AbstractChemo-enzymatic functionalization offers an innovative approach to produce paper and board products with enhanced performance. Unbleached softwood kraft pulps were functionalized by laccase with methyl syringate(MS), p-hydroxybenzoic acid(HBA), gallic acid(GA), and syringaldehyde(SyA). The wet strength of fibers treated with MS and SyA increased by 57.9% and 31.9%, respectively. The dry strength of fibers treated with HBA, GA, and SyA increased from about 64 N·m/g to 68 N·m/g. The opacity of MS-treated fibers was the highest, and the surface lignin coverage increased. The kappa number and surface lignin of HBA-treated fibers changed little; however, the total carboxyl group significantly increased. The participation of phenolic compounds enhanced the reactivity of fibers to laccase in varying degree. However, the reactivity of phenols to laccase did not show a direct relation to the paper strength. All treatments with phenols decreased the brightness and the curl index of fibers. The syringyl-type phenols with hydrophobic groups (OCH3) were shown to be effective for improving the pulp wet strength. The compounds with carboxyl groups enhanced the pulp dry-strength. The observed pulp strength improvement could be attributed to the formation of covalent bonding via radical coupling, the attachment of the functional group, increased bonding area, and fiber entanglement.