Jake Paul elicited a chuckle or two when he compared himself in August to Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather before even his fourth fight. But the controversial YouTuber-turned-boxer may yet have the last laugh: Even if his fists never match his mouth, his paychecks already rank him among the sport’s biggest stars.
That $45 million total would have landed him at No. 20 on last year’s Forbes list of the world’s highest-paid athletes, ahead of the only boxer to crack the top 50 of that ranking, Canelo Alvarez, who tied for 48th with $34 million. It also would have pushed him past established sports stars like Phil Mickelson ($41 million) and Novak Djokovic ($34.5 million).
It’s quite the turnaround for Paul, who turns 25 next week. Early in 2018, YouTube demonetized his channel amid the backlash to a video his older brother Logan had filmed in a “suicide forest” in Japan. No longer earning income from the ads playing on his videos, and with brands forsaking him, Paul was devastated.
The channel is again generating ad revenue, and is up to 20.4 million subscribers, but he has continued to court controversy. The FBI raided his home in August 2020 after video showed him at a mall as it was being looted (he did not face charges), and among many inflammatory comments over the years, he called Covid-19 a “hoax” in a November 2020 interview with the Daily Beast. Most seriously, he was accused of sexual assault by TikTok personality Justine Paradise in April; Paul has vehemently denied the accusation.
Paul entered 2021 with two bouts under his belt: 2020 matchups with the YouTuber AnEsonGib and the 5-foot-9 former NBA player Nate Robinson. He lined up tougher competition for his follow-ups, putting his 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame to the test. In April, he beat former MMA fighter Ben Askren. He defeated UFC’s Tyron Woodley in August. And when boxer Tommy Fury pulled out of a scheduled fight because of a chest infection and a rib injury, Paul faced Woodley again in December, this time knocking him out.
The last fight was a commercial disappointment, reportedly posting just 65,000 pay-per-view buys through cable and satellite-TV providers (although Paul pushed back against those numbers and suggested as a point of comparison that his previous bout had sold 500,000 PPVs). Still, even if he finds it tough to secure the same rates for future fights, he has other income streams he can count on, including NFTs, merchandise through his online shop and short-term endorsement deals with brands that last year included BoohooMan and DraftKings. He also has his own boxing promotion company, Most Valuable Promotions. And there is still the YouTube channel, of course, as he re-establishes himself among the platform’s elite with videos that now largely focus on his boxing.
Justin Birnbaum contributed reporting.