In the lead up to Mike Tyson vs Roy Jones Jr, fans expressed
concerns a visceral distaste for what the California State Athletic Commission had prescribed: reduced round duration, initially prohibiting knockouts before deciding it would be far more feasible to end the hostilities if either fighter suffered a bad cut, whispers of mandatory protective headgear, whispers of nixing judge scores altogether. This was, after all, billed as an exhibition fight for charity as opposed to a grudge match for the ages. The undercard fights, however, set the tone nicely.
Undefeated lightweight Jamaine Ortiz dismantled Sulaiman Segawa, living up to his reputation as ‘The Technician’. Light-heavyweight Blake McKernan exited the ring on his shield after a painfully dominant performance from Badou Jack. Even the polarizing YouTuber Jake Paul came for blood in his cruiserweight bout, silencing former NBA player Nate Robinson in under two rounds with multiple knockdowns before delivering a decisive stone-cold KO.
And as for the matter of the main event at Los Angeles’ STAPLES Centre? What exactly went down when Iron Mike (50-6-2) finally faced off against Captain Hook (66-9-0)? Let’s just say that while the concerns weren’t entirely unfounded, we received some of the action we were looking for. Both pentagenerians soundly reminded the world that what made them world-beating legends to begin with went beyond the physical aspect alone.
“There’s no such thing as an exhibition,”
noted Sugar Ray Leonard on the commentary panel.
“They have no control over that… they are going to hurt each other.”
Although Mike Tyson nor Roy Jones Jr looked anywhere close to who they were in their respective primes, no one could ever accuse either men of not having the same balls-to-the-wall mentality for this.
Tyson came out with some teeth on him, showcasing glimpses of that signature peek-a-boo style from the immortal Cus D’Amato. Jones danced out of the way, avoiding any real damage. But the round was all over before anything could really happen.
A drawback of two-minute rounds, but as it became clear as day later on – very necessary given what being in your 50s actually entails.
After getting a taste of adrenaline in Round One and re-awakening the beast within, Tyson exploded forward to work the body. Jones smartly tied him up in the clinch to restrain said beast.
Later on, Tyson’s straight left found a home squarely on Jones’ jaw, shortly after wrapping around Jones’ guard to deliver a right hook. Jones answered this in turn with a no-look straight left right down the centreline before evading.
The round was punctuated by a double left hook to the body from Tyson to Jones.
Tyson once again walked Jones down before being tied up in a clinch. There’s an exchange of body shots. Both men’s breathing are noticeably laboured right about now. Three rounds in and this is where age starts to play a real factor.
Opening with a clinch, Tyson backs Jones into a corner. Not a whole lot of striking occurred, and as stated by the commentary panel, it resembles a grappling fight more than anything else.
Jones received a warning for holding, though it’s obvious this was his intention. He was waiting out the clock to reduce any chances of taking further damage and catch his breath.
Towards the end, Tyson landed some hefty right hooks to Jones’ body, at which point the latter quite literally clung for deal life.
In Round Five, just past the halfway point, Tyson looked sharper, warmed up. He kept Jones at bay and showcased some decent head movement.
Again, when Tyson started to pressure forward, Jones initiated a clinch to avoid heavy trading. After the bell, Jones slumped onto his stool looking positively gassed.
More or less of the same instances from Rounds Four and Round Five, momentum appeared to be building more and more in Tyson’s favour. Jones was just waiting out the clock.
Tyson was determined to leave it all on the canvas. Giving it everything he had left and leaving absolutely nothing in the tank for the return trip home, he gave Jones the business for the better part of two minutes.
Somehow, despite what had clearly been an uneven match in favour of The Baddest Man on the Planet, Mike Tyson vs Roy Jones Jr (unofficially) ended in a draw. As per the California State Athletic Commission, this decision would not be recognised on either fighter’s professional record.
I guess that answers all our questions. And also quells any lingering desire to see something like that again. As exciting as the event was in the moment, as demonstrated in depressing detail today, there’s a good reason you don’t see fighters approaching 60 come out of retirement.
Even individuals of Tyson and Jones’ calibre eventually succumb to the shackles of time. This wasn’t the battle of the ages we had hoped for as much as it was the battle of the aged (though a valiant effort from all parties involved nonetheless).
Side note: with the exception of Uncle Snoop – who is perenially welcome anywhere at any time in our books – I think we could have all done without the performances. Five whole Wiz Khalifa songs? In 2020? French Montana… ever? I think not, son.
Side note II: I want Snoop Dogg to call every professional fight from now until the end of time. Hands down the most entertaining aspect all night.