Jake Paul knocked out Ben Askren in the first round of their highly-publicized boxing match Saturday night in Atlanta.
Paul, the YouTube and social media celebrity, landed a right hand that sent Askren sprawling to the canvas at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Askren, the retired MMA fighter, got back on his feet and took the mandatory eight-count. But the referee waved off the fight at 1:59 of the first round as Paul improved to 3-0 as a professional boxer.
“This is the craziest moment of my life,’’ Paul said during a post-fight interview. “I told you all I was going to do it in the first round. I told you all I’m a real fighter. I don’t know how many times I’ve got to prove myself that this is for real.’’
Paul, 24, improved to 3-0 with three knockouts.
After the referee waved off the fight, Paul dropped to the canvas and sobbed. He had dedicated the fight to Shamir “Shadow” Bolivar, Paul’s late bodyguard who died earlier this month.
“He told me I would knock (Askren) out in the first round,’’ Paul said of Bolivar. “He said he had a vision, a dream. This has been the hardest 10 days of my life (since Bolivar’s death). I had to hold it together to keep this fight going. And I’m just honored to be here.’’
Askren, 36, was making his pro boxing debut. But with a 19-2 record as an MMA fighter and as a two-time Division I college wrestling champion, he was considered Paul’s most formidable opponent yet.
Fresh off the victory, Paul turned reflective as he stood next to Snoop Dogg and other celebrities.
“Just a couple of years ago, my teachers were making fun of me in class, telling me I can’t do nothing, telling me I wasn’t smart, my schoolmates making fun of me,’’ he said. “I used to landscape. I just had a dream. I chased it and I worked hard and to think that I’m here standing next to these legends, legends right here, it’s unbelievable.”
After finding fame and fortune as an Internet sensation, Paul took up boxing about three years ago. He turned pro in 2019 and beat YouTuber AnEsonGib by TKO in his debut.
In November, Paul knocked out retired NBA standout Nate Robinson in the his second fight, followed by the victory over Asken, who looked game but flabby during the cruiserweight bout that was scheduled for eight rounds.
“I knew Ben was going to sit there like a typical MMA fighter and just have no head movement and his body was going to be wide open,’’ Paul said. “And I’m just too powerful.
“The cows in Ohio produce a different type of protein and when I’m sitting there bailing hay since a 10-year-old, I just got some real thick (expletive) in my arms.’’
During a post-fight press conference, Paul referred to sexual assault allegations he faced the week leading up to the fight. TikTok personality Justine Paradise has accused Paul of sexual assault.
On Tuesday, Paul issued a statement denying the allegations. But he indicated the allegations coupled with the death of his security guard and having trained for three fights in the past 14 months have drained him.
“I’ve had so much on my mind the past 10 days and I’ve had to hold it together,’’ he said. “I’ve had to persevere through a lot of hard (expletive), allegations, death, the list goes on. …
“Look, I don’t know what’s next, man. I’m just going to enjoy my life for a second.’’
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jake Paul knocks out Ben Askren in Triller Fight Club boxing match