CLEVELAND – Tyron Woodley was nothing at all like the first three opponents Jake Paul pummeled.
The 39-year-old former UFC welterweight champion pushed Paul during their eight-round cruiserweight fight Sunday night. Woodley rocked Paul in the fourth round, took Paul’s power well for eight rounds and became the first fighter to take the popular, polarizing content creator the distance.
The 24-year-old Paul appeared tired by the fourth round and ate some clean shots from the durable Woodley. Two judges – Dana DePaolo (78-74) and Jaime Garayua (77-75) – still scored their highly competitive contest for Paul, who won a split decision.
Judge Phil Rogers scored Woodley a 77-75 winner of their anticlimactic match, which headlined Showtime Pay-Per-View’s five-fight telecast from Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Paul (4-0, 3 KOs), of nearby Westlake, Ohio, went past the second round for the first time in four professional fights. Before Sunday night, he knocked out YouTube rival Ali Eson Gib in the first round, retired NBA point guard Nate Robinson in the second round and retired UFC welterweight Ben Askren, Woodley’s friend, in the first round during a pro boxing career he launched in January 2020.
Woodley, who lost his last four UFC fights before his contract expired in the spring, lost in his pro boxing debut. He wasn't active enough, but Paul expressed respect for Woodley's power and toughness during a bout that drew an announced capacity crowd of 16,000.
“He’s a tough opponent,” Paul told Showtime’s Ariel Helwani during his post-fight interview in the ring. “He’s been boxing, fighting, whatever you wanna call it, for several years. I’ve been doing this for three years. … It was a tougher fight than I expected. My legs felt weird in the locker room. I don’t know what was wrong with me, but he’s a tough opponent. All respect to Tyron. You know, he’s a Hall-of-Famer. He put up a good fight. He’s a good boxer. He came in shape. I have nothing but respect for him. There was a lot of sh*t talk back and forth.”
Paul told Woodley he would grant him a rematch if Woodley followed through on their bet, that the loser would get the winner’s name tattooed on his body. Woodley shook Paul’s hand in the ring and promised that he would get the tattoo if he were guaranteed a rematch.
Woodley would’ve been contractually obligated to grant Paul a rematch had Woodley won.
CompuBox credited Paul for landing 19 more punches overall (71-of-207 to 52-of-163). According to CompuBox’s unofficial count, Woodley landed more power punches (41-of-115 to 35-of-85) and Paul connected on more jabs (36-of-122 to 11-of-48).
“I feel like I won the fight,” Woodley said. “I feel like Jake’s a great opponent. I didn’t expect him to go down. That’s why I came in great shape, because I knew he could take a punch. But the fact that one judge gave me two rounds is laughable. No disrespect, but f*** the [Tommy] Fury fight. We need to run that back. Me and Jake need to run that back.”
With their fight potentially on the table, Paul spent most of an uneventful eighth round moving away from Woodley, who tried to land another shot that could affect Paul.
Woodley connected with a left hook 1:05 into the seventh round. Boxing mostly off his back foot, Paul made Woodley miss several times with his right hand in that round.
Woodley landed a short, left hook inside with under a minute on the clock in the seventh round. Paul connected with a right hand as Woodley pressed forward, with his hands down, late in the seventh round.
Woodley and Paul got tangled up against the ropes a minute into the sixth round, after Woodley missed with a right hand. An off-balance Paul moved Woodley backward with a jab midway through the sixth round.
They traded left hooks with just under 40 seconds to go in the sixth round.
Paul appeared tired at the start of the fifth round, following a fourth round in which Woodley buzzed him with a right hand. Woodley’s straight right landed barely 1:10 into the fifth round.
Paul clipped Woodley with a left hook that Woodley took well with 1:10 on the clock in the fifth round. Paul also landed a stiff jab with just over 40 seconds to go in the fifth round.
Just as the fifth round came to an end, Paul grazed Woodley with a left hook.
Woodley’s stiff jab landed about 20 seconds into the fourth round. Paul threw a right hand that made Woodley tie him up a little more than a minute into the fourth round.
Woodley blasted Paul with a left hook that knocked him into the ropes with less than a minute to go in the fourth round. Paul appeared hurt by that shot and was tiring fast at that point.
Referee George Nichols could’ve counted that a knockdown because the ropes held up Paul.
Woodley connected with a right hand about 45 seconds into the third round. Paul’s left hook stopped Woodley in his tracks barely a minute into the third round.
Paul’s right uppercut moved Woodley backward, but it didn’t land flush and Woodley shook his head with just over a minute remaining in the third round to indicate he wasn’t affected by it. Woodley nailed Paul with a right hand just as the bell to end the third round sounded.
Paul landed a right to the side of Woodley’s head that knocked him backward about 15 seconds into the second round. A left hook by Paul got Woodley’s attention with about 50 seconds to go in the second round.
Woodley again had difficulty landing clean punches on the taller, longer Paul in that round. Dissatisfied fans booed, though, as that round ended due to a lack of action.
Paul touched Woodley with a right to his body that backed up Woodley 40 seconds into their fight. Paul also landed a left hook to Woodley’s head with about 1:10 to go in the opening round.
Paul established a comfortable distance during the first round, though Woodley did connect with a right hand when there were about 15 seconds to go in it.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.