LOS ANGELES – Mike Tyson stepped onto a spotlight stage on Friday and weighed 220 pounds, taking off his shirt and revealing a muscular torso that could belong to an athlete half his 54 years old.
The former heavyweight champion moved into a COVID protective glass box and came face to face with Roy Jones Jr., once the world’s most talented fighter. Jones’ 210-pound frame was a little less tight, but still clearly in better shape than most of his fellow 51-year-olds.
These two boxing greats are now older, calmer men, but they are returning to the ring on Saturday night with the intention of reclaiming a moment from their glorious past – and they have both worked really hard to make sure they aren’t ashamed of this. extraordinary boxing exhibition.
“This is the fun part,” said Tyson, who will be fighting for the first time in 15 years. “Everything else to get here was hell.”
Their fight at Staples Center is sort of an eight-round sparring session. It will have two-minute rounds, no official rating, and limited violence, although the limit depends on whether you ask the California State Athletic Commission or the fighters, who both plan to let go of their hands.
“Maybe I don’t know how to take it easy,” Tyson said. “I don’t know. I don’t want to say anything wrong. I don’t want the committee to be mad at me.”
But for Tyson and Jones, this unique pay-per-view show is less of a sporting event and more of an opportunity for two transcendent athletes to prove that age is a number – and aging is a choice.
“I don’t think of life as age,” Tyson said. “I see life as energy. You don’t bring your age to the table. You bring your energy to the table. You’re not going to meet people: ‘Hey, I’m Bob. I’m 59. “You won’t. “
Tyson still seems surprised by the wave of events that brought him back to the ring. He admits that the younger Tyson could never have believed he would be a middle-aged husband and father who had to lose a hundred pounds two years ago because that stubborn Brooklyn boy never thought so far ahead.
“I didn’t even think I would live that long,” he said. “I was just so intense and just took myself so seriously.”
Tyson got back into shape at the urging of his wife, who prompted him to run on the treadmill for 15 minutes a day. The 15 minutes turned into two hours, then expanded to cycling, running, and finally punching, along with the adoption of a vegan diet.
“Never eat anything,” he said, laughing. “Just starve and exercise.”
The momentum began when he posted a video of a training session to social media at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and his sharp, powerful punches sparked millions of impressions and a subsequent stream of increasingly lucrative comeback offers, along with the chance to cash in to collect for charities.
“This is a part of my life that I just about wasted,” said Tyson. “My last fight, I was not interested in it. I’m interested in it now. “
Tyson is referring to his loss to journeyman Kevin McBride in 2005, when he finally finished his unique career in an ugly way. He became the heavyweight champion at the age of 20 and ruled the division for five years, but his epic demise soured him in the sport.
“I want to do it now,” Tyson said. “Most of the time I was obliged to do it from a contract perspective: ‘If you don’t do this, we’ll take everything you have, and you’ll be back in Brownsville.’ They blackmailed me. It’s a different perspective now. “
While Tyson became an international icon for his brutal, dangerous image and countless misconduct, Jones was widely respected as perhaps the most skilled boxer of his generation. Jones was a supernaturally gifted athlete who dominated his weight classes while still pursuing his passion for basketball.
Nate Robinson was a rookie security guard for the Knicks in 2005 when Jones participated in full practice with the team.
“I was in a panic,” said 36-year-old Robinson, no stranger to erratic athletic performance as a three-time winner of the NBA Slam Dunk game at 5 feet away. “That was one of the highlights of my life, being able to rub shoulders and hoop with one of your favorite boxers.”
Jones fought regularly in the 2010s, but thought he was finally retired two years ago. When he was offered an offer to be the opponent in Tyson’s comeback, Jones couldn’t resist the chance to fight a legend he’d never met in a career spent mostly at light heavyweight.
So Jones embarked on his own comeback training regimen.
“It’s the craziest thing you could ever imagine,” said Jones. “I can’t believe I can maintain my speed at the age of 51. I am still faster than 95% of the boxing world, and it shocks me. The aches and pains are there because you are 50, and they will be there no matter what you do. You just need mental strength to overcome a setback. “
Tyson and Jones return to a new world of boxing fandom and consumption. This show is being promoted by Triller, a video app and social media platform, featuring a fight-night show featuring performances from various rappers, a surprisingly solid undercard and a co-main event where Robinson takes on YouTube in his professional boxing debut. star Jake Paul.
Robinson and Paul both seem impressed by the circumstances of their fight.
“You have to remember that I’m 23 and this is the first time people my age have been able to watch a Mike Tyson fight live,” said Paul. “I can’t believe I’m part of it.”
Neither Tyson nor Jones is likely to finish boxing after this show. Jones said he hopes to fight mixed martial arts legend Anderson Silva next “if he goes well,” while Tyson will go where this strange journey takes him next.
“Being here is already a success,” Tyson said. “Just living as a human being is a success.”