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Published: 29/Jan/2021 6:42by Brad Norton
Jake Paul and Ben Askren are set to clash inside of a boxing ring on April 17 but when the social media celebrity meets the former Olympic wrestler, who has the better odds at getting their hand raised?
There’s no denying that Jake Paul’s next challenge will be his toughest yet. Rather than signing a bout agreement with another inexperienced celebrity or internet star, he’s preparing to box a veteran athlete who has victories over some of the world’s most accomplished mixed martial artists.
While many have been quick to neglect Askren’s chances in the upcoming striking contest, he has more than a decade of professional experience to give him confidence while Paul has just two brief fights under his belt.
When the spotlight is on, both will be looking to embarrass the other in one of boxing’s most bizarre PPV events yet. But who has the better chance at success when the talking is over and the gloves are laced up? Let’s break down the numbers and take a deeper look at the matchup.
The most obvious factor heading into this matchup is experience. On one side of the coin, you have a relatively fresh boxing prospect. Paul had just one amateur bout against a fellow content creator in 2018 before turning professional in 2019.
That term is a little loose in this case, however. Typically, amateur boxers will have to rack up a dozen or so wins over a number of years before getting their first crack at the professional level. It’s a slow process that allows up and comers to develop in the ring, rather than being rushed ahead and getting outclassed early into their careers.
The term professional is also extremely murky due to Paul’s inexperience against other boxers. Of his three fights, two have been against social media stars with an equal lack of experience. The other was against a former basketball player who hadn’t thrown a single punch outside of the gym.
In signing the contract to take on Askren, Paul is lining himself up against his first real opponent with a combat sports background. While he’s never been known for his striking, Askren has been an elite athlete for more than a decade.
Starting off as a collegiate wrestler, Askren made a name for himself with more than 150 victories, making him one of the all-time greats in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
He soon advanced to the Olympic level, earning his position on the US freestyle wrestling team in 2008. While he didn’t place well enough for a medal, even making it to the Olympics cemented his spot as one of the most accomplished wrestlers in the world.
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A transition into mixed martial arts proved fruitful as Askren began his fighting career with a 19 fight winning streak across multiple organizations and regions. Throughout this staggering run, he collected wins over future champions Douglas Lima and Andrey Koreshkov to name a few.
Askren has dominated some of the best fighters in the world while Paul is only just beginning to scratch the surface in what could still be classed as an amateur boxing career.
When it comes to the stylistic matchup, these two couldn’t be further apart. One is relatively fresh to the boxing game while the other dominated the MMA scene for multiple years with his wrestling prowess.
Obviously, their showdown on April 17 comes with its fair share of rules. Askren won’t be able to incorporate any of his usual takedowns to overpower Paul. Though this doesn’t mean his gameplan won’t still rely upon a similar strategy.
Throughout his time in Bellator, One FC, and eventually the UFC, Askren primarily relied upon his wrestling experience to outclass 19 of his 21 opponents. While he has a number of TKO victories on his record, almost all of these came after wearing his opponents out on the mat, rather than accurate strikes on the feet.
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Given this is Askren’s first strict boxing match and that his striking has never been a glowing highlight, there’s a good chance he comes out looking to clinch as often as possible. Getting up close, landing short-range punches before grabbing Paul and waiting for the ref to step in could be his best option here.
This might prove to be a real drain for the less experienced Paul. Having never gone past the second round in his professional career, there’s really no indicating just how good his fuel tank is.
Can his cardio hold up until the eighth round when Askren is constantly closing the distance and making him work? Will his knockout power still be there later in the scrap? These are questions no one outside of Paul’s training camp has answers to.
Not only that, but both of Paul’s opponents up until now have been rather hittable. AnEsonGib doesn’t come from a boxing background and Nate Robinson had no experience in the ring leading to his fight. How will Paul react when he’s finally across from an opponent that knows how to block and evade strikes?
It’s entirely likely we see visible frustration from the corner of Paul. If his goals of a lightning-quick KO fail to materialize, we’ll be seeing Paul in deep waters for the first time in his career.
While there is a 12 year age difference between them, many of their physical characteristics are quite similar. Askren is slightly smaller of the two, coming in at 5ft 10” with Paul measuring up at 6ft 1”. Paul also has a minor four inch reach advantage to boot.
Naturally, the average viewer is going to gravitate towards age as the biggest determining factor here. You don’t often see 36-year-olds fighting 24-year-olds in legally sanctioned bouts. From slower reaction speeds to a weaker chin, you can make all sorts of predictions based on the gap in age alone.
However, it’s the more nuanced attributes that could make the biggest difference when it comes time to bite down on the mouthpiece.
In terms of damage absorbed, this might be the most significant advantage for Paul. Of his two professional bouts, he has just six minutes and 45 seconds of actual ring time. The first fight against AnEsonGib ended in the first round while the following scrap against Nate Robinson ended just halfway through the second round.
Throughout these rapid bouts, Paul was barely touched. A few strikes came through but none ever landed particularly clean. Therefore, the only real damage Paul has taken in his short combat sports tenure has come while sparring where he’d presumably be wearing headgear.
Meanwhile, Askren has certainly absorbed some more legitimate damage throughout his much lengthier career. There’s the devastating knockout loss to Jorge Masvidal, some brutal ground and pound damage sustained at the hands of Robbie Lawler, and every other strike that made its way through over his 21 fight MMA career.
Paul has a few minutes in the ring while Askren has just shy of four hours inside the octagon. With dozens of hours of sparring plus a six-year wrestling career added on, Askren’s body has taken far more of a toll than Paul’s.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that Askren technically retired in 2019. Since then, he hasn’t been actively training to the extent of a professional athlete. Moreover, he’s even coming into the boxing match just months removed from hip replacement surgery.
When it comes to the raw physical attributes, on paper, Paul should have Askren’s number. But with the beauty of the fight game, anything can happen to anyone on any given night.
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We’re still a while off from push coming to shove so both fighters still have plenty of time to get in shape, gameplan, and lock in their path to victory.
Paul has lofty ambitions for his combat sports career. Meanwhile, Askren has already climbed to the top of the mountain and found success. Only one will be getting their hand raised come April 17.