Mike Tyson-Roy Jones Jr. exhibition ends in an entertaining ‘draw’
In the late 1990s or early 2000s, a prize fight between all-time legends Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. would have been a mega event of the highest order.
It didn’t happen then – though there were discussions for the fight in 2003 – but in another reminder of how unusual 2020 has been the iconic former world champions met in the ring for an eight-round heavyweight exhibition bout on Saturday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The pay-per-view main event certainly was not for boxing purists and won’t mean a thing for either man’s legacy, but despite years in retirement and both being in their 50s, they turned in an entertaining scrap neither had anything to be embarrassed by.
Although the California State Athletic Commission did not assign judges to score the bout because it was an exhibition, and therefore not official, the WBC assigned three former world champions to score the bout from television, and their scores were wildly divergent, resulting in a split draw, despite Tyson appearing to dominate.
Christy Martin had it 79-73 for Tyson, Chad Dawson had it 76-76 and Vinny Pazienza had an inexplicable score of 80-76 in favor of Jones. The Ring had it 80-72 for Tyson, who showed surprisingly good reflexes and stamina despite having not fought in 15 years.
Neither fighter quarreled with the WBC’s unofficial draw.
“I’m good with that,” Tyson said. “Yeah, (I think I won) but I’m good with a draw because I entertained the crowd. The crowd was happy with it.”
He probably meant viewers because there were no spectators allowed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Jones protested the draw at first but came around.
“Hell, no, I’m never happy with a draw,” Jones said. “I don’t do draws. But the dude is so strong, man. When he hits you, if it’s the head, his body shots, everything hurts. So to me, I did enough boxing on the outside to edge him, but I’m cool with a draw. It just means we might have to do it again.”
Tyson came out fast, as expected, looking to land the sort of big knockout punch that made him a legend, but Jones blunted his aggression by moving and holding. Tyson landed a solid left hook to the head early in the second round but Jones took it well and continued to try to frustrate Tyson by holding and grabbing.
There was decent action in the third round and also an accidental head butt that caused a brief delay while referee Ray Corona checked to see if either was cut before allowing the fight to continue.
Tyson landed a solid body shot with about 25 seconds left in the fourth round that forced Jones to grab on.
“The body shots definitely took a toll,” Jones said. “The body shots are what make you exhausted, and any good fighter knows that and I knew it too.”
Tyson, standing with Jones during their post-fight interview with Jim Gray, responded, “You came back like nothing, you took it. I knew I hit you with a good shot and you took it. I respect that.”
In the fifth round, Tyson landed a solid left hook to the head that forced Jones back. Jones continued to try to hold and looked awfully tired by the end of the round while Tyson, known for gassing out early, still looked relatively fresh, the two-minute round length put in place by the commission undoubtedly helping him.
Jones let his hands go to start the seventh round and backed Tyson up, but Tyson quickly responded in some of the most heated action of the bout.
“He surprised me with the hook. He hit me with a good hook,” Tyson said.
Jones’ trainer, Tom Yankello, implored Jones to go after Tyson in the eighth round and he tried, but Tyson was there to meet him in the middle of the ring as they both fired punches.
In the final minute of the fight, Tyson backed Jones into a corner and went to the body before Jones spun away. They concluded the bout in the center of ring before showing respect to each other when it was over.
In the end it was not the train wreck some predicted, especially given Tyson’s past, but rather an onetime fantasy fight come to life, but one commentator Snoop Dogg described affectionately at one point as being “like two of my uncles fighting at a barbecue.”
Perhaps they fought like two uncles at a barbecue, but Tyson and Jones, still with names that are boxing royalty and nostalgia a powerful lure, especially during the Covid-19 era, squared off under rules designed by the California commission to keep it to what was described by executive director Andy Foster as “hard sparring” with the hopes of preventing things from getting too out of hand.
So, they boxed two-minute rounds, rather than the standard three minutes, wore 12-ounce gloves instead of 10-ounce gloves and Corona was under orders to intervene if things got too rough. But he didn’t need to get too involved and Tyson and Jones still were able to fight like they meant it.
Jones (66-9, 47 KOs during a 29-year career), 51, who reigned as the pound-for-pound king from roughly 1994 to 2004 and won world titles in four divisions – middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight — retired in February 2018 after winning a 10-round decision over journeyman Scott Sigmon in a cruiserweight bout in Jones’ hometown of Pensacola, Florida.
Jones, who wore gloves in the Los Angeles Lakers colors of purple and gold as a tribute to the late Kobe Bryant, said he would consider future exhibitions. One he said he really wanted earlier in the week was one against MMA legend Anderson Silva, which has been discussed on and off for years.
The 54-year-old former undisputed heavyweight champion Tyson (50-6, 44 KOs during his 20-year career) had not been in the ring in 15 years, since quitting on his stool after the sixth round against journeyman Kevin McBride in 2005.
As a way to get back in shape, Tyson began working out and was able to lose around 100 pounds and get down to 220.4 pounds for the fight to Jones’ 210. To help get in shape, Tyson began doing boxing workouts again and when short video clips of him displaying speed and power went viral on social media earlier this year the notion of a comeback for an exhibition bout was born with Jones eventually being the one to accept the fight.
“I’m used to doing it for three minutes but sometimes that two minutes feels like three minutes,” Tyson joked about the round length. “I’m just happy I got this under my belt and I can continue to go further and do more.”
When asked if he would fight in future exhibitions, he quickly answered, “Absolutely!”
“I was very happy to be here,” Tyson continued. “I was so happy to go the eight rounds because everybody knows I can knock someone out. But everybody don’t know I can go eight rounds and 10 rounds and that’s what I’m grateful for. Knockouts don’t mean nothing. You got to be able to go to the distance. That’s fighting.”