Madness surrounding Jake Paul vs Tommy Fury makes for boxing’s best rivalry

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 increasingly wild excesses are normal, could two novice fighters attract so much attention, be the main attraction and make so much money.

They should be fighting at a town hall near you and sharing about six-thousand pounds. However, they will fight in the ancient settlement of Diriyah, on the neon-lit outskirts of Riyadh, and share millions of dollars. And, wait for it, they deserve every penny they are raking in.

Fury is the brother of world heavyweight champion, Tyson Fury, a former Love Island contestant, and is unbeaten and untested in eight wins from eight fights. Paul is the brother of wrestler 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 fight’s attraction is much harder to understand. This event is one of the craziest I have ever covered; they are two raw novices and yet they have created a rivalry that is possibly the best right now in the sport. 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 connected, interviewed, they have issued challenges, insults and ultimatums. Sunday’s fight started to gain momentum, then it landed in Saudi Arabia and then it became the event it is now. They have both promoted it as a fight nobody can lose and survive; Fury has been threatened by his family that he will have to change his name and Paul has been warned his empire will vanish. Both are funny notions and untrue.

There is very little respect between the two boxers and that will make for a good fight; it might get ugly as the pair tire, it might end early if they neglect their defence and it will not be a masterclass, but it will be a genuine fifty-fifty fight. Any attempt by either to box, use his feet and move will not last for the full distance of eight rounds. There will, inevitably, be a fight in the Diriyah ring, which incidentally was flown out from Britain and had previously been used for hundreds of fights in small halls. It might be a maul; Paul clearly believes 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 will hit him with a jab in the first round and he will not have a clue what to do. It will be easy work.”

Jake Paul and Tommy Fury meet in the ring in Saudi Arabia on Saturday (AFP via Getty Images)
Jake Paul and Tommy Fury meet in the ring in Saudi Arabia on Saturday (AFP via Getty Images)

There are many in the boxing business who agree with Fury, who insist that Paul has been milking the industry and his profile is an insult. Paul’s profile in the sport is because of his online following, exploits and work ethic. Paul can fight and he likes to fight. And so can Fury, by the way.

“Tyson is the sensible one,” Paul said. “He knows that I can fight; Tommy and Gypsy John are delusional.” Gypsy John is Fury’s father, trainer and chief cheerleader.

John Fury has been resolute since this fight was first mentioned in early 2021: “Tommy wins and wins early.” Gypsy John, which was his fighting name in the Nineties, has been a fun part of the rolling carnival. In Riyadh on Thursday, John Fury was on best behaviour. “I worked more on manners than I did in the gym,” he joked and then thanked the ruling family and the locals. Yep, it is a carnival.

A deal was done on Thursday by Paul, the promoter, to pay Fury double if he loses; if he wins he pays Fury nothing. They shook hands and a lawyer was hovering with a new contract. It was another piece of magic, another little story.

Jake Paul and Tommy Fury pose for a picture with the belt (AFP via Getty Images)
Jake Paul and Tommy Fury pose for a picture with the belt (AFP via Getty Images)

The WBC, the day after clearing Conor Benn to fight for any of their belts, delivered a fresh belt to Riyadh. The winner on Sunday will own the fancy belt, plus the winner will be placed in the WBC’s top 40 rankings. The pair are possibly just inside the world’s top 250 cruiserweights right now. The WBC is the most recognised and respected of the main sanctioning bodies.

The circus is not in the ring, trust me. The real circus is outside the ropes. Fury and Paul are just two hopeful, dreaming novices. And, in many ways, they might just be the purest thing surrounding this glorious carnival.