What is the intrigue, you may ask, in watching two ex-boxing legends slog around a ring at 54 and 51 years old when there won’t be judging, they won’t be going for knockouts and lord only knows how they’ll make it past two rounds before getting winded.
The intrigue, of course, is Mike Tyson. The 54-year-old former heavyweight champion announced on Thursday that he’ll return to boxing for the first time since he lost to Kevin McBride in 2005 when he faces Roy Jones Jr., 51, on Sept. 12 in Carson, Calif.
Tyson is a different man today than he was at the peak of his career, when he was not only blowing through the best fighters of the day but providing the tabloids enough headlines for two lifetimes.
There was a professional wrestler by the name of Johnny Rodz who is now in the WWE Hall of Fame who went by the nickname of “The Unpredictable Johnny Rodz.” Rodz was unpredictable in a scripted show; Tyson was more unpredictable in real life. He was liable to do the most expected things at the least expected moments.
Tyson’s built a second career for himself, much of it based on talking about himself and his wild life during his prime as one of the hardest-hitting boxers ever.
He’s become a successful and wealthy businessman after having lost more than $300 million he’d earned in prize money during his boxing career. Some of it was stolen from him; much of it he blew with oddball purchases like live tigers. He was “Mike Exotic” before the world ever knew of “Joe Exotic.”
As he’s turned around his life, built several successful businesses and had a relatively normal retirement from the fight game, a different side of Tyson emerged.
He’s a guy who loves to help others and who revels in providing advice and support to the young fighters who revere him and seek his assistance.
The fight with Jones is a way for him to introduce the world to his new Legends Only League. And it’s not supposed to be a competitive, hard-fought bout. It will be a show for the nostalgists among us, who want to see two of the best who ever did it move around in the ring one more time, even if they’re shells of their former selves.
But Tyson’s former self can’t be forgotten by the millions who grew up mesmerized watching him in the ring and listening to him threatening to eat the hearts of an opponent’s children.
Boxing is a sport of instincts; when under pressure, a fighter will do what he or she knows.
So while they’re not supposed to, as California State Athletic Commission executive officer Andy Foster told Yahoo Sports on Thursday, be trying to take each other’s heads off, there is a gray area there:
How hard of a punch is too hard?
So, let’s say for a moment that Jones stands a left hook, his trademark punch. What if he threw it with a bit more velocity than Tyson felt had been agreed upon? If we say they’ve agreed to punch no harder than a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10 and Tyson decides that Jones has just hit him with a 7 or an 8 left hook, what happens?
Does Tyson react instinctively and fire off a crunching left hook of his own? Does he get a bit more aggressive than he had agreed to, or wanted to? And what does Jones do in response?
That, my friends, is why you’ll be interested in this fight and why so many more than will admit it today will wind up buying the pay-per-view.
Tyson is the most compelling fighter since Muhammad Ali. He was a brilliant talent who didn’t defeat as many of the world-class opponents as he could have because of things that happened outside the ring.
So we don’t know if his emotions will get the best of him if Jones does something in the ring that Tyson feels was not agreed upon. We don’t know how he’ll react. We don’t know if this fun, slow-paced exhibition will suddenly turn into a toe-to-toe battle.
There is so much we don’t know.
What I do know is that it is precisely that which will pique the interest of millions, and make this show a bigger success than anyone, perhaps even Tyson himself, ever imagined.
Just you wait and see.
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