Is Tyson v Jones just an ‘is what it is’ thing…or does it say something about boxing as a whole?
When we “get together” and chat, the time flows without friction, because, really, we are on the same wavelength about the business that is professional boxing.
I shot the shit with Boston-based sports journalist Ron Borges, and the main subject was one that I think most all of us would have deemed improbable ten years ago: the upcoming Mike Tyson fight.
Borges covered him thoroughly on the way up, at the Boston Globe, and yes, on Tysons’ way down, and the attempted resurrections, and then the choppy travels after he hung up the hitting mitts in 2005. The veteran of the Boston Herald, who is now midway through writing an authorized biography with trailblazer Christy Martin, touched on the import of Tyson v Jones, and where the sport stands as a whole.
“I don’t think in and of itself Tyson-Jones has any great meaning, but the danger is the bigger these sorts of exhibitions might become, they might become bigger than top level matches,” Borges said.
Yes, I agreed. It’s not that we are rooting for Tyson-Jones to tank, but it’s true. Suppose this thing does really well, gets over 1 million buys, more people purchase this than did Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder 2. The natural instincts will kick in: MORE!
Let’s do more of these…And the Klitschkos and Holyfields and McNeeleys will say, maybe, hey, I want in!
“This would be like a pre-season game doing better than the Super Bowel,” Borges continued. “The danger is the sport moves more and more as being viewed as a circus. This is a circus event, this is not a boxing match. And you find yourself longing for a time when there were fighters so it actually meant something. You and I can sit outside Madison Square Garden, with half a dozen big-name fighters, Triple G, Errol Spence, etcetera, and people will look at us like we’re crazy. I’d argue that since Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, there’s not really been anybody outside of that who has gotten outside of the inner circle, where non-hardcores actually know who they are.”
OK, so summing it up, as we tick down to this event. What should someone on the fence know, what should people who are excited to see Tyson, the mythical beast, back in action, understand?
“Probably it is likely that you will be disappointed,” Borges said. “We’re talking about two old geezers, it’s like going to watch champions golf, guys are over 50, and expecting them to play like they did at 25 or 30. They may make some good shots…Tyson and Jones might move OK for a bit, but my guess is they are outta gas fairly quickly.”
(By the way, for those late to the boxing party, who maybe were born in like 2005, this will tell you all about how good Jones was.)
His guess is based on being in this sphere over five decades. Watching, analyzing, asking questions to help decipher some of those quiet parts most people don’t say aloud, but to a shrink, or when they’ve teetered over the line following that third glass of Merlot, or to themselves, whispered, as they lay head to pillow and hope that their brain will calm itself sufficiently to allow them to fall asleep in a reasonable amount of time.
He’s likely to be right.
“My other concern is I hope doesn’t happen, to turn the main event into a joke. I don’t quite understand the rules, no knockouts are allowed, how can you insure that, unless people promise not to hit each other,” Borges continued. “Jones has a chin made of glass now, and I think a 100 year old Tyson could probably punch him and make him fall.”
What he’s saying is, there are more ways for this thing to end badly, arguably, than well, from the prespective of how some of the public at large views the asterisk fight.
“Look, it could turn into a pillow fight, because Jones couldn’t move very well late in his career not, and that’s not gonna improve. I get it, money wise. The amazing thing is it will probably double anything sold on pay per view this year. That’s pretty troubling if you are in the boxing business. Look at what the rematch for Wilder-Fury did, if these guys top that, two champs coming off a tremendous ending to their first fight, you’re not in business.”
In other words, if this thing does really well, from a sales perspective, people involved in the non asterisk boxing business have more reasons to drop tears into their over spiked egg nog.
Yep, if the present is so unpalatable, that’s when nostalgia sells real well. That in itself is OK, it is what it is…but not in the fight game, because “nostalgia” in the form of guys 25 years past their peaks can slide from sad into dangerous.
The marketers involved are not fools, they are properly hopping onto the right trend trains, by putting YouTuber Jake Paul on. That youthful verve should play well as an adjunct, but in fact, could serve as a cold contrast, making Tyson and Jones look arthritic in comparison.
“My son is 14, he’s more interested in Jake Paul than in Tyson and Jones. Woodsy, it’s a dying business,” Borges stated. “And there appears to be no resurrection coming. After Oscar, Leonard, Ali left you had others come in. Now, you don’t get any bump off the Olympics, can’t get a resurrection that way. Now, for a promoter to build a guy on his own, they have a hard time doing that, for a lot of different reasons. And then, the minute the can draw two nickles, they put him on pay per view. The greatest in my era, and most of your era, they fought on free TV, and then, at the highest echelon, on closed circuit and pay per view.”
Great points, I thought. And what about Al Haymon, I pointed out, he tried for a “free TV” resurrection play, no?
“He tried,” Borges answered, “but his fatal flaw that with the exception of Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia, his fighters were not gonna risk. They are throwbacks. Spence won’t, Crawford won’t, GGG won’t.”
