Pretty early on in Kelefa Sanneh’s long but pitch-perfect new profile of Jake Paul, the Disney scamp turned YouTube jabroni turned trollish professional boxer is described as a “mediagenic villain with a quixotic plan.”
And that, my friends, is when you are 100 percent sure that you’re reading a story in The New Yorker.
I don’t know what possessed the tastemakers at the country’s toniest but simultaneously cheugiest lit/pop/culture magazine to want to do a deep-dive on Jake Fucking Paul, but I’m sort of glad they did. Imagine the eye-rolling—the copious eye-rolling!—that must have accompanied this assignment from inception to completion. Yet, somehow, there it is: One of the lead stories in The New Yorker’s latest issue right there alongside a review of Anne Carson’s latest poetry book and a theater piece headlined: “Work, Motherhood, and Capitalism Onstage.”
Come to think of it, I also don’t totally know why Jake Paul would want to be in The New Yorker. How do I put this gently? It doesn’t really seem to cater to his demo? There was never a single, solitary hope he would look good in this story? There’s probably a zero percent chance that anybody who reads about him in The New Yorker—except maybe, like James Ellroy—would ever spend a dime to watch Jake Paul fight?
But whatever. Maybe Jake Paul is still operating under an “all press is good press” media philosophy. Maybe he thought he needed to raise his profile among spinster Broadway enthusiasts and adjunct English professors at small liberal colleges across the country. Maybe Jake and Logan secretly have a stack of unread New Yorkers tucked in the bottom shelf of the coffee table next to their half-completed Sunday New York Times crosswords and the hardcover copy of Cloud Cuckoo Land they’re gonna get to as soon as this Tommy Fury bout is over.
In any case, a long-ass, probably like 4,000-word New Yorker Profile of Jake Paul is now a thing that exists in the world.
Shoutout to Kelefa Sanneh, who reported this piece mostly during the lead-up to Jake Paul’s fight against Tyron Woodley, and did a really good job on the finished product. I mean, it’s in The New Yorker, so it’s not like it was ever going to be bad, but Sanneh does an extraordinary job creating something that could be read with equal interest by both total noobs and combat sports fans. He presents Jake Paul as he is—giving him enough rope to hang himself at times, you might say—while avoiding most of the pitfalls that usually accompany boxing/MMA journalism written by someone from outside the bubble. It also must have been a challenge to write a sprawling, in-depth feature story about someone who, frankly, just doesn’t have a lot of depth.
So, yeah, it’s good but it’s long (have I mentioned how long it is?) and so I read it because I knew you motherfuckers wouldn’t.
Here are the best/worst parts, so the next time you’re at a cocktail party with Stacey Kent and Karl Ove Knausgaard you can impress them by pretending you did, in fact, read it. Quotes from the original article are in italics:
The part where we realize we are all Lou DiBella.
Veteran boxing promoter Lou DiBella doesn’t have a huge role in this story, but the parts where he does appear seem to tell a real story about where we’re all at with Jake Paul. Check out this part, where DiBella goes from hating Jake Paul to kinda admiring him in a single paragraph:
Lou DiBella is a promoter known for strong opinions and an inability to keep them to himself. Last year, when Paul was gearing up to fight Nate Robinson, DiBella told an interviewer, “The idea that I gotta watch Jake Paul or some of these other numbnuts fighting ex-professional football players and shit like that—who the fuck wants to see that?” This year, on Twitter, he was less dismissive. “There’s a reason @jakepaul has star power,” he wrote. “He’s smart and he’s a master button pusher. And when it comes to #boxing, he shows more respect for the sport (and its potential) than most others in it.”
Sounds familiar, right? Like, when we all started out hating Jake Paul because he’s fucking Jake Paul, but then we realized he was just trolling MMA fans (we were totally falling for it). And then we had to admit we begrudgingly respected him for essentially making a bunch of money in the fight game on a goof? Stupid Jake Paul out here almost making us like him. Almost.
