Just what 2020 needed: A Mike Tyson-Roy Jones Jr. fight

More than 15 years ago Mike Tyson had what we assumed was his last stand in the ring. He had moved up from the heavyweight to the galoot division, fighting a 270-pound slab of Irish back bacon named Kevin McBride.

As with most boxing farewells, this one went poorly for the once-great champion. McBride deployed the fallen-tree strategy, leaning on Tyson until he collapsed beneath the weight, sitting on the canvas, supported by the ring ropes at the end of the sixth round. Tyson then opted out, declining to come out for the seventh.

Now we know that Tyson didn’t retire, he was just saving himself for a bigger fight in 2020.

They keep insisting that this is not the latest in a series of bad jokes authored by this year; still, have you heard the one about the 54-year-old Tyson fighting 51-year-old Roy Jones Jr. in an eight-round exhibition as part of a card Nov. 28 in Los Angeles? It was scheduled back in the summer and postponed, but common sense could not prevail forever.

No, really, it’s a thing.

They’ve even made up a belt for the winner, although at their age, suspenders might be more useful. It’s called the WBC Frontline Battle Belt. Sounds like something every kid will want for Christmas, if the batarang and the bat-rope are included.

Jones himself was quite the skilled pugilist in his day who at various times held world titles in four weight divisions. He was on the short list of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters of his time. So, no, he doesn’t require any more boxing accessories.

A couple of initial thoughts.

First - and this comes from someone who watched Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady play golf together - I really didn’t believe it possible that in a time when we are so desperate for any sporting diversion that they could invent something I wouldn’t watch even to win a bet. Then this came along. And that’s assuming the bet would cover the $49.99 suggested pay-per-view price for this Thanksgiving weekend distraction.

Secondly, there are certain things that shouldn’t be done on an exhibition basis: Surgery. Missile launches. Weddings. Boxing. Either you’re in these pursuits for real, or, please don’t bother.

There will be no live audience in attendance, and the hope is that there will be live competitors by the end of the night. To help on that front, the two are scheduled to fight eight rounds at two minutes each as opposed to the normal nine, three-minute rounds.

Although Jones didn’t hesitate to use the possibility of a most senseless death as a sales tool: “You get hit by Mike Tyson, anything can happen to you,” he said. “Mike Tyson is not just an ordinary puncher. I love boxing, so if I’ve gotta die boxing, I’m gonna die a happy man. There are other ways I’d rather go, but if I went that way, I’m not mad at that.”

Some unsolicited advice for Jones: Don’t hit Mike hard and get him mad.

All recent photos of Tyson in training has shown him to be in terrific shape. The former baddest man on the planet also has done an impressive makeover on his image, replacing all the implied menace he wore like a shroud with a much more thoughtful, approachable persona. Just as he has gotten to the stage in life where he can put down the rage required of boxing, he is sucked back into the ring.

Conditioning and hand-speed are bound to be issues for both fellows. And in Tyson’s case, there’s a concern that only his periodontist can answer. At his age and all the gum disease that can accompany it, does he still possess the necessary bite strength to inflict real damage on an opponent?

Such a fight happening nearly 20 years past its prime would offer a stinging commentary on the state of boxing if only anyone out there still cared.

It is just such a perfectly strange event for a strange time. Two older guys stepping into the ring when at this point in their lives they should be doing nothing more strenuous than sitting in barber’s chairs getting a shave and arguing over how good they used to be. At least there’s the impression that neither should come to any real harm in this “exhibition,” which almost qualifies for an endorsement in 2020.

Andy Foster, the California State Athletic Commissioner, has tried to put this show in perspective. As he was quoted in July: “It’s an exhibition. They can exhibit their boxing skills, but I don’t want them using their best efforts to hurt each other. They’re going to spar hard, but they shouldn’t be going for a knockout. This isn’t a record-book type of fight. This is not world-championship boxing right now. People shouldn’t be getting knocked out.”

Which raises the question: Why don’t they just have a holiday bake-off and call it a day? Now, I’d watch that.