Jake Paul says he is “as surprised as anyone else” that boxing has become such a significant part of his life, four and a half years after he first stepped into the ring. It has, he admits, been “a wild journey” that could have easily ground to a halt before now.

"There have been many moments where there could have been a pin put into this whole operation by a fighter, a loss or whatever it might be,” he said in an exclusive interview with BoxingScene. “But I've just grown and risen to the occasion. And I look to inspire other people with that same tenacity and dedication.”

Paul took his pro boxing bow in January 2020 against fellow influencer Ali Eson Gib, following that up 10 months later with a knockout of former NBA star Nate Robinson. At that stage, Paul’s boxing career seemed destined to be an admittedly lucrative sideshow, but there’s no question his standing in the sport now extends far wider than his 9-1 (6 KOs) record in the ring. Far from being merely a vanity project, his promotional company MVP has to date put on six cards spotlighting prospects, with a seventh on tap for July 26. He was the co-promoter of the biggest fight in the history of women’s boxing, when Katie Taylor edged his fighter Amanda Serrano at Madison Square Garden in April 2022 in a dramatic event that "Sports Illustrated" dubbed its Fight of the Year. And whatever one thinks about it as a contest, there is little doubt that his rescheduled Nov. 15 encounter with 58-year-old former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson will be the most-talked-about event of the year and, given that it will be available free of charge to Netflix subscribers, will probably be the most-watched fight for many years.

And yet, while on the one hand the higher levels of boxing are undergoing boom times, with enormous purses and title unifications, the whole edifice is built on rickety foundations. As Paul notes, all too often, when boxing succeeds, it does so in spite of itself.

“So much of it, so much of it is so outdated,” he said. “I think boxing is its own worst enemy. And so, a lot of times it can't get out of the way of itself. And it needs so much overhaul that it's like, where do you even begin?”

Asked where he thinks the sport needs particular reform, Paul provides a laundry list that will be familiar to any frustrated fan of the sport.

“The way things have gone with fighters being protected and not making the big fights,” he begins. “All these money issues, and people being taken advantage of, the fighters being taken advantage of, the way that events are viewed and watched and promoted.

“And the production even is a big problem in boxing: like, having to wait 20 minutes sometimes in between fights. Let's f****** get the show on the road. All these things happen because it's so segmented, fractured and scattered that it creates all these problems.”

A recent study found that 85 percent of boxers in California don’t even make minimum wage, which, given what being a boxer requires, is hardly conducive toward anyone wanting to take it up for a living.

“So everyone on our cards, we try to pay them the biggest payday they've ever gotten,” Paul said by way of explanation as to how he would like to see that situation redressed. “So there's that, and kind of setting that example. And I believe that's made a huge difference in women's boxing and women's paydays. And I do think there needs to be more clarity from promoters about how much they're making and what sort of things they're doing on the back end to put these events together. And then, yeah, like having more places where these up-and-coming fighters can go and have a healthy payday and get the exposure that they deserve versus everyone and their mom having a backyard promotion in some random state on a random night in a random venue. It's a tough business. So overall, there's just a lot of work to be done, for sure.”

And yet, the governance of amateur boxing can at times make professional boxing promotion look like a Mormon summer camp; while the sport will be a part of the upcoming Paris Olympics just around the corner, its presence at future Olympiads remains far from guaranteed. In an attempt to shore up that side of the sport in the U.S., Paul has partnered with USA Boxing, which runs the country’s amateur program “to amplify Olympic boxing and its future champions.”

It has often been stated that one of the big reasons for boxing’s success in the USA in the 1980s was not just the presence of great fighters but the fact that Sugar Ray Leonard, for example, was already well known when he won gold at the 1976 Montreal Games, something that Paul says he is hoping to be able to replicate.

“The goal for me is to shine a light on those who are going to Paris, and tell their stories,” he said. “We are going to be putting out a documentary shortly on that, to help bring more eyeballs to them. And hopefully that gets more kids into gyms; hopefully that helps boost the program. Hopefully, some of the fighters get gold and then go through and have an amazing professional career. And I just hope to be there for them as a friend and someone who's been in big moments, acting like a mental coach and helping guide them through that pressure of performing, and hopefully getting the gold.”

Meanwhile, Paul is returning to the gym for his own next fight, against bare-knuckle boxing champion Mike Perry on the July 20 date on which he had initially been slated to take on Tyson. Whatever the level on which one fights, being a professional boxer is a dangerous, debilitating grind, something that Paul wishes fans more readily appreciate.

“I wish people could see the rigorous things that boxers have to do in camp,” he said. “And on a repeated basis what they have to deal with: the cutting weight, the taking the licks in sparring and doing it year in and year out. Year in and year out. I believe it's the hardest sport in the world. And boxers deserve all the credit in the world. And after boxing, for me, everything else in life is easy compared to what you have to go through in that gym and the pressure and everything else. So I have so much respect for anyone who gets into the ring.”