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1 Dec, 2020 16:11

Geriatric fight club: Is boxing selling its soul by pandering to ageing prizefighters and disposable YouTubers?

Geriatric fight club: Is boxing selling its soul by pandering to ageing prizefighters and disposable YouTubers?

Saturday's fight between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr was a pugilistic curiosity to many but with more ageing boxers talking about coming out of retirement, will the sport's pursuit of cheap PPV sales hurt boxing in the long term?

Among the criticisms of boxing across the last quarter-century, chief among them has been an accusation that the sport struggles to create new stars.

Of course, more than a few exceptions to that rule exist but boxing's detractors point to a continuing inability, or even unwillingness, to match the sport's biggest fighters against one another as a key reason why boxing has ceded ground to promotions such as the UFC.

But there appears to be a new train of thought among boxing promoters; why risk the momentum of your biggest prospects by putting them in competitive fights when you can wheel out a pair of 50-something ex-fighters and a YouTuber and laugh all the way to the bank?

Also on rt.com Anyone upset with the outcome of the Mike Tyson vs Roy Jones Jr fight needs their own head examined

To be clear, Saturday's exhibition fight between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr captured the attention of even the most sober of sporting scribes.

Despite both men being absent from the ring for a combined 17 years, such was the legend of the two fighters that seeing them compete in a glorified sparring match garnered column inches across the globe but, as fight promoters across the world seem destined to learn, you can only go so far with nostalgia. 

Last Saturday's fight card was propped up entirely on the mystique of Mike Tyson. Arguably the most fearsome heavyweight in history, Tyson has significantly rehabilitated his character in the years since his 2005 retirement.

The ear-biting and "I want to eat his children" promos are long gone, replaced instead with a more introspective version of the "Baddest Man on the Planet".

Years ago it was knockouts and press conference scuffles. Today it is humility and charity donations. Give him his own grill next and the transition into post 'Rumble in the Jungle' George Foreman will be complete.

This is exactly why Tyson and Jones drew so much attention last weekend. Both fighters transcend the sport in which they made their names.

This wasn't about boxing, it was about them, and as a host of other former pros like Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis contemplate their own comebacks, where exactly will this leave the sport once the fad has passed and all the low-hanging fruit has been picked clean?

Holyfield, the man who left the ring in his second fight with Tyson in 1997 with slightly less of a right ear than he walked in with, stated this week that he wants to command a incredible $25 million (£18.7 million / €20.8 million) for his own comeback fight, while Lewis appeared to angle for a rekindling of a rivalry with Riddick Bowe which began in 1988 and was thought to have been extinguished some years later.

In the case of Jake Paul, the YouTuber who inexplicably fought former basketball player Nate Robinson on the Tyson-Jones undercard, you don't even need to be a boxer to take part.

Badou Jack, the one boxer on the main card who has recently competed at a high level, was mired underneath Paul on the main card - the price he pays for not having enough YouTube subscribers.

That said, there are obvious exceptions to this rule. Undefeated British heavyweights Joe Joyce and Daniel Dubois both backed themselves last weekend when they could have accepted easier fights and the winner - Joyce - now finds himself in position for a mandatory world title shot.

And that goes to show that the juice appears worth the squeeze for fighters brave enough to take a risk.

Also on rt.com ‘I’m ready for war’: Boxing icon Holyfield would cash in on Tyson rematch at two days’ notice - as long as he was guaranteed $25MN

The prizes are there for the fighters willing to step outside their comfort zone and put their record on the line instead of adding further padding to it, but it is hard to say that damage isn't be doing to the integrity of the sport. 

So until fight fans vote with their wallets when offered cards featuring fighters on the verge of turning 60, or bouts promoted as the culmination of a social media rivalry, you can expect to be offered a whole lot more fluff than competitiveness in future.

Anthony Joshua versus Tyson Fury? That could be years away. But how about Piers Morgan versus Nigel Farage?

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