The Tommy Fury and Jake Paul fight on Sunday night in Saudi Arabia stopped being funny a long time ago.
Only in the modern boxing business, where excesses tend to be wilder, could two modern fighters attract so much attention, be the main attraction and make so much money.
They should be fighting in a town hall near you and share about six thousand pounds. However, they will fight in the ancient settlement of Diriyah, on the outskirts of neon-lit Riyadh, and will share millions of dollars. And, wait for it, they deserve every penny they are guaranteed.
Fury is the brother of world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, a former Love Island contestant, and is unbeaten and untested on eight wins from eight fights. Paul is the brother of actor and soft drinks impresario, Logan Paul, and is unbeaten in six fights. Fury is 23, Paul is 26 and they are perfectly matched.
The facts are simple, the appeal of combat is much more difficult to understand. This event is one of the craziest I’ve ever covered; they are two raw novices and yet they have created a rivalry that is probably the best in the sport right now. That is ridiculous.
Fury is convinced that Paul is a boxing fraud and Paul is convinced that Fury is only fighting because of family pressure. Since the summer of 2021 they have been tied, interviewed, challenged, insulted and issued ultimatums. Sunday’s fight began to gain momentum, it then landed in Saudi Arabia and then it was what it is now. They both promoted it as a fight that no one can lose and live; Fury is threatened by his family that he will have to change his name and Paul is warned that his empire will disappear. They are both funny and false notions.
There is little respect between the two boxers and that will make for a good fight; it might get ugly as the base of the two, it might end early if they neglect their defense and it won’t be a master class, but a fifty fifty fight. No attempt by either of them to box, use their legs and move will last for eight full rounds. There will, of course, be a fight in the Diriyah ring, which incidentally was flown out of Britain and has previously been used for hundreds of fights in small halls. It could be a maul; Paul clearly believes that Fury can fight, but not enough to beat him.
“I have all the knowledge and experience from years in boxing,” Fury said. “He’s just started – I’ll hit him with a jab in the first round and he won’t know what to do. It will be easy work.”
There are many in the boxing business who agree with Fury, who insist that Paul is milking the industry and that his profile is an insult. Paul’s profile in the sport is due to his online following, his work and his work ethic. Paul can fight and he likes to fight. And so can Fury, by the way.
“Tyson is the wise one,” said Paul. “He knows I can fight; Tommy and Gypsy John are deceived.” Gypsy John is Fury’s father, trainer and head cheerleader.
John Fury has been adamant since this fight was first mentioned in early 2021: “Tommy wins and beats soon.” Gypsy John, who was a fighting name in the nineties, was a fun part of the rolling carnival. In Riyadh on Thursday, John Fury was on his best behaviour. “I worked more on manners than I did in the gym,” he joked and then thanked the family in charge and the locals. Yes, it’s a carnival.
Paul, the promoter, made a deal on Thursday to pay Fury twice if he loses; if he wins he doesn’t pay Fury anything. They shook hands and a lawyer was hovering with a new contract. It was another piece of magic, another little story.
The day after clearing Conor Benn to fight for any of his belts, the WBC delivered a fresh belt to Riyadh. The mock belt will be the winner on Sunday, and the winner will be placed in the WBC’s top 40 rankings. The pair may be just inside the top 250 cruiserweights in the world right now. The WBC is the most recognized and respected major sanctioning bodies.
The circus is not in the ring, trust me. The real circus is outside the ropes. Fury and Paul are two hopeful, dreamy novices. And, in many ways, they are perhaps the purest thing about this glorious carnival.