In an age where Social Media types become professional boxers, it was only a matter of time before two men that should be looking back on their glittering careers, decide to meet in the ring in the name of entertainment.
This Saturday night inside Staples Centre in Los Angeles, two legends of the sport collide at a combined age of 105 in a fight billed as an “eight round seniors exhibition”.
Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Junior have experienced the highest of highs in the sport, and return to face each other in a contest nearly 20 years too late. BT Sport Box Office televise in the UK, while FITE broadcast in the USA and Canada.
The contest is subject to a multitude of rules. The scheduled eight rounds are of a two minute duration, and there are no knockouts, with 12 ounce gloves being used.
There are also no judges and no official winner, but the WBC will be providing unofficial scorecards from “ex-pros”: Christy Martin, Vinny Paz and Chad Dawson. The fight will also be stopped immediately in the event of a cut.
Both need little introduction regarding their professional careers. Tyson (50-6, KO44) was at one time the most feared fighter on the planet.
A ferocious puncher who would beat you like you had stolen something from him, Tyson had 19 straight knockout wins to begin his professional career, and, after cutting a swathe through several former champions and contenders, his coronation night came in November 1986, chillingly stopping Trevor Berbick to win the WBC Heavyweight title.
Going on to add the WBA belt in his next fight by widely outscoring James ‘Bonecrusher’ Smith, and completed the set in August 1987 by taking the IBF crown from Tony ‘TNT’ Tucker on the cards.
Six early defences of the trio of titles followed against the likes of Larry Holmes (TKO4) Michael Spinks (KO1) and Frank Bruno (TKO5), but with his fame and ego at an all time high, he crashed back down to Earth in one of the biggest shocks the sport has seen as 42/1 underdog, James ‘Buster’ Douglas, knocked ‘Iron Mike’ out in ten rounds in Tokyo.
Tyson has lost his aura, and after four comeback wins, he was convicted of rape, and wouldn’t be seen in the ring again for over four years. He regained the WBC title in March 1996 by again defeating the brave Frank Bruno, but two fights later, his career lay in ruins when Evander Holyfield expertly stopped him in ten.
The rematch saw another Tyson controversy, with Mike disqualified for biting part of Holyfield’s ear off in ugly scenes.
After a hefty fine and ban, Tyson became a travelling show, taking in Manchester, Glasgow and Copenhagen in return for princely sums. His swansong came in Memphis in June 2002, thrashed in eight by the excellent Lennox Lewis in a bid for the WBC,IBF and IBO straps, and the wheels then came off swiftly.
A comeback blowout of Clifford Ettiene was then followed by Brixton’s Danny Williams, who put a big nail in the Tyson coffin with a shocking fourth round victory in Louisville.
Tyson again attempted a comeback, but June 2005 saw his last professional fight, Ireland’s Kevin McBride calling a sad end to Mike’s career with a sixth round retirement win.
Jones Junior (66-9, KO47) is also a bona fide hall of famer, with his achievements spanning several years and weight classes.
If the man from Pensacola, Florida, had retired in 2003, he would have been high up in the mythical greatest of all time argument, but he went on far too long, and his stock plummeted as a result.
An Olympic Silver medallist in 1988 in what was an absolute robbery in Seoul, Jones would go on to reign as middleweight, super middleweight and was an undisputed light heavyweight champion, beating the likes of Bernard Hopkins, James Toney, Mike McCallum and Otis Grant, before achieving the unthinkable and dethroning John Ruiz in March 2003 to become WBA Heavyweight Champion.
A retirement right there and then would have cemented an unbelievable legacy, but Jones decided to continue, and after moving back down to light heavyweight, his career would never be the same.
After controversially outscoring Antonio Tarver in November 2003 to defend his WBC,WBA and IBO belts, the rematch saw the beginning of the end, as Jones was knocked out in two rounds, and his invincibility was no more.
His next fight saw him again knocked cold, this time in nine to Glen Johnson, a man who wouldn’t have lived with Jones in his prime.
A dull points loss to Tarver saw a hat trick of losses, and Jones then operated at a much lower level before showing glimpses of his old class in beating Felix Trinidad, and he also knocked down Joe Calzaghe before dropping a clear decision.
Two comeback wins papered over the cracks, as Jones set his sights on the cruiserweight division, but he was poleaxed inside a round in a trip to Australia against Danny Green for the IBO title. He dropped down again to lose a lifeless decision to old foe Bernard Hopkins, and was then knocked out in ten by Denis Lebedev, again up at cruiser.
That was the final nail, as Jones then travelled for pay, boxing and winning against obscure opposition in Poland, Russia and Latvia, even becoming a Russian citizen, before December 2015 saw Enzo Maccarinelli become the final man to knock Jones senseless, knocking Roy out in four.
Jones did finish with four straight wins, but again the opposition was awful, and he finally said goodbye to the sport, or so we thought.
Prediction: In their primes, this would have been a fascinating fight, with Tyson’s explosive hands and power going up against Jones’ dazzling hand speed and movement, but this is a match nearly 20 years too late.
Ironically, after beating Antonio Tarver in their original meeting, Jones stated, “if I don’t get Tyson, I’m done,” little did we know that 17 years later he would get his wish.
I can’t see a knockout winner in this, and will be treated as the exhibition that it is. Both are in fantastic shape, but Jones still has the know how and recent experience to take a strange fight on points. I wouldn’t rule out a draw though.
The undercard sees the return of Badou Jack (22-3-3, KO13), and the Sweden born Las Vegas native takes on an eight round light heavyweight assignment against unbeaten Californian, Blake McKernan (13-0, KO6).
Jack has had a tough career, but is a former two-weight world champion, and hasn’t looked shot in recent fights. He is though, 1-2-2 in his last five fights, and has lost two on the bounce to Marcus Browne, and most recently to Jean Pascal in a thriller in a failed bid the WBA Light Heavyweight crown in December 2019.
McKernan is unbeaten, but widely unknown, and Jack can take a points win clearly enough in this one.
On a night of the bizarre, it’s no surprise to see warring non-boxers taking each other on in a professional ring.
This time it’s the turn of former NBA star, Nathaniel ‘Nate’ Robinson, and the former New York Knicks and Boston Celtics Point Guard takes on Jake Paul (1-0, KO1) who stopped Ali Eson Gib of YouTube fame inside a round in January 2020.
The “fight” is scheduled for six at light heavyweight, and it’ll be a tough watch, possibly won on points by Paul.
Staying relatively on the same theme, YouTuber, rapper, and general internet personality, Viddal Riley (4-0, KO2), has at least stuck to boxing for the time being, having fought in Mexico, Dubai and Las Vegas so far in a four fight pro career.
He squares off against MMA fighter, Rashad Coulter (1-0, KO1), a man who has previously campaigned in the UFC, but who hasn’t been seen in a boxing ring for over five years. At 15 years Coulter’s Junior at 23 years of age, Riley should be too fresh, and can force a stoppage in two or three rounds.
A heavyweight eight-rounder sees Joe Cusumano (18-3, KO16) meet Gregory Corbin (15-2, KO9). It should be fun while it lasts, and Cusumano should win before halfway in a punch up.
At lightweight, Worcester, Massachusetts’ Jamaine Ortiz (13-0, KO7) and Maryland based Ugandan, Salaiman Segawa (13-2-1, KO4) clash in a contest that Ortiz should take on the cards after eight rounds.
A featherweight contest scheduled for eight pits Irvin Gonzalez (14-2, KO11) and Edward ‘Kid’ Vazquez (8-0, KO1) together. Vazquez should come away with a points win.