There’s a difference in combat sports between being in shape and being in fight shape, but Tyron Woodley luckily at least had the foundation of the former to lean back upon when he was filming a television show just over one week ago and received an important phone call.
The 39-year-old Woodley, who lost his pro boxing debut to Jake Paul in August by split decision, was offered a shot at retribution that even getting a “I love Jake Paul” tattoo on his left middle finger was unable to lock down.
“They sent a smoke signal so I pulled up,” Woodley told “Morning Kombat” on Wednesday at an open workout at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino pool in Tampa, Florida.
Asked if he did much haggling given a rare shot at leverage after Tommy Fury, the half brother of heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, pulled out of Saturday’s pay-per-view fight inside Amalie Arena, Woodley shook his head. The former UFC welterweight champion estimated it took him no more than 20 seconds to agree to a rematch against Paul (4-0, 3 KOs), the Youtube sensation and influencer who has quickly disrupted boxing’s marketplace thanks to a subscriber base of over 50 million across social media.
“I didn’t need to [haggle],” Woodley said. “We already did it once. I know the opponent very well and they really just needed a yes from me. They got that very quickly.”
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There’s little question that Woodley’s quick decision saved the card, which is something Paul trainer B.J. Flores openly thanked Woodley for doing on Wednesday. But aside from the large windfall he acquired in the midst of the holiday season, Woodley secured a rare mulligan to try and breathe life into his brand as he navigates the twilight of a fighting career that featured 27 MMA fights over 13 years as a professional.
Woodley made a huge payday for his first fight against Paul, which took place in Cleveland, but clearly left a bit on the table in the close decision defeat considering he wobbled Paul into the ropes in Round 4, landed the bigger punches overall but failed to pull the trigger consistently enough to secure more rounds.
The excuses Woodley has used in the aftermath have varied. Last week, he blamed his lack of output on a lingering shoulder injury from his MMA days. This time, he chose to look at the results of the first fight as nothing but positive and something he can build upon.
“It wasn’t a ton of volume for me from a boxing standpoint but from an MMA standpoint, it was more than what I was doing in my last fight,” Woodley said. “So, I have to look at it as a blessing in disguise and not be so hard on myself. We looked at the strike count from last fight and we have to match that every round in training. It’s not just throw to throw, it’s shots that I saw that I could’ve thrown, that I didn’t. It’s making it make sense and making him pay the consequence.”
Woodley identified the first three rounds of his eight-round loss to Paul as the timeframe when being too passive might have given the fight away.
“He didn’t hurt me with a lot and he didn’t do a lot either but he did more than I did,” Woodley said. “It looked like he was busier. You have to judge a round after the round. You don’t judge a whole fight when you see it. If they judged the whole fight, at the end they would have said that I won. I’m the only one that made the referee get close and landed damaging shots. He backed up and I was pressing him. I was in better shape.
“I allowed him to throw more and I wasn’t throwing back so it made him look like he was winning rounds.”
Although Woodley gave full respect to the naturally bigger Paul’s power, he still questions whether the 24-year-old can survive a war against him. But if Woodley isn’t willing to risk it all in order to have a shot at seizing glory in this second chance, he will be destined for the same results.
“I knew [Paul] was the bully kid on the damn playground and you try to beat him up to teach him a lesson and he laughs through it,” Woodley said. “He did it to Floyd [Mayweather] when they took the hat and they beat him up. I already knew that and I just got used to that.
“He’s a younger kid and he hasn’t been hit with a lot of shots. I knew he may have a chin and I knew he had a hard punch, but he didn’t really surprise me. He didn’t do some razzle dazzle things that I never saw. He didn’t do anything that I didn’t expect. I think, for him, I surprised him. They told him I was old. They told him I was washed up and was going to gas out.”
If Woodley needed anymore motivation, Paul delivered it by contractually guaranteeing him a $500,000 bonus should Woodley score a knockout. It’s an interesting move from Paul mostly because Woodley’s power appeared to make him more defensive and cautious over the second half of the fight.
Now it’s up to Woodley to get out of his own way and leave without any regrets. Luck this good doesn’t tend to come around a third time.
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