We already know that this Saturday’s exhibition bout between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. is more play-act than combat. With two-minute rounds, 12 oz. gloves, no official scoring, and the firm promise from California State Athletic Commission executive director Andy Foster to shut things down if a real fight breaks out, everyone should know what’s what.
The fighters, themselves, are aware of this reality, even if they’ve been pushing “do or die” rhetoric to help sell the pay-per-view.
But what happens AFTER the big show?
If one– or both– look good, or at least half-way decent, the boxing business vultures will start to circle overhead. Tyson and Jones will get offers to ditch the exhibitions, come out of retirement, and take a “real” fight or two for big money.
Both fighters have a big enough name and reputation to attract the big-time hustlers who will know how to circumvent state athletic commission concerns and the worries of do-gooders. With enough potential money in the till, bad things could be cooked up– bad things that could be irresistible to a pair of 50-something fighters searching for big payouts and, possibly, another run at real world boxing legitimacy.
Could a 54-year-old Tyson be tempted into a major heavyweight contest after a pair of high-paying soft touches? Most definitely. Would he be hurt and/or embarrassed at the end of such a run? Probably.
You could ask the same thing about the 51-year-old Jones and get back the same answers. Although Jones was last active in 2018, he’s faced nothing but club fighters in recent years. His last “real” opponent, Enzo Maccarinelli, brutally knocked him out in 2015. Jones’ last win over a world-ranked opponent was way back in 2003.
Tyson’s near-prime days are even further back than Jones’. He hasn’t beaten a world class heavyweight since 1996 and hasn’t even had a legit bout since 2005.
Yet, both retired legends are probably just one decent exhibition showing away from a downpour of comeback offers. Tyson has even brought up the possibility of taking on the heavyweight division’s best– Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, and Deontay Wilder– in charity exhibition matches.
“I think they’re brilliant, man, I think they’re brilliant fighters. They could do so much for society and have exhibitions, and take the money from exhibitions, because they’re big crowd pleasers,” Tyson recently told UK boxing pundit Steve Bunce.
“They could help so many people — the homeless, the drug infected…We can help people.”
That, right there, is just a short leap from, “Yeah, maybe we can do this for real and shake things up real good.” It’s not like both Tyson and Jones couldn’t flip that switch from charity exhibitions to “real” fights in a heartbeat. It’s not like loads of cash won’t be shoved under their noses to flip that switch.
Hopefully, sanity will prevail and these guys will keep the ring activity isolated to exhibitions against other retired legends.
Given the $10 million guarantee headed Tyson’s way this Saturday and the $1 million guarantee for Jones, there’s clearly a way to make a decent buck or two without crossing the line from show to battle.
But will both legends settle for charitable work and short money when the right hustler comes along with a life-changing eight-figure offer?