On the one hand, Jake Paul, whose resume includes the term “social media influencer,” facing retired mixed martial artist Ben Askren in a sanctioned boxing match, and Americans in numerous states being able to legally bet on the outcome, sure looks like a sign of the decline of Western civilization.
On the other hand, it’s a pretty damned intriguing fight to handicap.
Look, if Zendaya challenged Serena Williams to a game of Boggle, you’d certainly chalk it up as a meaningless exercise … but you’d also be kind of curious to know the outcome, right?
Circus sideshows have been a part of boxing going back to Chuck Wepner vs. Victor the Wrestling Bear and even long before that. And these fistic freak shows are riding a new wave thanks to the massive money generated by the Mike Tyson-Roy Jones exhibition in November.
In fact, it was on that Tyson-Jones undercard that Paul violently knocked out former NBA player Nate Robinson in the second round and convinced some observers that his boxing skills are legit and he isn’t just the latest Mickey Rourke or Mark Gastineau.
It’s a reasonably athletic 24-year-old who might be a competent boxer (at least from the looks of his results against people who are not professional boxers either) taking on a 36-year-old who had success at world-class levels in MMA but is known for his grapping ability, not his punching ability.
It’s junk food — for real boxing fans, there’s no caloric value here. But for sports fans who like to bet, honestly, there’s more potential value to be found here than there is with the massive-favorite-vs.-no-hope-underdog matchups that headline many weekends of boxing.
Askren the underdog, as high as +155
Not every major U.S. mobile sportsbook is offering odds on Saturday’s Paul vs. Askren bout. FanDuel Sportsbook offered a line at one stage during the buildup, but it had no odds posted on Friday morning. FOX Bet has a line on the main undercard bout — a legit boxing match between top 140-pound contender Regis Prograis and Ivan Redkach, with those ugly boxing mismatch odds of -2500 on Prograis and +1000 on Redkach — but not on Paul-Askren.
There are plenty of sportsbooks, however, where you can bet Paul vs. Askren, and at all of them, the YouTuber with a 2-0 boxing record is the favorite.
At the books operated by Kambi, including DraftKings Sportsbook, BetRivers, Barstool Sportsbook, and others, Paul is -177 to win, Askren +130. At PointsBet, Paul is a slightly more prohibitive -182 and Askren a slightly juicier +145. William Hill has the best payout on Askren at +155, while Paul is -180.
If you want to pay a bit less to back Paul, you can get him for -167 at DraftKings, but that’s three-way betting that includes a draw, meaning if the fight ends in a tie, you don’t get your money back the way you would with two-way betting.
DraftKings has the draw at +1200, while PointsBet and William Hill both offer a superior +1400. Those are all low payouts — typical major boxing matches range from +1800 to +2500 on a draw — but since this is a scheduled eight-rounder, not a 10- or 12-round fight, a fight ending with even scorecards is that much more likely.
Plenty of props
There’s not a whole lot of science to figuring out who will win between a guy who’s 2-0 and an opponent who’s had 22 professional MMA bouts but is boxing for the first time. So you may as well have some fun with it. And to that end, the sportsbooks offer a fair few Paul-Askren props.
Will the fight go the eight-round distance? The best price on the “yes” is +175 at William Hill, while the most bettor-friendly number on the “no” is -228 at PointsBet.
If you want more even will/won’t pricing, DraftKings has a line of 5½ rounds with even money on the over and -134 juice on the under. William Hill offers a few different lines of delineation:
- Over 5.5 +110, Under 5.5 -140
- Over 4.5 +100, Under 4.5 -137
- Over 3.5 -137, Under 3.5 +100
In terms of method-of-victory props, here are the best prices for each option:
- Paul by KO/TKO/DQ: -112 (Kambi books)
- Paul by decision: +800 (Kambi books)
- Askren by KO/TKO/DQ: +450 (PointsBet)
- Askren by decision: +350 (Kambi books)
You can also take a wild swing on either fighter to win by KO (or TKO or disqualification) in any individual round, with the biggest payouts coming on Askren in round 8 at 50/1 at the Kambi-operated books. Bettors can also target two-round groupings. Or at PointsBet, you have the option to pick the exact round the fight ends regardless of winner, or zoom out to cover a grouping of rounds 1-4 or rounds 5-8.
Paul and Askren may not be legit boxers, but the money spends the same whether it’s on the best in the world or the modern equivalent of wrestling bears. And something tells us this fight’s going to draw a lot more action than those involving any of the actual championship-caliber pugilists stepping through the ropes this weekend.
Photo by Joe Scarnici / USA Today Sports