SAN DIEGO, Calif., November 28, 2020 – If people know one name in boxing other than Muhammad Ali, it’s usually Mike Tyson. The 54-year-old Tyson lit up the internet when he posted video of himself sparring with flashes of his vintage power and speed.
Tyson has been jonesing (ahem) for an actual fight ever since, and found a dance partner in the great multi-division champion and best fighter of the 1990s, 51-year-old Roy Jones. Jr. The fight airs on various pay per view platforms tonight, and you get a handful of undercard fights for your $50.
Sure, it’s creating some buzz, and it could be fun. But caveat emptor: this is an exhibition with specific rules imposed by the California State Athletic Commission. Some of those rules have recently been changed.
Rules of engagement in the ring
The men will fight eight rounds of two minutes, not standard three-minute rounds. The CSAC imposed the shorter rounds when both men refused to wear headgear.
The fighters will wear larger 12-ounce gloves, which soften punch landings. If either man is cut, the fight will be immediately stopped. Neither man is reportedly permitted to pursue a knockout, although there’s some dispute over this aspect. It’s going to be up to veteran California referee Ray Corona to keep order in the ring according to the rules.
There are no official judges, and no winner will be “declared.” But there are celebrity judges who will watch remotely: women’s all-time great champion Christy Martin, and former titleholders Vinnie “Paz” Pazienza, and former super middleweight champion Chad Dawson.
UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya will debut as part of the broadcasting team alongside the well-regarded Al Bernstein and Hall of Fame champion “Sugar” Ray Leonard. Also added to the livestream as a “commentator” is Snoop Dogg. Yes, that Snoop Dogg. Throw in noted fight fan Mario Lopez and ring announcer Michael Buffer for good measure. Ne-Yo will perform the National Anthem alongside musical performances by Da Baby, Lil Wayne, French Montana, Wiz Khalifa, and YG.
Tyson and Jones Jr.’s legacy long since secured
Tyson’s last fight was in 2005, retiring with a record of 50-6 with 44 knockouts. Jones Jr. had a sanctioned bout in 2018, although most people think he should have retired 10 years ago after Bernard Hopkins beat him in a near shutout. He is 66-9 with 47 knockouts. Jones Jr. is naturally smaller. His best days were at middleweight and super middleweight. He’s the slicker, faster man. But if power is the last thing to go, Tyson has more than enough power to make Jones Jr. think twice.
“Most guys at 54, they start counting themselves out,” said Jones. “Seeing Mike hit the pads, hit the body bag the way he’s doing it. It’s phenomenal, it’s crazy. We’re freaks, that’s why it’s such a big thing. I’d rather see him than a young guy right now because he’s so exciting. At 51, I’m so fast, people think I’m speeding it up.
“The last guy to do an exhibition with Mike got dropped in the first round. Who goes into the ring with Mike and thinks it’s an exhibition? Come on brah, get real. We come from the old school … It’s like drugs, I just can’t say no,” laughed Jones.
“I’m just ready to do this stuff. I can’t even explain it in words,” said Tyson. “I can’t even explain. He said it all, it’s like drugs.”
Tyson explained his recent change of heart after swearing he would never return to boxing. “I was happy to leave the ring. I dreaded being in the ring at that time. I was fighting for financial purposes. I was on drugs back then. I was a whole different person back then. I’m willing to do this now. I’m feeling really great. I want to show how great I look.
“The last time I was 215 pounds, I was 18 years old. I’m really happy with everything I’ve been doing. It’s total confidence and self-affirmation. It’s just amazing, I’m ready to do this stuff,” said Tyson.
Prediction: what will fans see?
Whether referee Ray Corona can — or will — be able to enforce the California State Athletic Commission’s instructions to the letter, who knows. Corona has no problem taking control in the ring, but will he actually step in and end things if Tyson starts nailing Jones Jr. with power shots? Corona has the toughest job tonight, walking the tightrope between letting these legends engage while keeping them both safe. If anyone is going to feel pressure, it’s him.
For their part, Tyson and Jones insist the fight will be real.
The pair have gone through legitimate training camps and should be in terrific shape. But they ARE 51 and 54. They have nothing to prove. Fans thinking they’re going to see a brawl or bloodbath need to dial it back. If Tyson and Jones Jr. both focus on cooperating a little in the ring to show off their fitness and remind people what made them all-time greats, it’s a show worth your $50 without regrets. But if you think you’re going to see vintage Tyson power or vintage Jones Jr. skills, you need to adjust your attitude, or you’ll end up unhappy.
Fans get a handful of undercard fights. Infamous wannabe boxer and YouTube star Jake Paul goes up against former NBA star Nate Robinson in a sanctioned six-round light heavyweight fight. This is the co-main event.
The co-main should have been the legitimate fight between Badou Jack of Las Vegas (22-3-3, 13 KOs) and Blake McKernan of Sacramento, California (13-0, 6 KOs). Jack is coming off tough losses against Jean Pascal and Marcus Browne after a draw with Adonis Stevenson. It’s an insult Jack isn’t the co-main event. He should have little trouble with McKernan.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Twitter and Instagram at @PRProSanDiego.
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