Badou Jack has every expectation of winning the WBC cruiserweight title this weekend.
What he doesn’t anticipate is the winner of the Jake Paul-Tommy Fury main event being lined up to face him next—or ever—no matter where they land in the sanctioning body’s next rankings update.
Both fights take place atop an ESPN+ Pay-Per-View Event this Sunday from Diriyah Arena in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman drew criticism for publicly declaring that the Paul-Fury winner would receive a WBC ranking. Sulaiman personally clarified to BoxingScene.com at the time that it was merely placement in the Top 40, while only the Top 15 fighters in any weight division are eligible to challenge for the title.
“I’m a close friend with Mauricio. I respect his decision,” Jack told BoxingScene.com, grinning upon hearing the topic. “It’s a part of business. The YouTubers are making money, so of course it’s natural to want to get involved. But both guys are supposed to be ranked, not just Jake Paul. It’s Top 40, it’s not like they’re the mandatory challenger.
“Really, it would be worse for either of them if they were Top 15 and had to face the top guys.”
Jack (27-3-3, 16KOs) entered the title fray once Makabu (29-2, 25KOs) needed an opponent after mandatory challenger Noel Mikaelan was no longer available for their scheduled January 21 title fight in Miami. It worked to the benefit of Jack, a 2008 Olympian for Sweden—who has since relocated to Las Vegas and now Dubai—who has battled harder than anyone to earn his place on the title stage.
The hard-luck former two-division titlist defeated Anthony Dirrell via majority decision to win the WBC super middleweight title in April 2015. It came three fights after enduring his first defeat, having already lost and fought to a draw through 18 pro bouts before resurrecting his career. The title win kicked off a bizarre stretch which saw five of the next six fights for Jack end in either split or majority decision, going 3-0-2 over that period.
His lone breather was a fifth-round knockout of Nathan Cleverly to win the WBA light heavyweight title on the August 2017 Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor Showtime PPV undercard in Las Vegas. A twelve-round draw with then-lineal/WBC light heavyweight titlist Adonis Stevenson was followed by a gory defeat to unbeaten Marcus Browne via unanimous decision, where Jack suffered a gruesome cut along his forehead but somehow managed to go the distance. He was considered unlucky to land on the wrong end of a split decision in favor of former lineal champ Jean Pascal in their December 2019 secondary WBA light heavyweight title fight.
Plans for a rematch were delayed due to the pandemic and then canceled outright when Pascal tested positive for multiple banned substances ahead of their scheduled June 2021 sequel in Miami. Jack went on to face and beat unbeaten fringe contender Dervin Colina (15-0 at the time) via fourth round knockout. It was the second of four straight victories heading into Sunday’s challenge of Congolese bruiser Makabu (29-2, 25KOs), against whom the 39-year-old Jack is a +150 underdog according to bet365 sportsbook.
Somehow, Sunday’s lone major title fight is the co-feature to an eight-round bout. Paul (6-0, 4KOs)—a Cleveland native now based out of Dorado, Puerto Rico—faces his first opponent who is primarily a boxer, while Manchester’s Fury (8-0, 4KOs) has only fought scheduled four- and six-round contests. Still, the fight is recognized by the WBC as a matchup of two unbeaten fighters worthy of landing a place somewhere in the Top 40 with a win.
All of that is just fine with Jack, who is not focused on anything other his own career.
“Jake is doing his thing,” noted Jack. “We’ve trained in the same gym. He’s working hard. It’s the new era of boxing. He’s making a lot of noise and a lot of money. I’m happy for both of them for whatever success they can achieve.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox