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Headlines reading "Jake Paul to earn WBC ranking with win over Tommy Fury" certainly raised eyebrows around the combat sports world ahead of Saturday's clash in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. Certainly, the statement by WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman was designed to be an attention grabber. But there's much to unpack behind the idea of a world-ranked Jake Paul.

One of the main factors driving negative reactions to the idea of Paul earning a ranking is a misunderstanding of exactly how the WBC rankings work. Even men who live in the boxing space, such as Matchroom Boxing's Eddie Hearn, have made mistakes when it comes to this.

"Sometimes governing bodies have to live in that commercial world as well," Hearn told IFL TV. "Tommy Fury's a proper fighter and Jake Paul would make a statement if he won that fight. Not a statement that he can challenge for a world title, but, ultimately, there's a little bit of publicity in there. ... Is it right? Not really. Because there's fighters that deserve to be in the top 15 much more than Jake Paul, but it's the world we live in."

The issue is, the WBC never said Paul would earn a spot in their top 15, simply that the winner of the fight would enter the rankings. The WBC cruiserweight rankings are 40 deep. There has been no indication that Paul would be bumping any established cruiserweight from the WBC top 15.

This is important to note as a fighter must be ranked in that top 15 to be eligible to earn a shot at a WBC world championship, which is set to be defended on Sunday's undercard when champion Ilunga Makabu faces Badou Jack.

Also worth noting is that cruiserweight is almost certainly the division with the least depth in boxing outside of the recently-created bridgerweight division. While everyone currently in WBC's top 40 has clearly more established themselves as boxers, there are also plenty of men on that list who very recently have fought opponents with records such as 1-4 or 7-17-1.

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The current No. 40-ranked fighter is Serdar Avci, who holds the spot because he won the WBC international silver title, which is a secondary version of the already secondary WBC international title, via a second-round injury TKO in his most recent outing.   

Paul's path as a professional boxer has certainly been unique. Almost every boxer of note faces a series of low-quality fighters in their first few years as a professional. Fury is only the second fighter Paul has faced who enters the fight with professional boxing experience. But unlike most fighters, Paul has fought every fight in front of big audiences, against opponents with the means to put together training camps beyond anything a debuting boxer could afford, and with most of those opponents as accomplished professional fighters used to the big stage.

Fury's resume is likely worse than Paul's when you factor in the above about Paul's opponents. His eight professional opponents had a combined 24-176-5 record when they faced Fury, including men like Genadij Krajevskij, who entered his November 2020 bout with Fury with an 0-11 record. Krajevskij took no professional bouts for the six months after the loss to Fury before losing a stunning 35 fights in the past 27 months to drop his record to 0-47.

All that considered, do Fury or Paul legitimately deserve a spot ahead of No. 40-ranked Avci or any of the other men currently ranked? No. But no one should spend too much energy preaching the sanctity of rankings that mean very little once you get to the No. 30-40 range.

Ultimately, the idea of a ranking being up for grabs when Fury and Paul face off is a transparent publicity stunt. It's just not quite as bad as the gut reaction one may have had when the headlines first started hitting their social media timelines. This ranking stunt changes nothing in the boxing landscape for anyone other than the unfortunate soul who gets bumped from the bottom spot of the rankings.