When social networking company Triller announced the Jake Paul Vs. Ben Askren boxing event back in January, fight fans across the world collectively rolled their eyes. Why did we need to see this bout? What could this prove? In one corner, you have mega douchebag Jake Paul, a 24-year-old influencer turned amateur boxer. In the other, you have Ben Askren, a retired 36-year-old wrestler who had recently recovered from severe hip surgery. It was an apparent mismatch on paper, but people were intrigued to watch how it would play out. On Saturday night, I sat through the entire 6-hour broadcast so you wouldn’t have to. I wholeheartedly believe that I witnessed the single most embarrassing event in combat sports history.
I should have noticed the red flags sooner. A quick read of the event preview would have been enough to deter most people, “Celebrities in attendance will include Pete Davidson (commentary), Mario Lopez, model Taylor Hill, and TikTok stars Dixie and Charli D’Amelio.” What does Pete Davidson know about boxing? When is the last time Mario Lopez was culturally relevant? Why do we need models and TikTok stars present? I realized that none of these questions mattered. Triller was on a mission to make a mockery out of a sport with a rich and illustrious history.
The program kicked off with a painfully awkward skit featuring Snoop Dogg and Urkel. Snoop’s low brow stoner humor was already tired and overplayed, yet proceeded to be a mainstay throughout the night. A musical performance by rock band The Black Keys followed for what seemed to be 30 minutes, a bold move when your target demographic has an attention span of 15 seconds. Finally, a fight was underway, and I use the term “fight” lightly because the matchmaking was disgraceful. Entrepreneur Joe Fournier vs. Reggaeton artist Reykon was the first scrap, and these two guys didn’t belong in the same ring together. Reykon landed zero punches, and Fournier quickly disposed of him in the second round. It had become clear to me that Triller was more interested in the sideshows than putting together quality fights.
After a disappointing opening fight, it was time for the absurdity to continue. I’m not sure why Triller felt the need to send Pete Davidson and Jack Harlow into Jake Paul’s locker room, but the result had me cringing so hard I nearly closed out of my web browser. Paul, not being one with words and clearly in the fighting zone, wanted no part of the interview. The tension was palpable, and you could tell that all parties involved wanted to get the hell out of there. In fact, this was a recurring theme throughout the night. It didn’t seem as if any of the personalities wanted to be there. The humor was so uninspired that I wouldn’t be surprised if Triller had been holding a gun to Pete Davidson’s head the entire event.
Labored performances by Doja Cat, Saweetie, and Mt. Westmore followed, and suddenly we were 2 hours into the pay-per-view with only one fight under our belt. The second match featured former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir Vs. professional boxer Steve Cunningham. This bout proved to be a decent matchup, and Cunningham took the victory after a unanimous decision by the judges. Devastatingly, the biggest highlight from this fight would come long after the bell when the ultra-talented D’Amelio sisters mistakenly awarded the belt to Frank Mir.
It was around this point that I started questioning my very existence. The entire event felt like a fever dream. The commentators had all gotten way too high. Legendary boxer Oscar De La Hoya was part of the team, only to make a fool of himself throughout the broadcast. By the time the Co-Main event swung around, my perseverance was lacking. I wanted to turn it off so badly, yet I couldn’t look away. There had been so much unnecessary filler that Triller had to cut the scheduled Major Lazer performance completely. In the penultimate fight of the evening, Regis Prograis took on Ivan Redkach in what was a high-level competition for as long as it lasted. A controversial strike ended the match in the 6 round. Redkach claimed he was struck in the groin, but the instant replay showed a clear body shot. This was highly confusing for everyone involved, and I was past the point of giving a shit.
After several hours of mind-numbing programming, it was almost time for the main event. I felt like a marathon runner heading down the final stretch. I’ve made it this far, and now I had to persevere through the pain. Just as I thought Triller might spare me, they threw one last curveball in the form of a 25 minute Justin Bieber set. To make matters worse, he only performed his newer material. For the sake of my sanity, I managed to tune JB out until it was time for the fight everyone had been eagerly awaiting.
Ironically, on a night centered around new-age influencers, the main event was short enough to have been a Tik Tok itself. Jake Paul floored Ben Askren with a straight right less than two minutes into the first round, and the ref called it off despite Askren getting back to his feet. The fight was over just as it had started. I streamed it illegally, and I still feel obligated to a refund. I’m sure the 1.3 Million people who purchased the pay-per-view feel bamboozled. Triller’s circus of an event culminated in a massive letdown. Host Pete Davidson summed it up best: “Today is a wild day for boxing because it shows how low it’s sunk. Today proves the fact that if you have enough followers, you can truly do whatever you want.” Boxing is a dying sport, and what Triller pulled Saturday night was another massive nail in the coffin.