Boxing fans won’t resist the spectacle. But will we regret it?
It’s hard to understate the level of excitement generated when Mike Tyson posted a video of his explosive mitt workout this past May. Landing his explosive trademark body shots and ducking fluidly, it was hard to believe Tyson could retain such form at 54 years old. The footage instantly went viral, and speculation as to who he might choose for a charity exhibition ran wild.
But underneath the media frenzy, some fans expressed a level of trepidation. Those who have followed Mike Tyson’s life outside of the ring are familiar with his struggles with mental health. “Iron” Mike has spoken frequently of the need to abandon the ego he was so reliant on as a fighter, in order to have a measure of peace in his life outside of the ring. In February of this year, he cried emotionally during an episode of his podcast as he commented on the temptation and fear of regressing into his former mindset.
“Now those days are gone it’s empty, I’m nothing. I’m working on the art of humbleness… That’s the reason I’m crying, because I’m not that person no more, and I miss him…I don’t want that person to come out, because if he comes out, hell is coming with him…I hate that guy. I’m scared of him.”
This concern became even greater when Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis were touted as potential opponents. With voices like that of Tyson’s former trainer Teddy Atlas frequently characterizing his legacy as one defined by his losses, how could Mike possibly refrain from becoming emotionally invested in the outcome? What was meant to be an exhibition could easily turn into a serious brawl that leaves both physical and psychological scars.
But the excitement only grew once the opponent was officially selected. Roy Jones Jr., at 51 years of age, is set to fight Mike Tyson this September.
Roy Jones VS Mike Tyson almost came to fruition nearly two decades ago. Back then, Roy Jones was at his supernatural peak. After dominating future legends Bernard Hopkins and James Toney at Middleweight and Super Middleweight, Jones would reign for years as the Undisputed Light Heavyweight Champion. Talk of a fight against Tyson went from fantasy to possibility after Roy Jones defeated WBA Heavyweight World Champion John Ruiz, becoming the first man in over a century to have captured both Middleweight and Heavyweight titles. When the fight failed to materialize, Jones would infamously drop back down to Light Heavyweight, eventually losing much of his former athletic ability and suffering a string of crushing losses. Jones would fight on for years despite a steep decline, only just retiring in 2018 at 49 years old.
While Jones doesn’t have Tyson’s troublesome temperament, there’s still a psychological component to his decision to return to the ring. Here is a fighter that had fans begging him to retire for years for a decade, a legend who couldn’t resist the taste of victory. Will the Tyson fight satisfy his itch and allow him finally rest? Or will it lead him back down the road of taking life-altering punishment?
Putting the personal narratives aside, the dynamics of the fight itself offer plenty of question marks. Despite disadvantages in size and age, Roy is likely much sharper, having still been active in recent years. In comparison, Tyson’s last exhibition tour in 2006 showed a marked decline in his forward mobility. But Tyson hasn’t forgotten the perfect punching form he learned under Cus D’Amato, and a well-placed blow from Tyson could see Jones reliving some of his tragic knockout losses. The contest becomes even more puzzling to imagine when one considers that it’s an exhibition match. Will the context of a “friendly” match mitigate the health risks? Or will the egos of both former champions destroy any pretense of civility? Is there any possibility for an outcome that leaves both fighters’ pride and bodily health intact?
Only one thing is for sure: fans all over the world will tune in to watch. Let’s just hope we don’t regret it.