Jake Paul will still be fighting a real boxer on Aug. 6 at Madison Square Garden. But after Tommy Fury withdrew from the fight, Paul has replaced him with heavyweight Hasim Rahman Jr. in what could prove to be a much more challenging matchup.
Paul announced the new opponent on Thursday, a day after Fury dropped out after saying the United States had denied him entry to the country.
Paul accuses Fury of ducking fight
Fury, the half-brother of heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury, expressed interest in fighting in a “neutral country” on Wednesday.
“I’m gutted and disappointed in regards to the issues I have faced with entry into the United States,” Fury said in a statement. “This is something that myself or my team could have never anticipated happening. This situation has been left with my lawyers as being denied entry into a country is obviously a very serious issue and it needs to subsequently be resolved.”
Paul (5-0, 4 KOs) accused Fury of ducking the fight by making up an excuse not to come to the United States.
“This is typical Tommy Fury behavior,” Paul told ESPN. “About a week ago, he apparently went to the London Heathrow Airport and was denied access into the United States and then, after that, basically went radio silent. All he had to do was go to the embassy. We didn’t hear from him. His team didn’t hear from him, and he made no effort to try and get his visa to enter into the United States to make the fight happen … There was no effort put in.”
Regardless of the reason, the withdrawal left Paul searching for an opponent on short notice. He quickly announced Rahman, the son of a former heavyweight champion, as the replacement.
Rahman steps in on short notice
While Rahman (12-1, 6 KOs) doesn’t rank among boxing’s elite, he has a real track record of winning heavyweight bouts. Paul will fight Rahman at a 200-pound catchweight over eight rounds.
Fury rated as a slight favorite over Paul. While odds varied, FanDuel Sportsbook was offering Fury at -182 against Paul (+140) at the time Fury withdrew.
Sportsbooks have yet to post odds for the new fight, but all indications are that Rahman should be a more substantial favorite. While Paul walks around at around 195 pounds and fought Tyron Woodley at 191.4 pounds, Rahman is a big heavyweight who has fought as heavy as 269 pounds in his career.
Paul’s business partner, Nakisa Bidarian, who co-founded Most Valuable Promotions with the YouTuber, told ESPN that he suggested Paul not take Rahman as an opponent. He added that Logan Paul and women’s boxing champion Amanda Serrano – who is also fighting on the Aug. 6 card – agreed.
“I don’t see the benefit of doing the fight at this stage, given all the other opportunities that are there for Jake,” Bidarian told ESPN. “He can prove himself against a 6-0 boxer or a 5-0 boxer, someone who is just there to build their record to lose to someone like Jake. That’s not what he wanted; he wanted to truly challenge himself.”
Paul has vowed to fight an experienced boxer after a string of gimmicky opponents to open his professional boxing career. He started with knockout wins over fellow YouTuber Ali Eson Gib and former basketball player Nate Robinson. He then scored a win over MMA fighter Ben Askren, followed by two over former UFC star Tyron Woodley.