Paul to fight Rahman Jr. at MSG with Fury out

Boxing

Jake Paul has a new opponent for his boxing match at Madison Square Garden next month after the withdrawal of Tommy Fury.

Hasim Rahman Jr., son of the former boxing heavyweight champion of the same name, will replace Fury and fight Paul on Aug. 6 in New York, Paul told ESPN on Thursday. Rahman, a Baltimore native, is 12-1 as a pro boxer with six knockouts. The eight-round contest will be contested at 200 pounds.

Rahman, a 31-year-old heavyweight, is not a household name, but he has more experience than Paul (5-0) in boxing and is bigger. But Paul, the YouTube-star-turned-prizefighter, said he had already decided he would fight a real boxer in his next bout after a bevy of criticism that he was only interested in fighting older MMA fighters or athletes from other sports. Rahman, Paul believes, is a much harder opponent than Fury would have been.

“I’m literally crazy,” Paul said. “There’s no reason why I should be taking this fight. … I want to prove to the boxing world that I’m a real dog, which I am. And I’m gonna go in there against this 12-1 kid who is bigger than Tommy Fury, faster than Tommy Fury — all of these things. And I’m gonna put on the performance of a lifetime and just shut everyone up.”

Paul’s business partner Nakisa Bidarian, the founder of BAVAFA Sports, told ESPN that he advised Paul to not take the bout with Rahman, because of its high-risk, low-reward, short-notice nature. Paul said his brother Logan also told him he shouldn’t take the fight. Bidarian said Amanda Serrano, the women’s boxing titleholder and part of the double main event with Paul on Aug. 6, told him the card should just be postponed.

Rahman will be the toughest test of Paul’s young career by a wide margin and doesn’t hold the same pay-per-view and ticket-selling cache as previous Paul opponents, like former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, former MMA champion and Olympian Ben Askren and retired NBA veteran Nate Robinson.

“I don’t see the benefit of doing the fight at this stage, given all the other opportunities that are there for Jake,” said Bidarian, who co-founded Most Valuable Promotions with Paul. “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. Him and his coaching team believe that they can beat Hasim Rahman Jr. They believe they can finish Hasim Rahman Jr.”

Rahman has fought as heavy as 269 pounds and weighed 224 pounds in his last bout, a TKO loss to James McKenzie Morrison in April. Paul, Bidarian said, is walking around right now at 195 pounds. He weighed in for his most recent bout, a knockout over Woodley last December, at 191.4 pounds.

Paul announced Wednesday he was moving on from Fury after the British boxer and reality show star said he had issues getting into the United States for a press conference last week. Paul said he has doubts about whether Fury, the half-brother of boxing heavyweight champion Tyson, truly wanted to fight against him and won’t do business with Fury again as a promoter with his company Most Valuable Promotions. Paul was supposed to fight Fury last December, but Fury withdrew that time due to an illness.

“We don’t even know if he actually got denied entry to the United States,” Paul said. … “He doesn’t want the fight, he doesn’t want the smoke. He sees me putting people down. He knows how strong, powerful I am.

“If his promoters want to handle all the logistics and pay me my $15 million to go to Europe and fight, then maybe we can start the discussion.”

Paul tweeted Thursday morning and offered Fury $500,000 to fight him in the U.K. after the Rahman fight.

As far as Rahman goes, Paul does have some familiarity with him. Paul and Rahman have sparred together, about 18 months ago, Paul said. He described it as a “really, really tough session” and “a war.”

“He’s obviously a lot bigger than me,” Paul said. “It’s really interesting to deal with. … I’m a way better fighter now. I’m sure he’s a better fighter now. We’re going to see who improved more over the last 18 months.”

Paul believes if he goes out and beats Rahman, it would be validation for him as a boxer and would silence the critics who have said he only fights older, small opposition from outside the boxing world.

“They might not like what I’m doing, but they’ll have to respect it,” Paul said. … “When I leave this sport, I want there to be a remembrance of me being willing to fight anyone, any time, any place. And truly living up to that. I want to be an example for young fighters around the world who aren’t taking hard fights earlier on in their career. This is a massive risk.”

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