AS major boxing grudge matches go they don’t get much bigger – or unlikely – than the upcoming fight between Tommy Fury and Jake Paul.
The Love Island star and the US YouTuber will finally meet in the ring after years of trading verbal blows, and two postponements, in the most eagerly-anticipated bout of 2023.
To say 23-year-old Tommy is pumped up for the fight is an understatement, thanks in no small part to Jake, 26, ruining his rival’s baby announcement and branding Tommy’s influencer fiancée Molly-May Hague the couple’s “breadwinner”.
Ahead of the fight at the Diriyah Arena, Tommy left those in Saudi Arabia in no doubt of his determination to exact a bitter revenge on rival Jake for his barbed comments about Molly-Mae.
As one insider at the build-up in Riyadh said: “Tommy says he wants to get revenge, and he won’t feel like he’s got it until he has knocked him clean out.
“He’s angry, and he means every word — they’re not empty threats. This is personal.”
Speaking exclusively to The Sun, Tommy said: “He can say what he wants because talking is his game. Fighting is mine.
“On Sunday night, it is not about who can talk the best. It is about who can fight the best. He’s absolutely rubbish.
‘Jake can’t fight’
“I’ve been in boxing all my life. He can’t fight.
“Jake Paul, he is what he is. He’s a white-collar boxer.
“He’s going in there with somebody who wants to take his head clean off with every shot and he’s going to be dealing with everything that comes with a boxer.
“He’s not dealt with that before and it’s a big jump.”
Never before has there been a buzz this big around a fight between two such inexperienced boxers, who have just 14 official fights between them.
The bout is expected to break pay-per-view records, which will handsomely top up their fight fees — which are believed to be around £4million between them.
So for the fans tuning in to watch or listening for free on talkSPORT, how much action does Tommy think they will actually get to witness?
“Tommy TNT Fury wins the fight. 9-0. Here we come,” he predicts.
“It will be very, very lucky for him if he escapes the fourth round. Don’t be surprised if he goes in one or two.
“Whenever I hit this guy, it’ll be over.”
It will be hard to see the reality TV star, half-brother of heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, taken seriously in the sport, should the bout end in defeat — especially as he put his boxing career on hold in 2019 to appear on Love Island, where he met his other half.
Even his own family have joked they’ll disown him if he loses.
Tyson said: “I expect Tommy to chin him. If he doesn’t, he can stay in Saudi Arabia.”
A defeat for Jake, meanwhile, is unlikely to derail his career.
Many experts believe he will just reinvent himself in another sport, having previously dabbled with Mixed Martial Arts and even featured in WWE wrestling, while his promotions firm continues to go from strength to strength.
But despite having only previously fought six fights, all of them with non-professional boxers such as retired NBA star Nate Robinson, Jake is the bookies’ favourite to win in what they predict will be an incredibly tight contest.
And he also has the extra incentive of being awarded a ranking in the sport, should he win.
Former Heavyweight Champion Mike Tyson has tipped him to do just that, saying anyone who disrespects Jake “is out of their minds”.
Speaking to talkSPORT’s Spencer Oliver, Iron Mike, 56, said: “He’s won against people that he shouldn’t beat. And listen, I don’t think they brought him here to lose.
“He makes more money than the champions of boxing. So he’s an enigma.”
Another boxing great, Floyd Mayweather, said: “It’s good that Jake Paul is able to take his social media following and get some new eyes on the sport of boxing.
“And it’s a good match-up with those two. May the best man win.”
Cristiano Ronaldo, who plays in the Saudi Pro League with Al Nassr, is expected to be among the 15,000 fans in the Diriyah Arena, while A-listers including US comedian Kevin Hart and superstar rappers Drake and Kanye West are also tipped to attend.
It is yet to be confirmed if Tommy’s fiancée Molly-Mae will be joining the rest of the Fury clan in the Middle East, given she only gave birth to the couple’s daughter Bambi last month — which Jake informed the world about days before they did, much to their annoyance.
During his pre-match trash talking, Jake claimed Tommy was forced into taking on the fight for a much-needed payday.
The American said: “Molly is probably sitting there going, ‘Yo, I just had a baby — I can’t be the one to pay the bills the entire time’.
“He is going to be paid 20k a fight, minus taxes. He can only pay for so many diapers. It’s a hard business.”
Jake is so confident of a victory he even offered to change the terms of the bout during a pre-fight press conference, turning it into a winner-takes-all contest.
He has been in Saudi Arabia for weeks on his training camp, which has been compared to some of the Rocky movies after he was filmed jogging alongside locals on the street. And speaking to Piers Morgan on TalkTV on Thursday night, Jake was supremely confident his preparation will help him get the edge over his long-time rival.
Asked if he has “any doubt” the fight will end in anything other than victory, he replied: “No, I don’t. I’m confident in my preparation.
“Anything can happen in a boxing match but you work to make those things not happen. He just doesn’t have the power, the capabilities, to do anything to be able to defeat me.
“You’re going to see me knock this guy out.”
Whatever the outcome, the world will be watching.
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