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YouTube star-turned-pro-boxer Jake Paul previews his April 17 bout vs. Ben Askren and opens up on his dark period over the last few years saying fame isn't all it's cracked up to be.
KEVIN IOLE: Hey, everybody. I am Kevin Iole. Welcome to Yahoo! Sports, and my guest right now is a familiar face-- a familiar face for a lot of people. Maybe not for fight fans but get used to this face because he is selling a lot of per views, and he is making a lot of noise in the fight game. Jake Paul. And I don't know what to call you, Jake, because they want to call you "YouTube sensation." I think we've got to come up with something better than YouTube sensation. What do I call you?
JAKE PAUL: That's a good question. Yeah, I'm not really even a YouTuber anymore. I would say "disruptor" might be a good vocabulary word, but I should maybe spend some time thinking of a new bio here. Because, yeah, I'm sort of-- I'm an athlete now I guess, so here we go.
KEVIN IOLE: I have it this way. I'm going to say the biggest pain in Dillon Danis' side, Jake Paul who on Saturday will end up at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta is going to be fighting Ben Askren, a UFC fighter, a great wrestler, never known for his striking. But you are going to fight him. He is making $1 million for that by the way. That is quite the nice payday. Jake you are a minus 175 favorite to win this fight at the MGM Grand. And that honestly-- and no disrespect to you, that blows my mind. You have never fought a professional fighter. And now you're turning around, and you're fighting a guy that was a world champion of multiple organizations who has fought all along, and you're favored. Does that shock you as well?
JAKE PAUL: It's just interesting to me. I sort of expect that. But, yeah. It is weird. You would think the guy who's 19-2, and that is the NCAA two time Division I champ, who is an Olympic athlete, who's been in this game for years and years would be the favorite. I think people know how seriously I'm taking this. I don't know who makes the odds, right? But I think it goes back to people not thinking that Ben Askren is a good striker. But again, I've only had two professional fights, so it is pretty crazy to me.
KEVIN IOLE: I did a story today on your fight. I talked to Freddie Roach the Hall of Fame trainer. And he said he thought Askren hit very hard. He was surprised how hard Askren hit, and he thought Askren's conditioning was good. Now, these are quotes that he gave to other people I saw on the internet. To me, he was respectful. He did not rip you other than saying he thought-- he called you a "YouTube boob," but other than that, he didn't say much else. But one of the things he said, Ben knocking Jake Paul on his ass will be YouTube's most popular video on Sunday. The fact that they're trying to get under your skin by talking, do you think that that says anything about their mindset going into the fight?
JAKE PAUL: I think that's just the nature of the fight game, and everyone's going to have their two cents to chip in. And, hey, he's not wrong. Everyone wants to see Jake Paul lose. I've sort of become this villain character, and a lot of people don't like me because of that. And so, yes, people want to see me lose, and he isn't wrong with some of those statements. But unfortunately for them, I'm more prepared, and I know that going into the fight. I know that the whole world wants to see Jake Paul lose. So every single day when I wake up to go train twice a day, I have the whole world rooting against me. And so that quite literally is the reason why I'm so motivated, and why I've worked so hard, and why I've gotten all this experience under my belt in the past three years. And I'm hungry, and I want to prove all these people wrong.
KEVIN IOLE: Going back to what we said at the beginning there. Now, I know you are a professional athlete, because you already got the chip on your shoulder, right? That all the athletes have. And I want to ask you-- Triller, which is promoting this fight and I think doing a great job in trying to bring attention to boxing and maybe present it in a different way. They did a great series, and I was watching why you wanted to be a fighter. And you said something that really struck me, and I think people would find it shocking. You said, you've been in a dark place over the last couple of years. And I wonder if you can tell people-- we will look at you from the surface and say, you got rich at a very young age. You're very popular. You have everything you could possibly want, and yet, you're in a dark place. How could that possibly be, Jake?