Well, DiBella actually comes to see enough of Jake Paul’s positives that he gets in business with him, sending one of his fighters, Amanda Serrano, to fight on the undercard of Jake Paul’s fight with Tyron Woodley. And everything went well! Serrano won! There could have been a happy ending! Except! Except! That Serrano had such a good time that this happens:
A few weeks after [the fight] she announced that she was leaving DiBella to work exclusively with Paul, who had launched a boxing-promotion company.
Stupid Jake Paul.
The part where Jake Paul has a briefly sobering exchange with Tyron Woodley’s mother, in which he has to try to explain himself.
… Paul was visited in his dressing room by Woodley’s mother, Deborah, an expressive and charismatic woman widely known as Mama Woodley.
“We’re out here doing business,” Paul told her, almost apologetically. “Selling pay-per-views.”
She beamed. “You and Tyron gon’ get out there and beat each other’s ass,” she said.
She departed, and Paul was left alone with his entourage, which included at least two videographers and his girlfriend, Julia Rose, a social-media star with a similarly prankish sensibility. (During the 2019 World Series, Rose positioned herself near home plate and flashed the television camera; earlier this year, she claimed to have helped change the Hollywood sign to read, briefly, “HOLLYBOOB.”) Paul was explaining his plan to knock Woodley unconscious. “It’s a bit bittersweet now, with Tyron’s mom,” he said, his bravado fading for a moment. “I’m going to try and forget that we talked.”
See, it’s all fun and games until you have to meet a guy’s mom and explain to her why you’re being such a dick.
The part where Sanneh quotes Logan Paul, “bros” and “likes” and all, while explaining how Jake Paul approaches his boxing career:
“Jake’s definitely way more serious, bro,” Logan Paul told me, backstage. “Before Floyd, bro, we were, like, making TikToks and shit,” he said. “He’s not like that. He’s big on mental visualization.”
Yeah, see, you don’t GOTTA put all the “bros” and “likes” in there when you quote Logan Paul. You could, if you felt more charitable to your subject, take at least one of those “bros” out. Only reason you’d leave those “bros” and “likes” in there is if you were trying to paint a certain picture—which this quote definitely does.
The part where Jake Paul listens to rain forest sounds and explains that the earth or the higher powers or whatever definitely want him to beat Tyron Woodley.
Late one night, Paul grew philosophical. “What I will do with this platform, this following, this attention is far more impactful than what Tyron Woodley would do if he would win,” he told me, as rain-forest sounds burbled from his iPhone. (He had been sitting in an ice bath earlier, and hadn’t bothered to turn off the meditative music he likes to listen to.) “I think the higher powers, or God, or whatever you want to call it or whatever it is—maybe there’s nothing there, maybe it’s just, like, a placebo, and just thinking there’s something that is guiding me, which then gives me the ultimate confidence to go and win, so I don’t even question it—but I do think that the earth would rather me win than him.”
Hahaha, go fuck yourself, Jake Paul.
The part where Sanneh perfectly explains boxing’s relationship to MMA.
To a mixed-martial-arts fan, boxing might seem dull: an ancient sport in which two people merely stand and hit each other, following rules that haven’t much changed since they were set down in nineteenth-century London. And to a boxing fan M.M.A. might seem inelegant: a mishmash that occasionally resembles a bar fight, with combatants trading haymakers and then collapsing onto the mat to roll around.
In M.M.A., Paul … found a supply of fighters who were not necessarily any more skilled at boxing than Paul was, combined with an army of fans who might be willing to pay for the opportunity to see their sport vindicated. Who says M.M.A. fighters can’t punch?
Goddamn it, that’s us. That’s totally us. Also, gotta love the way New Yorker style insists on calling it “M.M.A.” like it’s the damn 1930s or something.
The part with the not-incorrect description of Jake Paul’s eyelashes.
Paul is twenty-four and blond, with a confident smirk that is softened, slightly, by feathery eyelashes.
