None of the words in this column will change your opinion. Whatever you already think of Jake Paul and his professional boxing career is what you will continue to think.

But he’s nonetheless a magnet for your attention, just like many other lightning-rod fighters in the history of this sport, and like other controversial or infamous figures in this world, the people you either love or love to hate. 

None of the words in this column will change your opinion, yet you’re still here reading these words. Heck, I’m sitting here writing them.

Paul, who’s made a comfortable living and built a sizeable following thanks to social media, has now been fighting the past four years. The fact that he’s still fighting, that we’re still covering him, and that you’re still reading, is because so many people still want to see what will happen next with him — or they want to see something specifically happen *to* him.

They either want to see Jake Paul prove himself as a real boxer deserving of all this attention. Or they want to see him proven a fraud, deserving all along of all their derision.

Neither of those will happen on Saturday, March 2 in Puerto Rico.

That’s when Paul takes on Ryan Bourland on DAZN, a fight that will serve as the co-feature to Amanda Serrano defending her featherweight titles against Nina Meinke. Serrano, who was born on the island, is signed to Paul’s promotional company.

Paul’s fighting career began as a stunt and a sideshow, a way to capitalize on his tremendous social media following and also on our willingness to tune in out of curiosity. He took on another influencer in 2020. He beat a former pro basketball player that same year. He faced a series of retired mixed martial arts stars in 2021 and 2022. Then he lost a split decision in 2023 to Tommy Fury, an untalented fighter who is a half-brother to Tyson Fury and has a much smaller fraction of the heavyweight champ’s talent.

Paul finished out last year with a win over another former mixed martial artist, Nate Diaz. Now, he and his team say, there’s a focus on facing actual boxers.

The last two words of that preceding sentence likely left several of you rolling your eyes.

That’s because there’s a tension between what Paul’s detractors want and what they wind up getting.

This tension largely exists because of the attention that Paul gets. Few pro fighters receive this much attention in the early days. Those that do? They were either outstanding amateurs — think Sugar Ray Leonard and Oscar De La Hoya — or have a newsworthy backstory but limited experience, like pro football player Tommy Zbikowski or Nico Ali Walsh, the grandson of Muhammad Ali.

But Paul was a star before he was a fighter.

He remained a star no matter how good a fighter he was or was not.

And he continues to be a star even though we don’t know — and won’t know for some time — what the answer to that will be.

It’s too soon to expect Paul to step in with a fighter with actual talent, not given how little experience he has. With no amateur experience, he’s learning on the job. And unlike other influencers, he’s treating boxing like it’s his job. Paul has reportedly shown the kind of dedication in training that we wish other pro fighters would, and he’s clearly improving in these years under the tutelage of recognizable names like BJ Flores, J’Leon Love, and Shane Mosley, even if he clearly still has plenty more improving to do.

It’s also frustrating to know that the “actual boxers” Paul is facing so far have no chance of even giving him trouble.

The early days of a fighter’s career are often for growth, where the most important work actually comes in training, and then the opponent presents some kind of challenge or problem or approach that gives the A-side fighter a chance to perform under real-world pressures. It’s common for some of these early opponents to be a combination of no-hopers, also-rans, designated opponents and journeymen.

“Matching Jake Paul is not an easy task. Because never in the history of boxing has someone’s career at such an early stage been scrutinized the way that his has,” said Paul’s promotional partner, Nakisa Bidarian, at a press conference in January. “In his ninth fight he fought a gentleman who is 10-1 [Andre August]. Oscar De La Hoya, who is one of the greatest boxers in history, who had many amazing moments in boxing, in his 10th fight he fought a guy who is 10-4-3. The legend of Puerto Rico, Felix ‘Tito’ Trinidad, in his 10th fight fought someone who is 10-4. Look, they are unbelievable champions, and I think Jake aspires to be the same. But given the amount of attention that his fights get globally, we have to continuously find the right opponents that put him in a position that other fighters haven’t been through at this stage of his career.”

I can sense more eye-rolling. 

For one, records alone don’t necessarily tell the whole story about the level of opposition. Also, while De La Hoya was already being featured on TV, he was only nine months into his pro career at that time. Trinidad had been pro for about 15 months and was appearing on a small show in Florida for that 10th fight.

