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No matter what Jake Paul has done in the ring thus far, a lot of fight fans think he’s a lousy fighter.
So when Matchroom Chairman Eddie Hearn very calmly and directly downplayed Paul’s skills to his face by saying he was “not a world-class fighter, and never will be” and an “average fighter,” the memes quickly arrived online. That made things a little awkward for Hearn when it came time to do his business with Paul.
“I don’t think he liked my comments about him being an average fighter, which, again, I stand by – that’s still quite complimentary, I feel,” Hearn said on The MMA Hour.
Paul, of course, disagreed with the Matchroom exec this past Thursday as they held court as co-promoters selling Katie Taylor vs. Amanda Serrano, the first female pay-per-view headliner to headline Madison Square Garden. During that exchange and subsequent ones, the YouTuber turned boxer argued his case for greatness, a case at least partially based on his potential in a few years.
No matter what it might have looked like, Hearn said he wasn’t trying to insult his temporary partner.
“The problem is, I won’t be disrespectful, but at the same time, I’m not going to brown-nose him, as we call,” said Hearn. “I’m going to be honest. There are so many fighters out there that I would say are average. That’s not poor, that’s not good, it’s in the middle. So I’m saying that you’re an average professional fighter. That’s a massive compliment.
“But this is a guy who would say to me, off-camera, ‘In two years, I will beat Canelo [Alvarez].’ And I would sort of look around for a camera and realize there isn’t one, and I think, wow. I think he’s so deluded. So deluded, but that delusion and that confidence will actually help him in the ring, because he does go in there and genuinely think he’s a world-class fighter. It’ll get him knocked out eventually, but I think people get a little baffled by his confidence, and it’s not fake confidence. He actually genuinely thinks he’s a world-class fighter.”
If Hearn doesn’t believe that Paul is a world-class fighter, he certainly believes in the 25-year-old’s promotional abilities. He’s nothing if complimentary of the way Paul has made a huge splash in the boxing ring and lauded his work on the ground-breaking event with Taylor and Serrano.
That said, Hearn has seen it all in boxing, and he can tell the difference between promotion and reality when it comes to the business of evaluating those who are world-class fighters – and those who are not.
“When he said, ‘I’ve been sparring these top-five cruiserweights,’ I’ve never heard of them, and I know every fighter in the world,” Hearn said of Paul. “He said, ‘They’re the top-five cruiserweights in the world.’ Is said, ‘Well, there’s four world champions, and they’re not them.’”
The same goes for Paul’s prospective opposition, such as reality star and Tyson Fury relative Tommy Fury, who’s danced around a potential fight with his fellow celebrity.
“Tommy Fury’s an average fighter,” Hearn said. “He’s not terrible. He’s not any good. He’s average. But I don’t mean that as disrespectful. There’s a lot of average people.”
This past Saturday, Hearn invited Paul to sit beside him behind a barrier reserved for the promoters at Madison Square Garden. He was a little concerned there might be friction given what he had said. But the two sat next to each other and managed to keep it professional. Paul was not happy about a split decision in favor of Taylor, but Hearn chalked that up to the usual journey of rival promoters.
Before their respective charges locked up in the ring, Hearn liked the idea of working with Paul again, and afterward, he was open to an immediate rematch with Taylor and Serrano. Even better, he said, was the idea of Paul co-headlining opposite Conor McGregor, however fanciful that might be.
However long Hearn is in business with Paul, he’ll remain a fan of what the fighter brings to the table.
“I’m excited to see what he’s going to do next,” Hearn said. “I think he’s very exciting, he brought a huge amount of eyeballs to Taylor/Serrano, I think he’s an engaging character, and I think he can fight a little bit.”