Borges said that c’mon now, if Spence and Crawford both REALLY wanted to fight, they’d go to their respective advisors, and demand it. That hasn’t happened.
“Alvarez is probably the last guy that has fought everybody he should’ve fought. C’mon, Pacquiao is more willing than the other guys to fight anyone, guys half his age,” he said.
And Canelo is the lead dog, but hasn’t gone all in on English, so his appeal hits a ceiling in the US, Borges noted.
By the way, I spoke to one ultra high level player, who didn’t want to be on the record. I asked that person what Tyson-Jones means, about the possible ramifications to this thing.
“I don’t think it’ll have too much of an impact, good or bad,” the industry titan said. “Some might think it might get some lapsed fans in, or new fans re-energized or re-introduced to the sport. We’ve seen that movie, and that’s not how it ends. And these type of events, and the YouTubers and such, that’s the fault of the sport and the promoters who do these sort of stunt events. They put on terrible undercards, where there’s little entertainment value, little appeal. Anyone coming to view those events is not exposed to anything interesting, or likely to be converted. This is a cash grab. Good for Mike and Roy, no one should begrudge them. Also, Mike is singular athlete. No one else can come back and still have that kind of appeal, so I don’t think if this succeeds it translates to others. It is what it is, I don’t think it carries over.”
OK, let’s pay attention to what happens tonight, because if Tyson “wins” and his KO goes viral, that will encourage, I think, piggybacking.
“You might next see Oscar fight somebody,” Borges said, “and that would be sort of a senior circuit thing.”
And Oscar has that name recognition, still, which is becoming less and less possible within the boxing sphere in this age of endless entertainment choices. You really really REALLY have to be exceptional to stand out, and as we all know, some folks make darker choices than others when trying to stand out. I mean, Adrien Broner stands out, but as a ‘bad boy,’ and in the end, it will end poorly for him. He will get “used,” he will get gigs, but when his usefullness as a “name” is over, everyone will probably edge away from the guy, because he is trouble.
“The only thing that can save boxing, to allow the sport to get above a ‘D’ level sport, you return to having people fight people that customers want to see,” Borges said. “And making those fights when they should be made.”
Borges has been doing this for a lengthy spell, so he sees, say, a Keith Thurman, different. Fans who became fans like ten years ago, pretty much THIS is all they’ve known. They have become accustomed, if not fully embracing of, how much of the ‘fighting’ gets done outside the ring. A Thurman does way more work on social media and select media angling to get certain fights, than he does actually fighting.
“Keith Thurman, I have never seen someone get more publicity for doing less,” the Massachusetts man said. “Then, he got a fight, fought a shadow of a great fighter, and got the shit kicked out of him. I didn’t think Thurman beat Garcia or Porter, actually. He’s the poster boy for what’s wrong with the sport. He’s created this false front that never gets tested. And when he’s finally forced into a safe fight against an aging guy, he gets the shit kicked out of him. And he’s done this schtick from the start. Now, Teofimo Lopez, I don’t like all his schtick,” Borges told me, “but he’s willing to take a chance.”
What if, in pro football, the Patriots got to the Super Bowl, and they say, naw, we’re not playing (the other team that advanced to the Super Bowl)?”
The blame, there’s plenty of it, and I think it has to get spread around far and wide. The fans bear the least of the blame, because we are on the lowest rung, the ones being marketed at. And journalists, too, we can and should look in the mirror and ask that face how we contribute to the problems, instead of supporting the advancement of finding solutions…But our power is minimal, and reduced by 90% or so since Tyson beat Berbick. There are ZERO full-time just-boxing writers at newspapers/media news platforms in America.
I’m a bit more hopeful (naive?) than is Borges. I do think a boxing resurrection, of a sort, can occur. But it won’t come when “the next Mike Tyson” walks into a dingy gym. There won’t be another mix of ferocious and introspective and clueless and sensitive like Mike Tyson. That package simply won’t be replicated…which is why maybe 1.5 million PPV buys and another 2 million off the books activations will occur in a few hours.
I won’t finish by telling you to caveat emptor, buyer beware. More like, potential buyer be aware. Be aware that if you allow your expectations to be too high, you very heavily risk being disappointed.
There will be huffing, and puffing, and probably the top takeaway from Tyson v Jones will be that everyone gets older, and degrades physically. That isn’t, by the way, meant to be a bummer kicker to leave you “wiser” but deflated.
It’s the most inarguable fact of life is all. Right after that, it’s that boxing is on the ropes, getting worked over, and it ain’t looking good for ole boxing.
But the sport does what Tyson and Jones, and most all of us, do….It puts one foot in front of the other, trudges forward, enjoys some triumphs, take some nasty shots and shrugs them off as best as can be done, and tries to do the best they can.
–Follow Michael Woods on Twitter if you like.