On Sunday night, Jake Paul defeated Tyron Woodley in a 2 to 1 split decision (77-75, 75-77 78-74) to move to 4-0 in his professional boxing career. Although Jake Paul has yet to step in the ring with a professional boxer, Tyron Woodley was a significant step up from Ben Askren, who looked like he had trained for approximately 45 minutes before his fight.
Woodley, a former UFC Welterweight Champion, looked in-shape and prepared for this fight. It was the first time that Jake Paul has been tested in his career, with Woodley landing a couple of big shots, one of which caused Paul to stumble before being saved by the ropes. Ultimately, however, Paul did enough to win, landing some big shots of his own and fighting a more technical fight.
After the fight, Jake Paul was asked about his next opponent. He dodged the question, indicating that he might step away from the sport and would come back when he feels ready. When the microphone turned to Woodley, it was clear that he was not happy about the decision and called Jake Paul out for a rematch. Paul told Woodley that he had his chance and that he was moving on. Pressed by Woodley, however, Paul stated that “if you get the tattoo [referring to the “I Love Jake Paul” tattoo that the fighters previously agreed to], then let’s run it back.” Woodley responded “bet – is that a bet?”, to which Paul replied “deal”. The two fighters then shook hands in front of several million witnesses.
The question now turns to whether that agreement in the ring can be considered an enforceable agreement. The basics of contract law are clear in that there must be a valid offer, acceptance of that offer, and adequate consideration for a contract to be enforceable. A valid offer must be sufficiently clear such that any reasonable person could understand and be expected to follow it. Importantly, the parties’ subjective intent to the agreement does not matter. In this case, Jake Paul likely made a valid offer to give Woodley a rematch if Woodley upheld their tattoo bet, regardless of Paul’s subjective intent.
An offer can require acceptance either by promise, performance, or some combination of both. Importantly, when an offeror requests some act – such as getting an “I Love Jake Paul” tattoo – in return for his promise, and the offeree fully performs the act, that performance constitutes sufficient acceptance of the offer to form a binding contract. Under the doctrine of “offertory estoppel”, an offer which the offeror (1) should reasonably expect to induce action on the part of the offeree, and (2) actually induces such action, is binding as an option contract to the extent necessary to avoid injustice.
Importantly, the conduct of the parties after the disputed contract is also relevant. If Woodley actually gets the tattoo, then the elements of estoppel are met, and Woodley could have a legitimate argument that a contract was made, and that Paul should be estopped from backing out. Paul would likely argue that no contract was made because the terms are not definite or explicit enough to permit the full intent of the parties to be ascertained.
An even bigger issue for Jake Paul is that his team reportedly negotiated an automatic rematch clause in his contract with Tyron Woodley if he lost. Paul would be hard pressed to claim that he never wanted a rematch, especially since the terms were likely negotiated prior to the first fight. Although this may seem like two fighters in the ring in the heat of the moment, this may not be the last that we hear of this rematch. Verbal agreements between parties are just as enforceable as written ones. Although they are often difficult to enforce for lack of clarity, this one was witnessed by millions of viewers around the world.