It’s going to be harder than ever to quiet Jake Paul now.
On Sunday night, Paul beat former UFC champion Tyron Woodley by split decision, and the boisterous YouTube celebrity improved to 4-0 as a professional boxer.
The judges scored the eight-round fight 77-75 and 78-74 in favor of Paul, 77-75 in favor of Woodley.
Paul, 24, was facing what was widely viewed as his toughest challenge yet in Woodley, 39, a former UFC welterweight champ with knockout power.
In the fourth round, Woodley clobbered Paul and the ropes appeared to keep Paul on his feet. Paul looked wobbly, but he survived the moment prevailed.
But Paul, throwing and landing more punches, prevailed in front of an announced sellout crowd of 16,000 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, a short drive from Paul’s hometown of Westlake.
“It was a tougher fight than I expected,” Paul said on the Showtime broadcast after the fight. “My legs felt weird, since the locker room. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but he’s a tough opponent. … He put up a good fight. He’s a good boxer.”
Woodley said he thought he won the fight but called Paul “a great opponent.’’
“I didn’t expect him to go down,’’ Woodley said. “Me and my coaches worked that. That’s why I came in great shape because I knew he could take a punch.’’
In an odd post-fight exchange, the two fighters appeared to agree on a rematch that is contingent on Woodley getting “I love Jake’’ tattooed on his body.
The bout marked the beginning of a multi-fight contract between Paul and Showtime, which carried the pay-per-view fight. The deal could be worth tens of millions of dollars to Paul.
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In his first three pro fights, Paul beat fellow YouTube celebrity AnEsonGib by TKO, beat retired NBA player Nate Robinson by knockout and beat retired MMA fighter Ben Askren by TKO. But critics pointed to Paul’s overmatched competition and questioned his legitimacy as a fighter.
Paul suddenly looks far more legitimate after the cruiserweight bout that was scheduled for eight rounds Sunday.
Woodley was making his pro boxing debut but was considered a significant step up in competition for Paul. Woodley is an accomplished MMA fighter who in 2016 won the UFC welterweight championship belt and retained it for the next four fights.