If Paul were fighting on undercards or prelims, developing before our eyes from promising prospect into potential contender, we might feel differently. It is not the low-resistance aspect alone that is bothersome. It is the high-profile element that accompanies it.

Paul, in an interview with Marc Raimondi of, called it “high-risk, low-reward.”

“The stakes actually become higher in a fight like this,” Paul said of the Bourland bout. “‘Oh, you lost to Tyron Woodley? That’s not that bad.’ You lose to a no-name guy, it’s like, ‘This is it.’”

Paul says he’d hoped for greater resistance from Andre August, whom he stopped in one round, in December.

“We thought, ‘This guy is a beast, he looks like a monster. He’s 10-1, Golden Gloves this, Golden Gloves that, amateur background, boxing his whole life,’ and he didn’t land a punch,” Paul told Raimondi. “We were like, ‘Alright, back to the drawing board, let’s get a harder, tougher opponent.’ I’m looking for experience and the rounds under the bright lights with professional boxers. That’s why Ryan entered the conversation.”

August, however, had only fought in the Houston area during the bulk of his pro career, from 2013 to 2019. His five knockouts came against opponents with a combined record of 7-29-5. August’s loss? That came against a foe who was 3-3 coming into the bout and is now 7-16. August had spent nearly four years out of the ring before returning in 2023, and his only opponent before facing Paul was an undefeated prospect who had built that record against terrible opposition in the Midwest. Oh, and August had been at light heavyweight for much of his career, while Paul is a mid-sized cruiserweight.

What is Paul saying about Bourland?

“Statistically he for sure is the most experienced and has had the most wins, the most amount of time in the ring, rounds, all of these things,” Paul told Raimondi. “I think that presents a different challenge of a true veteran in the game. It’ll be really interesting.”

Bourland is a 35-year-old with a record of 17-2 with 6 KOs, originally from California, now fighting out of North Dakota, where he works on oil rigs.

He is… not good.

There’s footage online of a full four-rounder Bourland won in 2018, a unanimous decision against an old, overweight, undersized opponent named Codale Ford. Bourland won easily, but he also looked to be very slow and with very little power.

That was how Bourland appeared in what would’ve been his best days. His best days weren’t that good, and they’re no longer that recent.

Bourland, like August, had a long layoff, spending four years away from the sport between 2018 and 2022. He didn’t fight at all in 2023. This will be his first appearance in nearly 18 months. He also, like August, had been a light heavyweight for much of his career.

Those two losses? Bourland failed to last two minutes against Israel Duffus in 2015. Duffus was 8-3 at the time, faced a lot of recognizable names in his career, and is now 20-11. Only seven of those victories came against an opponent with a winning record (Bourland being one of them).

The other loss for Bourland came via majority decision against Jose Hernandez in 2018, a limited fighter who was 18-3-1 at the time. Bourland avenged the defeat eight months later with a majority decision, this time in his favor, and then his layoff began.

This is a no-win situation for Paul.  

If he wins easily, he did so against someone who never stood a chance. But he can’t struggle or coast either. And he definitely can’t lose.

But the other options?

He could fight away from television and give up bigger paydays than most pro fighters will ever see.

He could step up too soon and wind up with the same consequence — squandered opportunities. The loss to Fury didn’t ruin him, but rather sent him back into training and learning. An embarrassing drubbing, though, would bring all of this to an end.

That’s what his detractors want — for the balloon to be popped, the hype deflated, the fraud revealed, the wizard behind the curtain shown to just be a normal man. 

Paul isn’t necessarily hurting the sport. Boxing does plenty on its own to embarrass itself, and it hasn’t died yet no matter the many proclamations otherwise over the years. Paul isn’t saving the sport either, despite his massive following, though he’s doing good for Serrano and the other fighters on his shows.

None of the words in this column will change your opinion. For now, until the level of opposition changes, the results won’t matter either.

That won’t stop many of us from continuing to watch, following along to see how this story ends. 

The rest of us will intentionally tune out, just waiting for all of this to be over. 

Follow David Greisman on Twitter @FightingWords2. His book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” is available on Amazon.