JAKE PAUL: Yeah, and I said that in the video. I was like, people think because you have the Lamborghini, and the big houses, and all those things that you're just happy and life is great. But that's not true at all, and anyone who has those things will tell you that. Life's about happiness and being OK with yourself. And I've had a lot of ups and downs in my career, and growing up in the spotlight, you get confused. You don't know who your friends are. You don't know who you are.
I've been on camera since the age of 16. I went through the whole Disney Channel ecosystem, came out of that, and life sort of slapped me in the face. And there was all these people around me, and I wasn't surrounded with love and the right people. I just wasn't happy. And I had all these nice things, but I just felt empty, and I didn't know what I wanted to do in this life. And so in many ways boxing helped me find a passion like you were saying, and it sort of saved me from self-destructing.
KEVIN IOLE: It's really interesting that the fight game has done that to so many people. Over the years, you go back and there have been so many people that has done it. What is it about boxing? Is it the fact that it's just-- it's probably the hardest sport, right? I should say the fight game, not just specifically boxing, but MMA, and kickboxing, and all that stuff. What is it about the fighting that has an impact on so many young people, that it helps you rise up and overcome other issues in your life?
JAKE PAUL: I think it gives you something to fight for both literally and figuratively, and it forces you to be the best version of yourself and come to a place where you are mentally healthy. And you're working on yourself every single day. You're working out. You're focused on something, and you have a goal and something to look forward to. And a lot of fighters have chips on their shoulders, and they want to prove to the rest of the world that they're the best and that they will overcome anything. And so it just gives people that good feeling, that glory, that rush, and it makes them feel fulfilled.
KEVIN IOLE: Your fight with Nate Robinson obviously went viral. The knockout against the former NBA slam dunk champion was crazy-- went viral. I think it was one of the top five pay-per-views of all time in combat sports, which is mind blowing. And so you've largely been an outsider to boxing, but I'm sure you've watched over the years, watched some of the big fights. What do you think that boxing was missing before? There was a tremendous amount of fights over the years, but it wasn't always that popular. What is it that you, and Triller, and the people in the Fight Club are trying to do to bring boxing back? And do you think that boxing can ever get up even say to a point where UFC is now? Where UFC sold for $4 billion and has all that hype? Can you get boxing going up on that type of trajectory?
JAKE PAUL: I think so. I think it's focusing more on the entertainment side of things, and making every aspect of it something that people want to watch, and making it more appealing to the mass viewer. And, yeah, like you said, Triller's done a great job of that, and that's where I sort of play a role as well with bringing a more traditional audience and getting them excited about fights. And so I think that is the future of boxing is how do we make this so that everyone can watch it? The little kids, the moms who don't necessarily even know what combinations are, what punch, or they don't even know how long the rounds are, how many rounds, they don't know it's WBA, or WBC, or the IBF is. Let's make it so everyone can watch it, and have fun, and have a good night, and that's what we're doing. And I think that is the future of boxing. But also, the lightweight division and the heavyweight division are making huge comebacks, and so I think right now is a great time for the sport of boxing. And I think the future is bright.
KEVIN IOLE: That's incredible. I love-- a lot of the musical acts, I don't even know who they are, right? That's not my stuff. But I was critical of Triller before the Tyson show, and then, I wrote afterwards-- I said, you know what? The show is well produced. It was a well put on event, and obviously, it did great on pay-per-view wise. Were you surprised-- Mike Tyson's always been a huge draw, but were you surprised that the fight did as well as it did knowing some of the issues before beforehand?
JAKE PAUL: No. I honestly wasn't surprised. I think that the hype going into it was massive. And Mike bringing this older boxing demographic, and then me bringing this younger social media presence, it was sort of this perfect synergy. And people got to see the best of both worlds. And not to mention, Nate Robinson bringing in a big NBA crowd. So I really wasn't that surprised, and I think going into it, we knew it was going to be a massive event, and I think we will see similar results with this one.
