Mike Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in boxing history more than three decades ago. In a month, one of the sport’s transcendent figures is set to step into the ring again at 54 to face another legend, Roy Jones Jr., in a bout with an actual championship on the line.
Previously billed as an exhibition, match organizers revealed Thursday during a Zoom news conference the eight-round showdown Nov. 28 is being sanctioned by the World Boxing Council, which created the Frontline Battle Belt to commemorate the occasion.
The proceedings will feature modifications from a typical championship bout, most notably rounds reduced from 3 to 2 minutes. Tyson and Jones, 51, also will be wearing 12-ounce gloves, 2 ounces heavier than most officially sanctioned boxing matches.
“My mindset is bliss,” said Tyson, revealing his weight is down to 215 pounds for the first time since his late teens thanks to rigorous training and sparring. “I’m more involved now than I’ve ever been. My objective is to go in there with the best intentions of my life and disable my opponent, and that’s just what it is.”
The co-main event features YouTube personality Jake Paul facing Nate Robinson. Yes, that Nate Robinson, the winner of the NBA slam-dunk contest a record three times (2006, ’09, ’10) who spent 11 years in the league, including his first five with the New York Knicks.
The four-fight main card is scheduled to take place at Staples Center, marking the first sporting event at the downtown Los Angeles venue during the novel coronavirus pandemic, and will be available to stream via pay-per-view at TysonOnTriller.com.
“Everybody’s faced with adversity right now, so while everybody’s faced with adversity you want to give them something to look forward to, right?” Jones said. “So when you get the biggest adversity to ever knock on your front door, to ring your phone, how can you say no?”
Tyson initially suggested in April during an Instagram Live interview with rapper T.I. he might be coming out of retirement, at least in some form, to fight for charity and “help some homeless and drug-affected (person) like me.” At that time, Tyson indicated he had only recently begun training again.
The last time Tyson fought as a professional was in the District of Columbia in 2005, when he infamously lost to Kevin McBride at what was then MCI Center, since renamed Capital One Arena. It was the first major prize fight in the city in decades and generated a buzz uncommon for a downtown sporting event.
The fight in front of an announced crowd of nearly 16,000 included Tyson (50-6, 44 knockouts) purposely head-butting McBride, who afterward suggested the former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world tried to break his arm in the sixth round after a series of combinations proved largely ineffective.
“I was happy to leave the ring, man,” Tyson said. “I dreaded even being in the ring at that time. I was fighting just for financial purposes and stuff. I was on drugs back then. I was a whole different person back then. I have the desire to do this now and the will to do this now.”
Tyson’s career had peaks and some notable valleys. He served prison time after he was convicted on a rape charge in 1992. Since walking away from the sport that made him an international celebrity and earned him millions, Tyson has reinvented himself, gaining newfound fame as a performer both on the big screen – he had a memorable cameo in “The Hangover” – and the Broadway stage.
He’s also becoming an entrepreneur in the burgeoning cannabis industry with a property in El Segundo, California.
Tyson launched Tyson Holistic Holdings in 2016, since rebranded The Ranch Companies with a 420-acre marijuana resort called Tyson Ranch planned for the near future. The space is used for research and the sale of cannabis-themed merchandise and edibles.
There’s an altruistic purpose to the project as well, according to Tyson, who has said he envisions the resort aiding those addicted to opiates.
Jones, meanwhile, had been an analyst for HBO boxing before the cable network ended its relationship with the sport several years ago.
One of the most decorated pound-for-pound fighters of all time, Jones won titles in four divisions and became the first boxer to start as a junior middleweight and win a heavyweight championship, doing so in 2003 by beating John Ruiz for the World Boxing Association belt.
“Most guys at 54, they start counting themselves out,” Jones said of Tyson. “Now to see Mike being able to hit the pads and hit the body bag the way he’s doing it, I mean it’s phenomenal. It’s crazy, but we’re freaks. That’s why this is such a big thing.”
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