Sometime during the pandemic Jake Paul went and pulled a fast one on all of us and became famous. The pompous, braggadocious internet celebrity, who rose to fame posting six-second clips of himself on the now defunct social media platform Vine, suddenly became the talk of the boxing world this year. His court jester mastery meant he was able to insert himself into narratives by being the “hate to love, and love to hate” brat he is, and we all gorged on it like pigs at a trough. Stealing Floyd Mayweather’s hat, trash-talking with Daniel Cormier ringside, or getting Ben Askren to magically appear like an actual foe before dummying him in the first round, Paul typifies what it means to be famous for nothing in the 21st century. He’s done little, but everyone can’t stop talking about him. Paul has elevated himself above the noise of social media influencers, poked his head out into the actual fight game arena and even got UFC president Dana White to tip his hat to him. The problem is, the line-up of fighters who want to square-off against Paul is growing longer and more robust by the day, and the masses will quickly tire of his shtick because getting in the ring and getting gloriously knocked out is how most everyone wants this tragicomedy to end. Enter former UFC champion Tyron Woodley, whom he faces on Sunday in Cleveland. Paul knew he had to step up his game after he made former UFC fighter Ben Askren look silly, but Askren laughing it off did little for Paul’s actual boxing credentials. Now with Woodley he faces another old, washed up mixed martial artist, but let’s make one thing clear: this is going to be the fight of Paul’s life. Woodley, 39, was not just in the UFC like Askren, he was the welterweight champion and defended his belt four times. Like Askren, he is a former NCAA wrestler. But unlike Askren, he learned how to strike somewhere along the line. Paul likely chose Woodley because he was known for his ground game, and was never for having lethal punch power. Boxing a wrestler seems to be to Paul’s liking. Woodley is also short at 1.75 metres, which means Paul, 24, at 1.85m does not have to worry about getting overpowered, on paper, at least. Woodley also crashed out of the UFC quite spectacularly, losing his last four fights, the denouement being a choke out at the hands of Vicente Luque in the first round in March. White cut Woodley after stating he should retire from the UFC, which Woodley didn’t seem to argue against. But there was a moment when Woodley was one of the more feared fighters in the UFC, a ferocious wrestler who ground down opponents with a stellar athleticism that was anything but splashy. When he beat Robbie Lawler at UFC 201 in July of 2016, it was a performance of the night win in which he landed a first-round knockout. The problem was, he wasn’t very marketable as a star, couldn’t hold his own in a press conference and was often overshadowed by lesser fighters who knew how to play the media game. Paul may have thrown this into his decision-making process, knowing if he were to square-off against a blabbermouth like Conor McGregor (on my wish list for 2022), he may get exposed verbally just long enough to hold the attention span of a teenager. Woodley is clearly learning from Askren’s mistake. Askren thought he could waltz in and beat up a “pretend athlete”. Social media star soft or not, Woodley is not taking any chances and has been relentlessly training for this fight. Woodley knows if he wins, he gets the distinction of forever being “the guy who knocked out Jake Paul” and Woodley clearly sees this as his moment to rekindle some street cred while taking home one last fat pay check. Underestimating Paul has been the fault of all of his previous opponents, but his slight of hand is over this time around, Woodley will be in the best shape he’s probably been in for years, and will want to win this fight more than anything. Paul is going to have his hands full, and this bout is likely to last more than a few minutes and expose him in the latter rounds. The two met for a media face-off in Miami a few days ago, and to no one’s surprise Paul got the best of Woodley at multiple points during the trash talking shenanigans. “Four-time world champ,” said Woodley, before Paul’s perfectly timed rebuttal, “You can’t pay rent with those belts.” Woodley looked out of his element like he always has in face-offs, unable to conjure any formidable comebacks or one-liners. But there was a look in Woodley’s eyes we’ve seen before, a steely calm as he stared right back at his opponent, the world’s loudest man now that Donald Trump is out of office. Woodley knows once he gets in that ring and the bell goes, Paul can’t use his mouth any more and it all comes down to the fists. We will see if Paul continues to extend his fifteen minutes of fame, or if Woodley can finally show the world what it wants – a superstar knockout for the ages.