Cleveland native Jake Paul’s path to fame came through a combination of social media savvy, Disney Channel casting, and being Logan Paul’s kid brother. When he became a professional boxer in 2020, most viewed it as just his latest stunt to build his “brand.”
If that’s how it started, though, it has morphed into something different. Paul, under the training of former cruiserweight contender B.J. Flores, has taken the sport seriously and developed into a credible boxer.
He’s not a title contender. He doesn’t belong in the ring with world-class opponents. But for a neophyte boxer with six pro fights, he has to be commended for facing reasonable opposition, taking care of business each time (six wins, four by KO) and striving to test himself against a fellow professional boxer.
Enter Tommy Fury, whose path to fame came through a combination of being world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury’s half-brother and starring on a British reality-TV dating show.
Paul has tried since late 2021 to make a fight against Fury happen. A pro boxer since 2018 with a record of 8-0, 4 KOs, Fury checks two important boxes: Unlike the assortment of aging MMA fighters, retired NBA players, and YouTubers on Paul’s resume, Fury is legitimately a professional boxer. It also helps that his surname makes the fight marketable.
So after two false starts (Fury pulled out once with an alleged injury and another time because of visa issues), Paul finally gets his wish Sunday in the controversial setting of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. ESPN’s pay-per-view arm is carrying the card and its scheduled eight-round cruiserweight main event.
It’s Jake Paul vs. a real pro boxer. Not a highly regarded boxer, but a boxer just the same. And it’s an intriguing fight to explore from a betting perspective, with Paul narrowly favored and a case to be made for various wagering approaches.
The trick is finding a legal sportsbook at which to bet on the fight. As of early afternoon Friday, the Ohio Casino Control Commission was still deliberating on the matter.
Will this fight go the way of the XFL?
“The Commission has received a request to add the Jake Paul/Tommy Fury match to our catalogue,” OCCC Director of Communication Jessica Franks told OH Bets via email on Thursday. “Our team is currently working through that request and hopes to make a decision soon.” As of this article’s publication, a decision had not been reached.
As OH Bets reported Wednesday, Ohio is a rare state not allowing betting on the XFL, and the OCCC guidelines regarding that circumstance are potentially relevant to the Paul vs. Fury fight. Among the criteria the OCCC examines when considering whether to allow wagering on an event:
- The quality of the governing body’s documented integrity program.
- The general availability of information related to the governing body.
- The professional or skill level status of athletes.
- The history of integrity related to events sanction by the governing body.
Boxing is overseen in the U.S. by individual state commissions, with title belts distributed by for-profit sanctioning groups.
In the case of Paul-Fury, there is no major title at stake, though at least one of the for-profit sanctioning bodies has inserted itself to announce a ranking will be at stake — which, if you wanted to be a cynic, you could suggest is just a company angling for a cut of future Paul boxing earnings.
And Saudi Arabia does not have a lengthy history overseeing fights.
In short: Given the OCCC’s ruling on the XFL, it shouldn’t come as a shock if Paul-Fury doesn’t make the grade.
Paul the favorite — unofficially
While Ohio weighs its options, the fight has also proven hard to find active odds on in other states. As of Wednesday, SuperBook had odds posted on its Colorado site (Paul a -190 favorite, Fury +170), but by Friday those odds were removed.
DraftKings posted an article Monday noting that it had opened the odds at -160 for Paul and +125 for Fury but moved to -180/+140 by the start of fight week. It also listed various props, including over 6.5 rounds at -150 and under at +115, with Paul by decision the shortest method-of-victory prop at +180. But checking the DraftKings Sportsbook app in various states on various days has yielded no actual available odds.
FanDuel Sportsbook had odds posted in some states as of Friday for the featured undercard bout on the Paul-Fury show, cruiserweight titlist Ilunga Makabu vs. veteran two-division former beltholder Badou Jack, but not for the main event.
One sportsbook that was never going to take wagers on this bout is Betr, the microbetting-focused operator co-founded by Paul.
For starters, Betr doesn’t offer microbetting (hyper-granular in-game bets, essentially play-by-play markets) on combat sports. Sports like baseball, football, and tennis are conducive to such wagers, but boxing and MMA don’t mesh quite as well with microbetting. Nevertheless, Betr noted in a Feb. 15 release that it has “plans to include combat sports microbetting opportunities soon.”
It would also be a clear conflict of interest for Betr to take wagers on a sporting event in which one of the athletes is a co-founder of the company.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission tackled this topic at its Jan. 19 meeting. The commissioners conversed back and forth about how to word a regulation to prevent the conflict of interest.
“What you would want to ensure, to the extent this is a concern,” said MGC General Counsel Todd Grossman, “is that Betr not offer … wagering on any fights that Mr. Paul has any involvement with.”
How far that would extend was left undecided, and Ohio could always adopt different rules from those in Massachusetts. But Betr has made clear that it does not intend in any state — including Ohio, the first state in which it launched real-money gambling— to permit betting directly on Paul’s fights, either in boxing or in MMA, where he has signed a contract with the Professional Fighters League.
In the meantime, Ohio sports bettors wait for word on whether they will have the opportunity to wager on Sunday’s fight at a non-Betr regulated sportsbook. Paul can earn a measure of respect from the hardcore boxing observers with a victory. Whether his supporters can earn actual cash as a result remains to be seen.
Photo: Mark Robison/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images