On April 17th, 2021, the worlds of professional boxing and social media celebrity collided as YouTube star and aspiring pugilist Jake Paul took to the ring. After racking up a pair of knockout victories over fellow YouTube stream “AnEnsonGib” and former NBA lightweight Nate Robinson, Paul appeared poised to up the stakes.
This time, he was squaring off against a legitimate fighter in retired UFC brawler Ben Askren. Online sportsbooks and Las Vegas bet shops alike experienced a surge of action, but when the bell was finally rung, bettors and bookies alike were left with a bad taste in their mouths. Read on to learn why wagering on novelty events like Paul’s highly hyped boxing stunts simply isn’t worth the trouble.
Tale of the Tape: Who Are Jake Paul and Ben Askren Anyway?
For those unfamiliar with the central actors in this much ballyhooed bout, here’s a quick crash course on Paul and Eskren.
If you don’t know who Jake Paul is, chances are your teenaged kids probably do. That’s because Paul started a wildly successful YouTube channel back in 2014, one centered around outlandish social commentary and salacious pranks. After building a loyal base of followers through his streaming escapades, Paul branched out to become a musician and entrepreneur.
Along the way, however, his penchant for bending the law and taking his antics to the extreme also led to several controversial incidents.
Formerly a gawky computer geek, Paul decided to bulk up and train with former pro boxers in hopes of joining their ranks. After a successful amateur boxing debut, Paul beat YouTube colleague “AnEnsonGib” in January of 2020, prevailing via TKO just two minutes into the 1st round. He followed that win up by knocking out the diminutive former point guard Robinson a minute and a half into Round 2.
Paul’s 2-0 start was widely dismissed though, as he faced widespread criticism from a boxing community which challenged him to face a “real” fighter.
And so it was that Paul booked his highest profile match to date against Askren.
A former collegiate wrestler, Askren was proficient enough on the mat to earn a spot on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team. And while he didn’t reach the medal podium there, Askren did win several Welterweight championships while competing in the Bellator, ONE, and UFC mixed-martial arts (MMA) arena. Overall, Askren finished his MMA career with a stellar record of 19-2-0.
Askren’s MMA days came to an end in October of 2019, so leading into his first foray into the boxing ring, the 36-year old fighter had spent nearly a year and a half idle.
The 24-year old Paul, meanwhile, has spent that time hitting the gym and paying a host of boxing trainers to hone his skills.
When the two weighed in ahead of their April bout, the younger Paul clocked in at 191 pounds to Askren’s 191.5 pounds. Despite that seemingly similar statistic though, Paul boasted a cut and clean physique while Askren sported a classic “Dad-bod.”
Following boxing’s age-old tradition, both Paul and Askren spit venomous trash talk the other’s way during pre-fight hype interviews.
After pulling up a video of UFC star Jorge Masvidal’s iconic KO win over Askren, which saw Masvidal end things in 5 seconds flat courtesy of a flying knee to the face, Paul went to work:
“This guy’s striking is that of a grandma. Quite literally, if I put a grandma in against Jorge Masvidal, she would have lasted longer than this guy. He’s a good athlete, they say, but April 17 he’s gonna get exposed. This is boxing vs. MMA and you’re gonna see the difference.
You’re gonna see the difference of a wannabe fighter, a guy who choked in the Olympics, a guy who choked in the UFC, and now a guy who’s gonna choke against Jake Paul. I’m gonna end this guy’s career as an embarrassment. Masvidal did it once, I’m about to do it again.”
The veteran Askren was more taciturn in his reply, pointing out that the boxing ring is a far cry from a true fistfight:
“You’re not gonna bully me. That’s not gonna happen. You know, like, Jake if you and I ran into each other in the back alley in Las Vegas and I wanted to do a homicide … I would do a homicide on you if I wanted to.”
How Did the Sports Betting Market React to Paul vs. Askren?
Even though a YouTube “celebrity” taking on a retired MMA fighter in his first boxing match may seem like mere spectacle, sportsbooks and bettors alike were happy to enjoy the show.
According to OddsChecker.com, the consensus opening line posted by most online boxing betting sites and land-based bet shops showed Paul as a major moneyline favorite with (-280) odds. That translates to an expected win rate of 73.70 percent, showing that the early market movers clearly saw Paul as the horse to back.
