LOS ANGELES – Mike Tyson got a glimpse of his destructive prime Saturday night as the 54-year-old boxing icon returned to the ring for a lively exhibition fight with 51-year-old Roy Jones Jr.
Both fighters had impressive moments in a bout that was unofficially ruled a draw by the WBC ringside judges. Tyson and Jones fought eight two-minute rounds, and both emerged smiling and apparently healthy after a highly unusual event at Staples Center.
“This is better than fighting for championships,” Tyson said of the heavyweight show, which raised money for several charities. ‘We are now humanitarians. We can do something good for the world. We have to do this again. ”
The former world heavyweight champion returned to the ring after a 15-year absence and drew international attention and Iron Mike did his best to show the form that made him a legend for a generation of boxing fans. Tyson tagged Jones with body shots and a handful of head punches during a fight needed to be a fairly safe glorious sparring session by the California State Athletic Commission.
“The body shots certainly took their toll,” said Jones, the former four-division world champion widely regarded as the most skilled boxer of his generation. “It’s something to take the blows from Mike. I am cool with a tie. Maybe we can do it again. ”
Jones walked over to the ring wearing gloves and a swimsuit in honor of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, while Tyson wore his signature all-black swimsuit. After traditional pre-fight pageantry and an introduction by Michael Buffer, the 50-something champions both came out with punches that evoked echoes of their glorious firsts.
They also often tied themselves on the inside, and their sometimes labored breathing could be heard on the microphones in the empty arena.
Hip-hop star Snoop Dogg’s witty television commentary was one of the loudest sounds in Staples, and he had a handful of singers: “This is like two of my uncles fighting at the barbecue!”
Tyson and Jones headlined the most unlikely pay-per-view boxing event in years, developed by the social networking app Triller and featuring fights interspersed with hip-hop performances in an empty arena.
The event was derided by some critics as an anti-sports spectacle, but both Tyson and Jones seemed to handle themselves competently and safely. Fans were clearly enamored, and the show gained massive traction on social media.
“I hit you with some good shots, and you took it,” Tyson said. “I respect that.”
In the co-main event, YouTube star Jake Paul knocked out former NBA player Nate Robinson, retiring in the second round of Robinson’s professional boxing debut. Paul, in his second pro fight, took on three knockdowns against Robinson, the three-time NBA Slam Dunk game champion, before an overhand right put Robinson flat on the face and seemingly unconscious.
Tyson retired from boxing in 2005, saying he had ‘the guts or the heart’ longer after retiring with a bleak loss to journeyman Peter McBride. Finally freed from the relentless pressures of his sport, Tyson gradually established his life, kicking off a self-proclaimed drug addiction, and eventually graduating from acting, stage performances, charity work, and even marijuana cultivation, all the while settling into a comfortable family life in Las Vegas with his third wife. and their children.
The idea of a comeback in boxing seemed ridiculous, but Tyson got into this unlikely fight when a few years ago, at the urging of his wife, he started doing 15 minutes a day on a treadmill in an attempt to lose 100 pounds. The workouts soon became affairs of several hours, including cycling, running, and eventually punching, as he regained some of his athletic prime through discipline and a vegan diet.
Tyson posted a video in which he hit a video on social media early in the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and the overwhelming public response sparked several lucrative offers for a return of the ring. With the chance to make money for himself and for a good cause, Tyson eventually agreed – but he had to find an opponent.
Jones fought steadily into his forties, but thought he was done with the sport after winning his last fight in 2018. and Jones was usually a light heavyweight (178 pounds).
Tyson and Jones negotiated the limitations of their fight with the California Commission, eventually ending up with eight rounds of two-minute hard sparring with only ceremonial judgment and no official winner. The WBC still stepped in to award a ceremonial “Frontline Battle Belt” to both fighters.