Holy fucking shit, this fucking anecdote about Mark Gastineau!
… to gauge Paul’s place in the sport, it may be helpful to consider a different precursor: Mark Gastineau, the former football player, who in 1991 began a new career in professional boxing—“fighting for respect,” as the Los Angeles Times put it. Like Paul, Gastineau was a famous white guy, strong but untutored, and, like Paul, he seemed sure that hard work and determination could make up for missed decades of training. His success, if he achieved it, would debunk the old-fashioned idea that champions are formed through years of patient gym work, but it would also affirm the idea that every boxing match is a test of wills, and that an unusually willful man might therefore triumph against the odds. He won his début bout, against a fighter named Derrick Dukes, by knockout.
Gastineau’s boxing story was complicated by the broadcast, in 1994, of a “60 Minutes” investigation in which Dukes revealed that the fight had been “totally fixed.” Dukes, a former pro wrestler, gave a demonstration: he asked Steve Kroft to throw an imaginary punch, and dropped at once to the ground, imaginarily knocked out. Gastineau denied cheating, but by then the fantasy that he was a boxing savant had already been dispelled, by a journeyman named Tim (Doc) Anderson, who beat him easily in a five-round decision. There was a rematch, which Gastineau won, although apparently not without some help: Anderson later said that the fight’s promoter, Rick (Elvis) Parker, offered him half a million dollars to throw the first fight and, on the night of the second fight, secretly poisoned him. Years later, during a confrontation over the alleged poisoning, Anderson shot and killed Parker.
The part where Sanneh succinctly sums up Jake Paul’s boxing ability.
A Web site called BoxRec uses a mathematical formula to rank every active professional, and it recently listed Paul as the five-hundred-and-eighty-third-best cruiserweight in the world, out of nine hundred and twenty-eight. That doesn’t seem wrong.
No, it does not.
The part where he explains what it means to be “mediagenic villain with a quixotic plan.”
Boxing has spent decades trying, and generally failing, to transform its top athletes into big celebrities. [Paul wants] to achieve that transformation in reverse.
Ah, I see. I get it. I think.
The part with the unflinching description of Jake Paul’s alleged sexual assaults, where we must confront not only the reality that Jake Paul is probably a huge and terrible piece of shit but also begin to ask ourselves questions about the entire endeavor of fight sports and what exactly we’re doing here.
“One thing that is great about being a fighter is, like, you can’t get cancelled,” Paul told me. In fact, boxing can be a way to monetize a bad reputation: people who would never dream of buying a Jake Paul T-shirt might nevertheless pay to watch someone try to punch him in the face. Paul is not a great boxer, and it is by no means obvious that he will ever become one. But he is already one of the top-grossing fighters in the world.
The world of YouTubers thrives on endless reaction—a dizzying cascade of claims and counterclaims. But the accusations of sexual assault raise the possibility that Paul was not just a jerk but a predator. Earlier this year, a performer named Railey Lollie told the Times that she had begun working with Paul when she was seventeen, and that he often referred to her as “jailbait.” She also said that he had once groped her; in the paper’s account, “She forcefully told him to stop, and he ran out of the room.” Justine Paradise, a social-media personality, told a more detailed story in a video posted to YouTube. She said that she was friendly with Paul and that one night he took her to his bedroom, where they danced and then began kissing. In her account, Paul “tried to put his hands places that I didn’t want,” and she moved them away, but Paul ignored this rejection. “He undid his pants and grabbed my face and started fucking my face,” she said. Afterward, he brusquely told her that he wanted to rejoin his friends elsewhere in the house.
Paul has called both of these allegations false. He told me he never would have called Lollie “jailbait” or groped her. And he said, of Paradise, “I didn’t even have any sort of a run-in with this girl.” More than once, he characterized the women’s accounts as “a cry for attention,” which might sound mean-spirited even to people who are inclined to believe his side of the story.
Yeah, OK, fuck Jake Paul.