As events go, they don’t get much stranger than a YouTube celebrity taking on a former MMA fighter, yet that’s precisely what will happen when Jake Paul faces Ben Askren in the boxing ring. Scheduled for April 17 in Atlanta, Georgia, this is one boxing encounter that has generated an unprecedented amount of online interest.
Millions are expected to tune in from every corner of the globe, while the latest Jake Paul vs Ben Askren odds indicate this could be a close contest. 24-year-old Jake Paul has yet to lose a fight since turning professional, winning his first two encounters via knockout, which is perhaps why he’s a slight 4/5 favourite. By contrast, this will be Ben Askren’s debut in the boxing ring, as he trades MMA for straight-up pugilism.
That’s quite the change of scenery and style for Ben Askren, who initially made his name as an outstanding amateur collegiate wrestler, winning numerous titles and awards, along with representing the US Olympic team. That put him on the path to a largely successful MMA career spanning two decades, before it all came tumbling down in the UFC.
Ben Askren won the Bellator Welterweight Championship in 2010, defending his title several times and maintaining an unblemished fight record, remaining unbeaten as he switched to the ONE Championship. Under that promotion, he confidently won and repeatedly defended the ONE Welterweight Championship title.
Having accepted a lucrative multi-fight deal to join the UFC in 2019, Ben Askren debuted at UFC 235, defeating Robbie Lawler via technical submission using a bulldog choke on his rival. Up until that point, Ben Askren still had a perfect professional MMA record, with 19 wins and no defeats, with just the one no contest during an exceptional career.
However, the vastly experienced fighter eventually met his match in the shape of Jorge Masvidal, during a fateful encounter in July 2019 at UFC 239. No sooner had both fighters arrived inside the octagon, after just five seconds of the bout, Jorge Masvidal famously floored Ben Askren with a flying knee for the knockout.
Despite such an embarrassing outcome in just his second UFC appearance, Ben Askren went on to fight Demian Maia in October 2019, although the outcome was yet another defeat. This time he was forced to submit in the third round, unable to break out of a rear-naked choke. The following month, Ben Askren announced he was retiring from competitive MMA.
Throughout his entire wrestling and MMA career, Ben Askren was renowned for his grappling technique, rather than his punching power, which makes the decision to try boxing appear somewhat questionable. Nevertheless, he did enjoy several knockout wins via punches during his MMA career, and has been working with some top boxing trainers in recent months.
The only doubt here is whether 36-year-old Ben Askren is taking this boxing match seriously, amidst speculation he will fight dirty against Jake Paul, seemingly without any concerns about the fight potentially ending in disqualification. Of course, that could all be a bluff and part of the hype, before surprising his rival with a severe beating within the rules of the ring.