Jake Paul’s boxing skills are legitimate, insists ex-light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson

When Chad Dawson first got the call to spar for Jake Paul, he was skeptical. Dawson is a fighter’s fighter. Once a mainstay on pound-for-pound lists, he had two stints as a light heavyweight champion, fought the best of his era and has two wins each over Glen Johnson and Antonio Tarver, as well as singles wins over Bernard Hopkins, Tomasz Adamek and Eric Harding, among others.

He was vaguely aware of what Paul, the social media star, was doing while boxing because it drew so much attention, but Dawson had some concerns.

“When I originally got the call to work with him, I was a bit skeptical,” Dawson told Yahoo Sports. “I wasn’t sure if it was just a publicity stunt, and when I thought about it, I was like, ‘Ah, I don’t know.’ But I have to admit, I was curious.”

That curiosity quickly turned to respect. Dawson said Paul was much better than he imagined.

And as Paul prepares for the toughest challenge of his fledgling boxing career on Saturday when he meets UFC legend Anderson Silva in the main event of a Showtime pay-per-view card at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona, Dawson is convinced .

“I was impressed,” said Dawson. “I was very impressed and shocked by his work ethic and overall ring knowledge. He moves like he’s been boxing for well over two or three years. And he also thinks.”

He has a lot to think about against Silva, the former UFC champion who wore the promotion’s middleweight belt for more than six years while also earning a reputation as one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time. Paul never fought a boxer, nor did he fight an MMA fighter who was primarily a forward.

He will finally have that experience when he meets Silva, who turned to boxing after leaving the UFC. In 2021, Silva defeated former middleweight boxing champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and then-ex-MMA champion Tito Ortiz to take his boxing record to 3-1.

Silva is hardly proven as a boxer. He hadn’t boxed since 2005 before meeting a severely faded, washed-out version of Chavez last year. And a washed-out Chavez represents light-years the best opponent Silva has faced as a boxer. Paul is a 2-1 favorite at BetMGM with Silva at +165. Perhaps that’s due to reports that Silva was knocked out twice in sparring, which he denies.

Silva vows to win but insists Paul is a serious boxer. Silva also tries to make a statement, urging others to keep trying despite grim circumstances. If he wins at 47 against a 25-year-old it will prove what he says anything is possible.

“Every single fight is very special and every single fight is special for the fans,” Silva told Yahoo Sports. “And I respect Jake because he puts in a lot of work to open the box and the mind is possible for everyone to think of anything. I respect Jake a lot and try to do my best. I’m trying to do my best Don’t think anything bad. I put on something very special every day and I work hard to do my best for my fans, you know? And I respect Paul very much. And let’s make the best show for the fans.”

Jake Paul arrives on horseback for a public practice ahead of his fight with Anderson Silva Saturday in Glendale, Arizona.  (Esther Lin/Showtime)

Jake Paul arrives for a public practice session on a horse ahead of his Saturday fight with Anderson Silva. (Esther Lin/Showtime)

During the media tour for the promotion, a photo surfaced of Paul brothers Logan and Jake meeting Silva when Silva was at the peak of his UFC career. Paul has admitted he’s been a big fan of Silva for a long time.

But he said at an open practice in Glendale, Ariz. on Wednesday – where he arrived on horseback – that he wouldn’t let his fandom sway the way he approaches the fight.

“I have the mamba mentality,” Paul said of the late NBA superstar Kobe Bryant’s mindset. “Kobe knocked over Pau Gasol, his own Lakers teammate, while he was at the Olympics with the Redeem team. I carry that same kind of drive with me, that killer instinct.”

But BJ Flores, Paul’s trainer, believes he has been seriously overlooked for getting into boxing and fighting non-traditional opponents.

Flores began working with Paul as a sparring partner in 2019 when Paul was preparing for a fight with Ali Eson Gib. Hall of Famer Shane Mosley was coaching Paul at the time and when Mosley left camp for a few days, Flores took over. Like Dawson, Flores said he was shocked by Paul’s talent.

And he said Paul continued to improve. Flores brought in veteran trainer Danny Smith to help guide Paul’s career and said Paul’s skills will be evident when he fights Silva. If Paul wasn’t a celebrity before he got into boxing, Flores said he would still be high on his potential.

“I would say he’s a prospect and definitely someone to watch out for,” Flores said. “Regardless of how long he’s been boxing, the one thing you really have to respect that he has, which very few people have, is real punching power. That’s one thing, like I said, no matter who was at camp… [ex-cruiserweight champion Steve Cunningham]Chad Dawson, Richard Rivera, who must have just beat Badou Jack…every single person that has been at camp with him and fought with him says that this boy has real, real power.

“He’s someone to watch out for, regardless of skill level. And you will see much improved skill [Saturday]. One thing you need to do with Jake is really be aware of both hands. People have seen the right hand, but the left hand is also strong and has evolved. Everyone says the same thing: ‘He can really, really hit.’ “

Ex-UFC champion Anderson Silva is training with coach Luiz Dorea in Glendale, Arizona, in preparation for his fight with social media influencer Jake Paul at Desert Diamond Arena on Saturday.  (Esther Lin/Showtime)

Former UFC champion Anderson Silva is training with trainer Luiz Dorea in Glendale, Arizona, in preparation for his fight with Jake Paul at Desert Diamond Arena on Saturday. (Esther Lin/Showtime)

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