CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Jake Paul's search for legitimate respect in the sport of boxing took a step forward in Sunday's pay-per-view homecoming.
A YouTube star and social media influencer, the 24-year-old Paul improved to 4-0 as a professional in his toughest test to date by outpointing former UFC champion Tyron Woodley via split decision. The 190-pound catchweight bout, scheduled for eight rounds, headlined Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Paul's home city.
Paul (4-0, 3 KOs) took home judges' scores of 77-75 and 78-74 while the third judge scored it for Woodley, 77-75. CBS Sports scored it 78-74 for Paul.
"I don't know what to say but he's a tough opponent," Paul said. "He has been boxing, fighting and striking for 20-something years. I have been doing this for three years.
"This was a tougher fight than I expected. My legs felt weird from the locker room. I don't know what to say. He put up a good fight and came in shape. I have nothing but respect for him. There was a lot of shit talk but I apologize if I offended his team."
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Despite a colorful fight week filled with trash talk and the threat of scuffling, the fight was more of a showcase of the technical strengths of both despite their relatively novice combined level of boxing experience.
Paul, whose five-inch height and natural size advantages were evident from the start, survived a wild Round 4 in which he ate a big right cross and might have needed the ropes to hold him up even though referee George Nichols decided against ruling it a knockdown. The problem for Woodley, 39, who lost his final four MMA bouts to close out his UFC deal, was that he didn't throw enough punches to make Paul pay.
While Woodley (0-1), showed decent form and responsible defense in his boxing debut, his jab was non-existent and his power punches were largely telegraphed. Despite what appeared to be a clear win for Paul, who outlanded Woodley by a margin of 71 to 52, according to ShoStats, the former UFC star made a loud case after the fight for an immediate rematch.
"I feel like I won the fight," Woodley said. "I feel like Jake is a great opponent. I came in great shape because I knew he could take a punch. No disrespect but f--- the [Tommy] Fury fight, Jake and I can run it back. Nobody is going to sell a PPV like we did. I felt like he was tough. I hit him and the ropes held him up."
Woodley challenged Paul in the ring to accept a rematch but Paul was initially against it.
"Of course, he wants the payday," Paul said in Woodley's face. "You had your opportunity. You had your chance. If you get the tattoo of 'I love Jake Paul,' let's run it back."
Although Woodley accepted the terms of this proposed rematch, the negotiation appeared far from legitimate. Lucky for the event, which was well promoted by Showtime PPV and Paul's Most Valuable Promotions, the fight never got too sloppy as both competitors showed respect for the sport with their performance.
Paul didn't look like he was ready to challenge for world titles, but he did take a large step forward in terms of the questions critics had coming in. His gas tank was strong enough and his defense was tight. Paul also mixed in a busy jab and clean shots to the body to largely outwork Woodley.
Because of the success Paul had, he felt the scorecard that was read in Woodley's favor from judge Phil Rodgers was far from legit.
"Let's be honest, that's bullshit. I mean, come on. Especially in my hometown? Where is that judge at? Come on," Paul said. "He hit me with one real shot. I don't know what they were looking at. It's all good. Still got the victory. I got eight rounds under my belt.
"I'm doing things what no one has done. To go against a Hall of Famer and five-time UFC champion and win when the pressure is on?"
Despite talk of a possible future fight against Tommy Fury, the younger brother of heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, who claimed a somewhat lifeless decision win to open Sunday's card, Paul didn't seem all that interested and said he would need time off to consider his future.
"Honestly, we'll see," Paul said. "I've been boxing for 18 months now. I haven't been to the dentist and I have barely gotten my haircut for like two years. My teeth are crooked and my nose is crooked. I may need to take some time off and figure out who I am. I'm only 24 years old. We will see."
Paul's older brother, Logan, was happy with the overall performance, which came just three months after Logan fought Floyd Mayweather in an eight-round exhibition.
"In my opinion, we got the Jake Paul people didn't know existed," Logan Paul said. "We saw him face adversity for the first time in his career. Tyron Woodley is an animal and the fact that my brother could secure a victory after taking a big shot, it's huge. I have so much love for this kid."
Elsewhere on the card, Amanda Serrano continued her winning ways by outpointing Yamileth Mercado to retain her unified women's featherweight titles. Serrano remains one knockout shy of tying Christy Martin's all-time record for stoppages and is one of the brightest stars in the women's game today. Plus, Daniel Dubois made a thunderous U.S. debut with a quick stoppage of Joe Cusumano in Round 1. Dubois, 23, moved to 17-1 with 16 knockouts in his career and picked up his second win since the TKO loss to Joe Joyce.
Meanwhile, Montana Love and Ivan Baranchyk may have stolen the show on the undercard. The two battled it out over seven grueling rounds before Baranchyk's corner was forced to throw in the towel following a knockodwn. But before he did, Baranchyk laid out plenty of his own damage on Love, snapping his opponent's head back to end Round 6. Love maintained his undefeated mark and called for a shot against a champion at 147 pounds.
CBS Sports was with you throughout the entire way on Sunday, so be sure to follow along with the live results and highlights below.
Fight card, results
- Jake Paul def. Tyron Woodley via split decision (77-75, 75-77, 78-74)
- Amanda Serrano (c) def. Yamileth Mercado via unanimous decision (97-93, 98-92, 99-91)
- Daniel Dubois def. Joe Cusumano via first-round knockout
- Montana Love def. Ivan Baranchyk via seventh-round TKO (corner stoppage)
- Tommy Fury def. Anthony Taylor via unanimous decision (40-36, 40-36, 40-36)
Paul vs. Woodley scorecard, live coverage