Let’s say you’re Jake Paul.
You’ve taken the high ground as king of the burgeoning social media boxing craze while repeatedly professing your respect for the sport and your intent to legitimize your place in it.
And the marks, so far and against all odds, have been pretty good.
You entered the arena with a predictable win over YouTube wannabe AnEsonGib and moved the needle with an eye-candy erasure of ex-NBA’er Nate Robinson on the Tyson-Jones show last fall.
Obviously, though, that wasn’t enough to satisfy many beyond the hordes of sycophants who bow to your “influence,” so you and the Team Paul apparatus carefully set about finding suitable encores.
Tilling retired MMA ground for a hip-replaced Ben Askren provided name recognition and the illusion of boosted competition to the uninformed set, and the predictably easy victory that resulted not only generated increased water-cooler chatter but also the lucrative pay-per-view buzz that comes with it.
Call it a mission accomplished on both counts.
And a springboard to the next act.
And though a return dip in the MMA pool for ex-champion Tyron Woodley resulted in a more difficult competitive challenge than was publicly expected, the victory it yielded – and yes, it’s no hyperbole to suggest Paul was the winner – primes the pump for the next project with Showtime.
But what to do? What path to take? What opponent to choose?
Lucky for you, I’m happy to offer my Tuesday morning career-counseling services.
Absolutely free of charge.
First off, let’s start with the Brazilian elephant in the room – Vitor Belfort.
As 44-year-olds go, the guy’s a stone-cold beast. He’s got a physique most 25-year-olds would kill for, and he’s got enough pop left in his fists to knock a four-time heavyweight champion loopy.
OK, that four-time champion was 58 years old.
But still, it was a compelling watch for rubes in Florida, who were far too intoxicated by the presence of their beloved grifter-in-chief to notice the Triller folks brazenly reaching into their wallet.
At least we got to chant curse words in front of our hero.
Anyway, after Belfort dispatched of his clearly ready-for-pasture foe, he and his Triller posse went on the offensive, issuing a bombastic winner-take-all challenge for a cool $30 million, with the ex-MMA ace claiming he’d put you in his lap and treat you like a baby.
It’s the sort of callout that always generates a headline, but typically not much else.
One side won’t approve the site. The other can’t make the date. And next thing you know, poof.
That said, if your people and his people can get together and actually construct a deal in which that bursting bagful of money is a legitimate prize, my advice is simple: Take it.
Otherwise, I’ve got another suggestion.
You’ve beaten a YouTuber. You’ve beaten a basketball player. You’ve beaten two MMA fighters whose names were still familiar, but whose performances were well past vintage.
Another dose of the same old thing won’t provide the same jolt. And seeing how you profess to be a boxer and want to be respected by boxers, it’s high time to meet, wait for it… an actual boxer.
But don’t worry, Jake. I’m not suggesting you discard the training wheels just yet.
You needn’t tangle with the likes of Canelo Alvarez or Tyson Fury to get validation from me.
Instead, just as you did with your MMA foes, how about scanning the Ring Record Book and plucking an ex-fighter with some name value and some street cred, but something less than a recent win streak.
How about Kermit Cintron?
He’s a month shy of age 42 (older than both Askren and Woodley), hasn’t fought professionally for better than three years (both Askren and Woodley had been active more recently) and hasn’t actually won a fight in nearly five – since a December 2016 stoppage of Rosemberg Gomez in Bethlehem, Pa.
He’s also almost your size (5-11 to your 6 feet), nearly equals your reach (74 inches to your 76), and has just enough holdover legitimacy – including a run as IBF welterweight champ and fights with Canelo, Paul Williams and Antonio Margarito – to make just enough fight people think he’d compete.
Translation: More pay-per-view money in the bank for you.
And what’s more? He’s interested and available.
“Show me the contract,” said Cintron, who’s back in school in Bethlehem pursuing a degree in radiology with an eye on one day working with cancer patients. “Where do I sign?”
Lest anyone forget, this isn’t his first attempt to cash in on a popular gimmick.
Cintron was a successful wrestler in high school and college and suggested in 2007 that he’d be interested in challenging then-UFC lightweight champ Sean Sherk, after Floyd Mayweather had issued a challenge to MMA fighters but backed off when Dana White offered Sherk as an opponent.
Cintron expressed interest in a cage experiment several times across the remainder of his ring career, but it never came off. These days, he’s not quite as tuned in to boxing’s mainstream, but said he’s gotten wind of both you and brother Logan and your recent insurgences into his sport.
“I have kept up with how much of a joke boxing has become with some circus clowns like the Paul brothers,” he said. “Jake Paul will never fight a true boxer. I give credit, though, to his brother for fighting Mayweather.”
Fighting words, right? Or, in social media speak, full-on shade?
But wait… there’s more.
A lot more.
“It’s obvious he can’t fight if he’s fighting MMA fighters,” Cintron said.
“Against a real boxer like myself I doubt he lands five shots on me a round. And that’s if he makes it out of the first round. Like Mike Tyson said, you have a plan until you get hit. I would feel him out in the first round, but as a veteran with the experience I have I don’t have to throw a punch to tire him out.”
OK, the vitriol is there. Let’s get down to logistics.
Cintron was born and spent much of his childhood in Puerto Rico, where you’ve trained and spent a lot of time yourself. Imagine putting a Showtime event together at a venue in downtown San Juan, or on a beach with the waves from the Caribbean Sea lapping nearby.
The visuals would be amazing. The back stories would be compelling.
And, to put it in your language, the clicks would be infinite.
All that’s left is to make the offer. Askren made $500K. Woodley got $2 million. Cintron is willing to work at the lesser end of the scale to give you your chance to get over with the boxing world.
The next move, he said, is yours to make.
“I’m a former world champ. I deserve what I’m worth,” he said. “But I’m not greedy like today’s fighters are. I fight to be the best, not the richest.
“He will have an advantage over me. I haven’t fought since 2018 and that ended in a no-contest. I have not seen the boxing gym since. If Jake wants to be an elite fighter then he should fight a true boxer. And since he has been fighting old MMA fighters, why not fight an old boxer who’s a former world champion.
“I’m willing to give him a shot.”
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
No title fights scheduled.
Last week's picks: 2-0 (WIN: Valdez, Nakatani)
2021 picks record: 30-10 (75 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,186-385 (75.4 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.