Caveat Emptor: Mike Tyson vs. Roy Jones Jr.
By Robert Ecksel on November 26, 2020
The "fight"will only be as meaningful as viewers imagine it , and if that’s all there is, so be it.
Not since Muhammad Ali fought Superman in order to thwart an alien invasion of earth has a fight generated as much interest among casual fans. When The Greatest met the Man of Steel in DC Comics in 1978, only one of them was still champion. Ali had lost his heavyweight title to Leon Spinks in February of that year and would regain it in a rematch seven months later. But there was more than a mere title at stake when Ali fought an elimination bout against Superman, setting up a superfight against a Scrubb named Hun'Ya. Nothing less than the liberation or enslavement of humanity was at stake.
The same cannot be said of Saturday’s pay-per-view exhibition at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr.
Tyson is 54 and hasn’t fought since his 2005 loss to journeyman Kevin McBride. Jones is 51 and notched his last victory in 2018, winning a 10-round decision over 30-11-1 Scott Sigmon.
The event may be taking place in The Golden State, but the California State Athletic Commission has refused to sanction the bout.
“We can’t mislead the public as to this is some kind of real fight,” executive director Andy Foster, a self-respecting boxing guy, told Boxing Scene. “They can get into it a little bit, but I don’t want people to get hurt. They know the deal.”
The deal includes two- instead of the standard three-minute rounds, like in the amateurs and women’s boxing. Tyson and Jones won’t be donning headgear, but will be wearing oversize 12-ounce gloves. If either fighter is cut it will be stopped immediately.No knockouts are allowed. Instead of professional judges misjudging fights while sitting ringside, three former champions—Christy Martin, Vinny Pazienza and Chad Dawson—will score the action remotely from the comfort of their homes. And last but not least, the “fight” is scheduled for eight rounds.
“It’s an exhibition,” continued Foster. “They can exhibit their boxing skills, but I don’t want them using their best efforts to hurt each other...they shouldn’t be going for a knockout. This isn’t a record-book type of fight. This is not world-championship boxing right now.
“We wanted to make sure that they both understood that it was a sanctioned exhibition fight. They can move around and make some money...We’re glad to have it...It's going to look [emphasis added] like a boxing match.”
Ryan Kavanaugh, a former billionaire designated Showman of the Year by Variety in 2011 and one of the masterminds behind this weekend’s entertainment, isn’t happy with Foster’s remarks and sought to set the record straight.
“There have been some false rumors swirling, so to be crystal clear, the WBC is scoring the fight. There could be a knockout and there will be one winner. Anyone who says there is no judging or no winner either does not understand the rules or has their own agenda,” said Kavanaugh, who apparently never heard of a draw and likely has an agenda of his own.
Seconding Kavanaugh is Mike Tyson, who can still beat the drum as loudly as anyone.
“I’m back, man, I’m back,” he said. “I don’t know how come it came back. I started training. I’m back in shape. I’m 228. And I’ve been boxing. Doing what I can. I can’t believe this either, man. It’s just—I don’t believe in the Fountain of Youth, but something just came over me, and I’m back.
“Oh, man, I’m so happy. Yeah, man. It’s gonna be so awesome. I’m so happy to be coming back into the ring and facing Roy Jones. It’s gonna be so awesome. He’s the greatest fighter of his generation. I’m the greatest fighter of my generation, and it’s just a no-brainer that we should clash together.
“My kids think I should sit my old ass down, but what do they know? They don’t know how to fight. Neither one of my kids can beat me in a fight, so what are they talking about?”
Maybe they are buying what Kavanaugh is selling.
Mike Tyson vs. Roy Jones Jr. won’t be as meaningless as WWE-style wrestling, and hopefully no hackneyed good vs. evil narrative will mar the show. But it will only be as meaningful as viewers imagine it, and if that’s all there is, so be it.