Mike Tyson-Roy Jones Jr ‘exhibition’ clash has the potential to be a disaster of historic proportions

Deven Kanal
·5 min read

Hello boxing, my old friend.

I've come to talk to you again.

Over the years, it's becoming harder and harder to argue that boxing doesn't despise its most hardcore fans.

The biggest fights either happen years after their sell-by date (Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquaio, Mike Tyson vs Lewis, Roy Jones Jr vs Joe Calzaghe) or worse, simply never occur (Mayweather vs Antonio Margarito, Riddick Bowe vs Lennox Lewis, Sugar Ray Leonard vs Aaron Pryor or the much hankered after Lewis-Vitali Klitschko rematch and increasingly, it seems, Gennady Golovkin vs Canelo Alvarez III).

But the 'exhibition bout' taking place between Mike Tyson (54) and Roy Jones Jr (51) on Sunday deserves a category all of its own: a blatant cash grab by two legends of the Sweet Science that has the potential to be a disaster of historic proportions.

After all, this 'exhibition' is happening decades after a fight could conceivably have been made: In 2003, when Jones was dethroning John Ruiz to capture a piece of the heavyweight title crown, Tyson was fresh off a one-sided beatdown from Lewis the previous year and just three fights from retirement.

Jones would go on to move back down to the light heavyweight division and beat Antonio Tarver in a less than spectacular fashion€" a warning sign that he'd arguably put his body through too much by packing on and then losing around 11 kilos of pure muscle€"before being knocked nearly senseless by a perfectly timed left hand in the rematch.

But that was then.

And this is now.

Many would argue, and rightly so, that it would be better if this once dreamed about match-up between two aging icons never took place.

Or maybe it would be better off taking place in a Playstation /Xbox/ EA Sports simulation.

First, let's get real about what's going down on Sunday.

Despite Jones' protestations€" "who goes in the ring with the great, legendary Mike Tyson and thinks, 'Oh, this is an exhibition'? 12-ounce gloves? No headgear? Really? This is an exhibition? Come on, bro. Be real"€" and Tyson's provocations €" "€¦ my objective is to go in there with the best intentions of my life and to disable my opponent€¦" this isn't really a fight.

Don't let the lack of headgear and VADA testing fool you.

The rules are a dead giveaway: Two-minute rounds, no official judges, no knockouts, no scoring and no winner will be announced (despite the WBC planning to award both men belts after the bout).

And if you want further confirmation, ask the people that sanctioned this 'contest'€" The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC).

"Let's call it an exhibition. That's what it is," CSAC executive Andy Foster told MMA Fighting. "I want the public to know what this is because I don't want people to be disappointed. As long as they know this is an exhibition, I'm fine for everybody to earn."

Second, while Roy Jones Jr last fought in 2018, he's spent the past few years going at it with C-level fighters and tomato cans. And getting Russian citizenship (don't ask).

And we all know how Tyson met an ignominious end at the hands of Irish club fighter Kevin McBride in 2005, an opponent he'd have eaten for breakfast even a couple of years earlier.

How has 'Iron Mike' spent the past 15-odd years?

By carefully rehabilitating his image through appearing in movies, podcasts and even a Broadway play.

All the while, specifically staying away from working out, he told a befuddled Joe Rogan in 2019. "All that stuff reactivates my ego," Tyson said. "If I reactivate my ego, I'm going to lose in life."

These two men then, at a combined age of over 100, are set to wrap their hands, lace up their gloves and step into the ring on Sunday. For their age alone, this is a bad, no good, terrible idea.

While both men look in good shape (Tyson turned vegan and lost 45 kilos while Jones has always looked fit), there's a huge difference between being in shape and being prepared to engage in physical combat.

Add to the fact that boxing is an inherently dangerous sport€" 1,604 boxers died as a direct result of injuries between 1890 and 2011 as per one survey €" and what you have is a potential disaster in the making.

Third, a quick look at history can be informative€" The 1976 'fight' between Muhammad Ali and pro-wrestling icon Antonio Inoki, broadcast in 34 countries, was sold thus by 'The Greatest':

"Inoki can use his bare fists. He can use karate. This is serious. There's $10 million involved. I wouldn't pull a fraud on the public. This is real. There's no plan. The blood. The holds. The pain. Everything is going to be real. I'm not here in this time of my life to come out with some phony action. I want you to know this is real."

Unlike this one, both participants in that bout initially expected some degree of cooperation (shocking, I know). That 'contest' quickly degenerated into farce after both of them decided they didn't want to "lose."

The fight unfolded thus: Ali threw a grand total of six punches in 15 rounds and Inoki spent the entire fight on his back and kicking Ali's legs. It was a critical disaster and a commercial flop. As it deserved to be.

The point is thus: If you're looking for an athletic contest between Tyson and Jones, then don't bother.

And what happens if Tyson and Jones decide to go at it for real?

Well, there's a very good chance that the referee, who's been instructed to keep things at 'hard sparring', steps in and waves it off.

Boxing fans who want more out of a sport they love should think long and hard before giving this 'exhibition' any of their time or attention.

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