KEVIN IOLE: I can't remember whether it was your fight or your brother's fight. But one of the fights at the Staples Center, a lot of the parents had brought their young kids, and they were looking around at all the celebrities, the YouTube celebrities in the audience. And they weren't paying attention to the fight-- so I think it was your brother's fight-- till your fight actually got on, right? So can we expect, as boxing people, those people to become boxing fans when a YouTube-- a KSI, or Logan Paul, or Jake Paul is not fighting.
JAKE PAUL: It's a good question, and I guess the answer is unknown. But I do know that there's more of a possibility of them becoming a boxing fan than there was before. And as long as they're tuning in to watch, maybe they're going to see someone that they like. Or maybe someone on the undercard knock someone out and they go and look up their Instagram and start to become fans of them. So I think the more eyeballs, the better.
KEVIN IOLE: I'm going to ask you just a couple more questions, then get you out of here. I appreciate your time, Jake. Your brother was supposed to fight Floyd Mayweather. That fight hasn't happened yet. Any update you can give us on that?
JAKE PAUL: Honestly, I'm not sure. I think it's still happening, but I think it's up in the air. But I really don't even know.
KEVIN IOLE: Justin Bieber is performing on your show on Saturday night. He and Mayweather are good friends. Is he involved in that in any way?
JAKE PAUL: No. I know Justin has walked out my brother to his fight against KSI, and I think Justin is just a big boxing fan in general.
KEVIN IOLE: OK, good. Here's what I want to ask you about Ben Askren. Everybody in MMA says, hey, Ben's not known for striking. But the one thing I know is that Ben Askren knows how to fight, and he he's not going to wilt when the bell rings, right? And if you hit him on the chin, he's probably not going to go down right away. He was in there with Robbie Lawler. So what kind of fight do you reasonably expect? And do you feel that's an advantage for him, the fact that, hey, if things get tough, he's proven he can fight through it. And you haven't had it tough yet in a fight. You've had it in training, of course, but not in a fight.
JAKE PAUL: Yeah, that's what makes this fight interesting, and I know he's a tough guy. And he's going to be coming forward, but he's coming forward into my shots. And Robbie Lawler is a great fighter, but I'm Jake Paul. We're two different fighters, and I believe Robbie's fighting at 170. I'm a 210 pound guy coming down to 192 for this fight, so there's going to be more punch power coming at him. And we'll see. I think we're going to be putting Ben Askren's chin to the test. And again, Robbie Lawler was putting pressure on him, but Ben Askren takes it to the ground. So this is boxing, and he's going to have to sit there and exchange with me. And he does have that experience, and so I think it's going to be a great test all the way around. How hard does Jake Paul hit? And how good is Ben Askren's chin?
KEVIN IOLE: We'll see that. Finally, what is your long term future in boxing? You said at the start of this you're an athlete right now. As you get experience, are you going to start actually fighting boxers and guys that-- is your goal to get to a point where you can fight as a contender and potentially fight for a championship?
JAKE PAUL: We'll see. Look, I think if you told me three years ago, you're going to be headlining your own event with Justin Bieber performing, I would be like, that's crazy. So who knows what happens three years from now? But I have a list of people who I want to knock out and that I have personal vendettas with, so I'm going to sort of cross off that list first. And then, once that list is crossed off, I might sit back and be like, what do we want to do here? But at the end of the day, I'm a businessman. I'm an entrepreneur, so I have a lot of stuff going on. And I want to take this boxing sport far, but we'll just see what happens.
KEVIN IOLE: All right. Jake Paul on Saturday in Atlanta against former UFC fighter Ben Askren. It's on all the traditional pay-per-view outlets, Triller Fight Club, on Fight TV as well. Jake, I appreciate you brother. Thank you very much. Good luck on Saturday.
JAKE PAUL: Thank you, Kevin. I appreciate it, man.
KEVIN IOLE: See ya.