The number crunchers at OddsMaker.com also report that the overall ticket count was much tighter than those opening odds might suggest. In aggregate, just over 52 percent of online wagers placed favored Paul to win, while 44.50 percent preferred Askren, and 3 percent believed the bout would end in a draw.
If you prefer the brick-and-mortar betting at places like the Westgate SuperBook, that venerable venue posted a ticket count of 56 percent / 44 percent in favor of Askren. Nonetheless, the SuperBook saw a whopping 80 percent of the money wagered come in on Paul.
Interestingly enough, a late wave of Askren tickets forced bookmakers to continually lower the odds on Paul. By the time fight night had arrived, most major sportsbook operations in the US listed Paul as a slim (-125) favorite over Askren (-105).
In terms of betting limits, the majority of reputable online sportsbooks set their single-wager cap at $2,000 or lower.
A few even brought the maximum allowable bet size down to $500, apparently seeking to limit their liability on an unpredictable offering which couldn’t really be handicapped using traditional measures.
With that said, the big boys in Sin City such as the SuperBook and Circa Sports were happy to accept additional action.
How Did the Highly Anticipated Paul vs. Askren Match Eventually Play Out?
Broadcast exclusively on the streaming platform Triller Fight Club – don’t ask me, you’re guess is as good as mine – Paul vs. Askren was a brief and boring affair. In the ring anyway…
With guest host Snoop Dogg bringing his signature style to the proceedings – and casually mentioning his $2 million dollar bet on Paul against UFC head honcho Dana White – the duo started off warily circling one another. A few initial jabs from Paul missed their mark, while the wrestler Askren went in for a clinch or two.
Soon enough, less than two minutes after the bell had rung, Paul delivered a crisp left jab / right hook combination that sent Askren straight to the mat. And while he did rise to his feet to beat the 10-count, the referee deemed Askren out on his feet during the standing eight count.
Just like that, Paul’s budding boxing career had claimed its first “real” fighter, setting the YouTube star up for yet another Triller spectacle down the road.
For his part, Askren took his knockout defeat in stride, congratulating Paul on besting him in a legitimate mano a mano contest.
Unfortunately for all involved though, Askren’s behavior during the post-fight proceedings left the betting world to wonder whether they had been had.
Novelty Fight Widely Regarded to be Rigged by Informed Fans
Watching as Paul celebrated by shouting to the crowd and climbing the turnbuckles in triumph, Askren stood alongside his wife and team.
But instead of showing disappointment or anger, Askren simply beamed as the cameras captured an ear-to-ear smile – and little in the way of bruising or bleeding. Naturally, news of Askren’s $500,000 payday for less than 120 seconds of work – more than he earned in his last three UFC fights combined – led many fight fans to speculate that he “took a dive.”
The murky world of boxing has long been home to suspicious scoring by judges, allegations of diving, and other malfeasance. And given the following pre-fight quote from Askren, it’s not a stretch to suggest that winning wasn’t exactly his priority:
“I’m gonna take it seriously, but ‘the highest level of competition,’ not even close. I’m gonna have fun with this, that’s what I came for. Jake thinks he’s a high-level boxer. I think he’s fairly delusional, I guess we’ll find out.”
Paul wasn’t having it though, telling the audience that his win over Askren should end the “is Jake Paul a real boxer” debate once and for all:
“I told you I was going do it in the first round. I told you I’m a real fighter. I don’t know how many times I’ve got to prove myself that this is for real.”
Even so, legendary former UFC champion Daniel Cormier quickly took to Twitter to cast his doubts about the outcome. Of course, Paul showed up at the next UFC event one week later, making sure to square up with Cormier in a war of words.
So, with Paul clearly angling to face more retired UFC figures down the road, should sports bettors bother with his strange breed of boisterous boxing?
That depends on a variety of factors really, first and foremost being this… are you comfortable wagering on essentially non-sanctioned fights that very well may be rigged? If you are, well, continuing to back Paul in fights he practically hosts himself is probably a winning play. As the SuperBook’s stats suggested, four out of five dollars wagered backed Paul to win, so the Westgate took quite a hit.
And with celebrities like Snoop Doog proudly advertising their seven-figure side bets, it would seem betting on Paul is a sure thing – until it isn’t, that is. If these fights are fake, don’t be surprised when it’s Paul taking the dive, while cashing in on himself once again in the process.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...
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