No sooner had a draw been declared in the exhibition bout between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr than fans and pundits were venting their anger at the outcome. Instead, we should be thankful both men simply emerged unscathed.
Anyone hoping to see Tyson and Jones roll back the years when they met in the ring at the Staples Center on Saturday night was inevitably being set up for disappointment.
Here were two men with a combined age of 105 and whose former glories – while once shining resplendently – had been left far, far behind in the mists of sporting folklore.
What played out in the ring in Los Angeles was largely predictable: a slow-paced spectacle during which both men – but Tyson in particular – showed flashes of their prime but were mostly content to take to the clinch to catch their breath when they could.
Tyson showed the greater intent and landed more punches, and even the most hardened opponents to him stepping back between the ropes to fight for the first time since 2005 will have struggled not to raise a smile at the sight of the former ‘Baddest Man on the Planet’ back in his famous black shorts.
The 54-year-old’s head movement and body shots evoked fleeting memories of the fighter he once was, and Jones would later dutifully claim that when Tyson hits you, “everything hurts.”
But in reality, even the clean punches Tyson landed were laden with nowhere near as much ferocity as they once were – and were certainly not enough to have the 51-year-old Jones in any serious trouble.
Jones’ approach seemed much more in keeping with the exhibition nature of the bout, content to do his work from a distance. The former four-weight world champion also looked notably less conditioned than Tyson.
It was at times engaging and entertaining, but it was also awkward and for large parts plodding and predictable.
AFTER EIGHT ROUNDS THE FIGHT BETWEEN MIKE TYSON AND ROY JONES JR…. ended in a drawHow did YOU score the fight? #TysonJonespic.twitter.com/T4PHgoZxdI
If anyone had expected anything approaching the fireworks of the heyday of these two icons of the ring, then that was likely due to the hype that had been built up by Triller, the social media app which was showing the contest.
There was talk of the showdown breaking pre-fight pay-per-view records, of it being billed as “the most anticipated PPV fight of the decade.”
The money men were hawking it for all it was worth – and somewhat ironically the confusion over the exact ruleset and whether either man could go for a knockout may have helped crank up interest in this meeting of faded giants.
For their part, Tyson and Jones had done a good job of slickly peddling the encounter. Clips from their respective training camps showed short, rapid-fire bursts of sparring – perfect for the social media age in which attention spans are short and eyeballs crave instant satisfaction.
Whether the duo could muster anything like the intensity of their glory days when they actually stepped into the ring for eight two-minute rounds was always going to be a tall order.
And so it proved.
Snoop Dogg, on commentary duty, perhaps summed up the unfolding action most aptly when he described it as akin to “watching two of my uncles fighting at a barbecue.”
We need Snoop Dogg to commentate every fight 🤣pic.twitter.com/KC9gMKiZrg
No winner was declared in the ring, but when the unofficial result was announced as a draw by the three special judges assembled by the WBC outside the arena, there were immediate accusations that Tyson had been “robbed.”
The lopsided scorecard in Jones’ favor by former two-weight world champion Vinny Paz caused particular rancor among some in the boxing community.
True, Tyson had done more and fought the better fight.
But given the freakish nature of the fight and the fact that sanctioning it in the first place was dubious, any genuine outrage over the result seems woefully misplaced – as does any anger from fans who were expecting more bang for their PPV buck.
Instead, we should simply be thankful that both men emerged from the bout with their health still intact.
Tyson could reportedly earn as much as $10 million for his night’s work, vowing to give away much of that to charity, while Jones is in line to bag up to $3 million.
With that kind of money on offer, it will always be tempting for them to run it back. Both men suggested on Saturday night that it may not be the last we see of them in the ring.
Jones Jr’s Russian manager has even outlandishly claimed he wants to lure the pair to fight on Red Square.
Meanwhile, Tyson’s former nemesis Evander Holyfield has also signaled he is coming out of retirement at the age of 58, and a ‘trilogy’ between the two would no doubt prove even more lucrative than Tyson’s bout with Jones.
Seeing Tyson focused and back in the ring will have lifted many a spirit among the boxing fraternity, especially considering the trials and tribulations of ‘Iron Mike’ down the years, and Saturday night did indeed show glimpses of what both he and Jones can do.
But they were little more than that: fleeting glimpses from faded former kings of the ring. It’s hard to see what – if anything – Tyson or Jones can offer beyond what they served up in LA on Saturday night.
While it may have ended frustratingly or inconclusively for some observers, one last dance was surely enough for these two famous warriors. Let’s leave it at that.
By Liam Tyler