When is Paul going to fight a real fighter?" It has been said or thought by most anyone who has followed the Paul boxing saga. The reality is that, through his many faults, Paul has seemed to take his boxing training seriously since deciding he was going to really make a go as a professional. But the path he has taken has been anything but serious. The 24-year-old has beat up a fellow YouTuber and a former NBA player -- and beat them badly. Now Paul will step into the ring against a former UFC fighter who retired after some bad losses and hip issues. Paul is undeniably a big, strong kid, and young enough that the idea of possibly making waves as a boxer isn't as crazy as it might seem at first.
But expecting him to follow a standard boxing path is just unreasonable. Paul is worth heaps of money every time he steps into the ring for these fights with other "personalities." There's no selling a pay-per-view to see Paul fight the level of fighter most boxers face in their third professional bout. Nobody is paying for a card headlined by Paul vs. the No. 150 American cruiserweight with a record of 1-4. Paul knows that, as does everyone involved in his management. So, why not fight the Nate Robinsons and Ben Askrens of the world, getting ring time and making loads of money? It's the only piece of business that makes any sense, even if it irks traditionalists.
Can't get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news.
Make no mistake, Ben Askren is not a striker
If you're not familiar with the combat career of Askren, you may think that his mixed martial arts background makes him a threat as a striker. That's simply not the case. Sure, Askren knows how to throw a punch and has trained striking for years, but striking never came easy for him. In his final UFC fight, Askren found only mixed success in the stand-up game against Demian Maia, a fighter known for his jiu-jitsu skills but not a prolific striker by any stretch of the imagination. Askren has posted training footage during the build to the fight with Paul that is either an elaborate troll job, or a reminder that he just truly is not a fighter who ever developed threatening skills with his hands.
Where Askren should not be sold short is on experience and tenacity. Askren has fought in big spots throughout his career and isn't a man who will be overwhelmed by the moment or the prospect of being in a fight. For all of Nate Robinson's athleticism, he was not ready for a fight. That won't be the case with Askren, and he has fewer questions of his cardio than Paul. Askren's path to victory is ugly and will likely require surviving eating some big shots before clinching and roughing up Paul to try to wear the bigger man down in hopes he can outwork him down the stretch. Askren winning isn't out of the question, but winning based simply on pure striking bona fides is highly unlikely.
The rest of the card is just as weird as the main event
In addition to a slew of musical performances ranging from Justin Bieber to Snoop Dogg, the pay-per-view is loaded with more odd fights and personalities:
- Former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir will battle former two-time cruiserweight world champion Steve Cunningham. Mir was originally set to face Antonio Tarver, but Tarver was forced out of the bout due to Georgia bylaws that stated a fighter over 50 must have competed at least 10 times in the 10 years proceeding their license application.
- Reggaeton artist Reykon is set to fight former professional boxer turned nightclub magnate Joe Fournier on the undercard in a bout that stemmed from a fight in a bar.
- In the co-main event, Regis Prograis will fight Ivan Redkach in a junior welterweight clash. This is a legitimate fight, pitting former WBA junior welterweight champ Prograis against fringe contender Redkach. Who is buying this event for legitimate boxing, though? Redkach is one fight removed from biting Danny Garcia in a moment of frustration before losing a unanimous decision.