Mike Tyson v Roy Jones may seem a fun fantasy match but 50yo men fighting each other sets a dangerous precedent for combat sports
Fantasy matches are a favorite among fight fans. A guilty pleasure. They sit on the periphery of the combat sports landscape with a purpose to provide us with light relief from an otherwise hostile, testosterone-fuelled world of violence and trash talk and sometimes shameless self-promotion.
Like the travelling Victorian freak shows, an implausible fight between two former champions quenches our curiosity, stokes our intrigue, and allows us to peer into a world of the weird and the wonderful where anything goes and no conception is too outlandish to bring to reality.
Mike Tyson versus Roy Jones Jr. on September 12 will do all of those things and more. Two bona fide mack daddies of the boxing brotherhood, the tag of ‘legend’ doesn’t even begin to do justice to two of the most recognizable fight personas of the last 35 years.
On September 12 the eyes of the fight world will undoubtedly be fixed on the ‘baddest man on the planet’ taking on the former pound-for-pound king that combines two giants of a bygone era that carry with them an unmistakable aura of instant respectability and present us a nostalgic reminder of the ‘old school’.Also on rt.com Biting Back: Roy Jones Jr. plans to INSURE HIS EARS ahead of Mike Tyson exhibition fight
But it shouldn’t become the norm. Fights between retired boxers well past their primes should be viewed with as much caution as fascination so as not to normalize the dangers of placing two men deep into retirement in a ring to batter each other senseless.
Sure, the fight is being billed as an exhibition, and rounds have been limited to eight instead of a championship ten or twelve, but even more than a month away from fight day Tyson has already promised a “quick kill” whereas Jones Jr. has contemplated having parts of his body insured against damage.
The dangers of being hit in the head are undeniable when a boxer is in his prime but those risks rise significantly the older a fighter gets. Aged 54, Tyson has wowed fans with clips of his incredible physique despite his last bout coming 15 years ago when as an overweight and uninterested shell of his former self he was stopped and sent into retirement in six rounds by Irish palooka Kevin McBride.
But 10-second Instagram videos are no substitute for physical fortitude and naturally Tyson’s punch resistance will have been eroded by years of inactivity despite his well-documented healthy living rituals in which he swapped cocaine and whores for medical cannabis and veganism. Jones Jr., 51, has conceivably never been out of shape in his life, last fighting professionally in 2018, but the facade of fitness and its outer aesthetics yield little defence from a KO blow.
A little over a year after the death of Maxim Dadashev forced the world to sit bolt upright and acknowledge the perils of pugilism and the tragedy that it can entail it seems no lessons have been learnt from the Russian’s passing. A 28-year-old father and husband, Dadashev was saved from his own bravery by his trainer, before he succumbed to punishment already sustained in the ring. Both Tyson and Jones Jr. have courage in abundance, but the benefit of youth is not on their side.Also on rt.com Maxim Dadashev's tragic death should be accepted as boxing's cruel reality
Tyson will break a 15-year ring retirement to lace up a pair of gloves and give the world another glimpse of perhaps the most electric fighter to grace the squared circle of the past half a century. A teenage phenom who scythed through the heavyweight division in the mid-to-late 80s, a teenage Tyson earned the nickname ‘Kid Dynamite’ while making a name for putting fuses out rather than lighting them.
He was a hulking, snarling chunk of the Brooklyn streets who thumped grown men around the ring like rag dolls and drew crowds from all corners of the world from Las Vegas to Tokyo and the UK, fighting at times lesser opposition or fighters in the twilight of their careers. That time has now passed, and Tyson is himself currently in the category of the aged, post-prime fighters he once bludgeoned into submission on his rise to boxing’s summit.
Perhaps the perfect example of a warrior’s heart dragging a fighter’s battered body through needless wars to satisfy the need for glory is Tyson’s opponent. Roy Jones Jr. also owned the same aura of invincibility in his mercurial prime which saw him become middleweight champion aged just 24 and picking up the super-middleweight title before going on to spend four years as the untouchable, unified light-heavyweight champion.
His reign was truncated by three conclusive losses, after which he was never the same fighter, and consequently has spent the better part of the last decade as a gatekeeper in the cruiserweight division, suffering one-sided shellackings and being sparked out cold by lesser opponents who would have threatened no harm in his heyday.
Fans have implored Jones on more than one occasion to hang up his well-worn gloves and those shouts got louder when the fight with Tyson was announced. The last thing to fade in a fighter’s arsenal is his knack of a KO, which Tyson had in abundance, but here the problem lies in punch protection, not power.
Should Tyson get the knockout he claims to be looking for, it would excite fans no end, but could cause great damage to Jones. And, should Jones, a quicksilver counter-puncher in his prime and the fresher of the two as regards recent competition, should catch Tyson off guard, the hazards to his health are precisely the same.
The excitement surrounding the fight is a byproduct of the modern fight game in which fantasy matchups such as boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s fight with MMA superstar Conor McGregor have widened the boundaries of acceptability.
Mayweather has continued to participate in hybrid fights on the ‘wrong’ side of 40, having achieved arguably his best success in his chosen craft on the wrong side of 30. Fighting is no longer the young man’s game it once presented itself to be and the stars of the sport are living proof of that.
Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. have a combined 105 years between them, and when taking into consideration their combined 91 knockouts of some of the planet’s toughest men, their advanced years give reason to be concerned about the years they have left being drastically shortened if they continue.
The fight between Tyson and Jones will be enjoyed by fans and curious side spectators alike, but a word of warning should also be issued to enjoy it while you can, as similar fights should not become a regular occurrence in which over-the-hill old timers pain themselves to trade in their health and their honor for our amusement. For the good of the sport.