TAMPA — YouTube star-turned-prizefighter Jake Paul might be one of boxing’s biggest draws.
That might anger purists who long for the days when only the best of the best headlined pay-per-view cards.
But the 24-year-old, undefeated Paul has successfully done so twice in 2021, winning both fights that, together, allegedly totaled nearly 2 million pay-per-view buys.
Paul’s next fight is on Dec. 18 against 22-year-old undefeated Tommy Fury at the Amalie Arena. Tickets go on sale 10 a.m. Wednesday.
At a news conference at the arena on Monday, Paul displayed the brashness, crudeness and colorful personality that has enabled him to become a star.
“No one, from Muhammad Ali to Mike Tyson to Floyd Mayweather, is testing themselves as much as I have in my first fights,” said Paul, while wearing a Tampa Bay Lightning jersey with the number 69.
He called himself “the people’s champion.”
He suggested that Fury only boxes because he feels compelled due to his family name. His brother is heavyweight champion Tyson Fury. “If it was up to him, he would be an Abercrombie model,” Paul said.
When Fury, who appeared alongside his brother via Zoom from England, suggested Paul might pull out of the fight, the boxer who bills himself as “The Problem Child” responded crudely and indicated he would not pull out.
And Paul promised to quiet the doubters who say he hasn’t yet fought a real boxer.
The 192-pound fight, scheduled for eight three-minute rounds with the 7-0 Fury, is Paul’s first against an experienced boxer.
“When I knock out Tommy Fury, people will have nothing left to say,” Paul said. “You will put respect on my name.”
Paul’s YouTube channel has amassed more than 20 million subscribers.
At 4-0, his August victory over former UFC champion Tyron Woodley reportedly topped the 500,000 pay-per-view mark and his April win over mixed martial artist Ben Askren supposedly sold 1.2 million, though that number’s validity has been questioned by promoters.
For comparison, Tyson Fury’s October heavyweight boxing championship trilogy win over Deontay Wilder reportedly had around 600,000 buys.
Considering that Paul’s fame is built on an over-the-top professional wrestling persona, the news conference was fittingly hosted by Tampa’s Thaddeus Bullard, who performs for the WWE as Titus O’Neil.
Bullard became part of the show, joking that Fury needed a better internet provider when the video froze and the audio was hard to hear. And he jokingly grabbed Paul’s leg when trying to end a tirade.
“Don’t touch me sir,” Paul yelled at Bullard, who replied with a large grin and laugh.
Also announced for the December card is women’s featherweight champion Amanda Serrano, who will take on Miriam Gutierrez in a 135-pound fight.
Serrano was at the news conference wearing a Lightning jersey with the number seven, representing the world titles she has held in seven weight divisions.
“I’ve never done anything outside of boxing,” Serrano, 33, said.
Paul, on the other hand, got into boxing on a whim.
He rose to fame by starring on the Disney Channel series Bizaardvark and by launching a YouTube channel featuring video blogs, pranks and his music.
Then, in 2018, YouTuber KSI challenged him to a match.
Instead, his brother and fellow YouTuber Logan Paul took the fight, battling and defeating KSI’s brother Deji Olatunji on what was billed as an amateur fight card.
Jake Paul made his professional debut in 2020.
His initial win was against YouTuber AnEsonGib and his next was against former NBA player Nate Robinson, both undercard fights, before moving on to headline two boxing cards against mixed martial artists.
“I feel like I have won the lottery,” Fury said. “You are going to pay me very nicely, comfortably, and all I have to do is fight Jake Paul, a YouTuber.”
If Fury wins, Paul said he’d give him another $500,000. But Paul said that Fury must change his name to Tommy Fumbles for one year if he loses.
Fury did not say if he agreed to the bet.
Tyson Fury joked that his brother should not come home if he doesn’t win via knockout.
“At the end of the day this is show business,” Paul said when explaining how he has risen to become a star in the sport. “I think every boxer should have a YouTube channel, TikTok ... You can’t just go (to) the gym. You got to be good all the way around. Hopefully I will be the leading example of that.”
Paul ended the news conference by saying that Fury’s “girlfriend is a catfish.”
He then dropped the mic.