The world (and social media) were watching last night as this year’s most anticipated combat contest, in terms of star power, was scheduled to take place. Former world boxing champions Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. squared off one-on-one with each other in an exhibition bout.
However, a reality we get with many of the long awaited fights between two combatants, the hype was probably a little better than what took place on millions of screens across the country Saturday night.
Coming in at age 54, with his last professional fight 15 years ago, Iron Mike Tyson has talked up his return to the ring at length over the past year. A career already filled with controversy and notoriety, Tyson was known to audiences for dominant wins as a champion and bizarre fails in losses in and outside the ring. Mike Tyson first mentioned the possibility of returning to the ring back during the spring of this year from interviews and workout videos that spread attention and excitement throughout social media enough to think that it could actually be a possibility. Hardly the fighter he was at the height of his professional career 20 to 30 years ago, Instagram and Facebook videos would make us believe we could at least get a glimmer of that.
And in this corner…his opponent was a known name in the business as well, who also lobbied for the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world title back during his multiple title run. Roy Jones Jr. competed and held multiple world championships in four different weight classes over the span of a 20 year career. After negotiations between a charity bout with former rival Evander Holyfield fell through for Tyson’s opponent, Jones was announced in July as the winner of the Tyson comeback opponent.
The fight itself, taking place in Los Angeles at the famed Staple Center, was virtually a tale of two game plans. The company promoting the fight, Thriller, had a setup akin to a movie set with a lit up white ring in front of a dark audience-less backdrop. Tyson came on donning his usual black trunks and black footwear as Jones came in opposite with white and blue trim. As an exhibition fight, it was a bit watered down structure in comparison to the professional boxing bouts we’re accustomed. The two fought eight two-minute rounds with Tyson being the fighter looking to throw more, to hit more and hopefully mix it up to give audiences what they want. Jones, not a dumb and unprofessional fighter, knew his game plan was best at keeping Tyson at bay with clinches and tie-ups. But still managing to get in his shots throughout the eight rounds, Tyson “won” the fight in the eyes of many viewers who were dismayed at the split draw decision at the fight’s conclusion.
So did we get what we wanted to see? Many of us wanted to see a Tyson that reminded us of why he was one of the most feared boxers in history, matching up with Jones as one of the best of all-time who’s hand speed was still present in his 51 years of age. We got a little of both, but a lot of hugging, and more of what people are going to want to see if Tyson decides to step back into the ring.
Honestly though, the highlight of the night could be the commentary by rapper Snoop Dog who was joined in the booth by UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya, ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard and MMA/WWE commentator Mauro Ranallo. But Snoop really stole the show with quips like “(this fight) is like two of my uncles fighting at the barbecue,” and continuing with a plea to grandma to come break them up cause “they fighting again.”
But the night didn’t just start there with the rapper, who laid the commentary with the undercard knockout victory for YouTuber Jake Paul over former NBA point guard Nate Robinson. The narration left many fans wanting more play-by-play work for boxing and any other sport really.
In a post-fight interview, Tyson did say he wanted to do it again, so this may not be the last we see from Iron Mike or Roy Jones Jr (or for Snoop Dogg providing us with in-fight analysis). The format worked for Jones and Tyson, who got to punch for one last time. But this time, and also for the benefit for fans, it looked as if he punched his way back into his passion for boxing.