Former boxing champion Oscar De La Hoya ruffled a few feathers in the “sweet science” community on Tuesday when he told the combat sport media that YouTube sensation Jake Paul was the “real deal” and could be a lot of “good champions” inside the ring.
“Let me tell you one thing about Jake Paul: he’s the real deal. With only four or five fights, and the way he’s taking it serious, Jake Paul is the real deal,” De La Hoya told TMZ Sports. “And I dare anyone who has boxing, who has MMA experience to call him out because I can tell you one thing this guy can beat a lot of good champions, even maybe great champions. He’s taking it serious. This is not a one-off, a two-off, a three-off, no. He wants to become a world champion and there’s no way out of becoming a world champion, you have to fight the very best and he’s doing it right. I just have to say that, that Jake Paul is doing the right thing.”
Paul competes in the cruiserweight division and quickly jumped out to a 5-0 record with four knockouts. Certainly an impressive start, but “The Problem Child” has been criticized for ducking legitimate pugilists in favor of fellow celebrities and shopworn UFC fighters.
“He’s on his way to becoming a contender, and he’s on his way to becoming a world contender, then a world champion. If he keeps it up, with all the social media stuff, look, everybody wants to be him,” De La Hoya continued. “Think about it, everybody wants followers, everybody is on social media. What’s wrong with him having 19 plus million followers? It’s wonderful for the sport, enough with that BS, let him be. He’s doing the right thing and is great for boxing. I really hope he does become world champion.”
Paul, 25, is coming off a knockout victory over former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley last December in Tampa and expects to make his in-ring return at some point later this summer, though an opponent — as well as a city and venue — have yet to be revealed.
“To hear that from [De La Hoya] means a lot, but he’s right and I’ve been saying it all along. I sound so cocky: ‘He’s right!’ but it’s true man. I beat world champions in the gym and sparring,” Paul told TMZ Sports. “Two years as a professional and I’m already doing that, it’s clearly a natural talent that I have, a natural power that I have and I work my ass off. People don’t really see that. They think I just go in there but I’m day in, day out twice a day, three times a day in the gym working on getting better in the sport. It is awesome to hear that and I’m gonna prove that I can beat world champions on the big stage. I think this last fight proved that people have to take me seriously and that everyone should be on high alert and I’m just getting started with what’s to come. You see a lot more champions and a lot more fighters having my back now and it’s really awesome because that respect is growing.”
Some fighters ... but not all.