It’s time. The Mike Tyson vs. Roy Jones Jr., eight-round exhibition will take place on Saturday at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Tyson, 54, hasn’t fought since 2005, while Jones, 51, hasn’t won a significant fight since he defeated Antonio Tarver in November 2003. He did beat Felix Trinidad in 2008, but Trinidad was attempting a comeback after three years away from the ring and was long past his best days.
But when both Tyson and Jones were in their prime, who was the best fighter? They were the best fighters in their respective divisions, both entertaining, dominant and, for a time, unbeatable. And if it goes as planned on Saturday, will we see them again in the ring after this fight?
And talking about fighters in their primes, welterweight world titlist Terence Crawford has been vocal regarding his frustrations with his promoter Top Rank. Will he stay with the company if he’s not able to get the big fights he’s looking for?
ESPN’s boxing experts share their thoughts on these topics and more.
Real or not: Mike Tyson was better than Roy Jones Jr. in their primes
Cameron Wolfe: Not real. Tyson was undoubtedly the more feared fighter, the bigger box office attraction and the fighter most casual sports fans knew better. But what Jones did — winning multiple world titles in four different weight classes and going from junior middleweight to heavyweight — helps prove him as a better pound-for-pound fighter.
As much as Tyson was loved for his scary knockout power, his most memorable fights were losses in his prime: the 42-to-1 upset to Buster Douglas and two losses to Evander Holyfield. Even Tyson’s bout with Lennox Lewis, which happened when both fighters were past their prime, was a dominating win for Lewis. For Tyson, his place as the youngest fighter to ever become heavyweight champion along with his intimidating power are great pieces of his legacy, but it’s hard to forget his results in the biggest fights.
Jones rose to the occasion in his prime at middleweight and super middleweight, with wins over Bernard Hopkins and James Toney. He defined pound-for-pound when he defeated John Ruiz to become the first middleweight to win a heavyweight title in over 100 years. Even a trilogy war with Antonio Tarver, a series he lost 2-to-1, showed Jones’ pedigree.
We’ll remember both as great champions and among the best fighters of their era, but I’ll remember Jones as the better fighter in his prime.
Real or not: This will be the last time we see Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. fight
Mike Tyson sits down with Peter Rosenberg to discuss his upcoming exhibition fight against Roy Jones Jr.
Eric Woodyard: Real. However, I’m not confident in this answer. It really depends on how the night goes and if someone’s health is jeopardized, which I don’t ever want to speak into existence although it’s always a possibility.
In the prime of their careers, both fighters were phenomenal — two of the best ever. But boxers have a track record of staying in the sport excessively late. In Jones’ first 50 fights, he lost just once via disqualification against Montell Griffin. Then after those 50, he lost eight of his next 25 fights, never regaining that same swagger after a TKO loss to Antonio Tarver in 2003. For Tyson, he became the youngest heavyweight champion of all time in 1986 but would fight until 2005, when he quit on the stool after six rounds against Kevin McBride after losing his love for the sport. Tyson said that this might not be his last, but at 54, it’s hard to imagine that he’ll keep wanting to take punches, especially with other successful business ventures in place. I see this as an entertaining event to kick off Tyson’s Legends Only League and could inspire some other legendary fighters to enter the ring again, especially if they’re struggling for cash, but I wouldn’t get comfortable with seeing Jones and Tyson on that stage again.
Real or not: Terence Crawford will leave Top Rank at the end of his contract
Brett Okamoto: Real. And look, it’s easy to say that right now. The Crawford/Top Rank relationship isn’t exactly rosy at the moment. Crawford isn’t happy the promotion hasn’t secured him the biggest fights at welterweight. And Top Rank believes Crawford is partially to blame for that and can be difficult to work with. When you’ve got Bob Arum publicly stating he has lost money promoting Crawford — it’s probably safe to say the relationship has soured. But … if Top Rank can secure that big fight for Crawford in early 2021, it could obviously go a long way in repairing all this. Top Rank president Todd duBoef told me this week he has already re-engaged parties in the Middle East to discuss a potential Crawford-Manny Pacquiao fight in the first half of next year.
He also said Pacquiao has told Top Rank he is free, contractually, to pursue that fight. If Crawford gets Pacquiao — the fight he has said is his No. 1 target — in the next six months, perhaps he ends up extending his deal with Top Rank, as well. But ultimately, a parting of ways feels more likely. Crawford seems to think he might be better off elsewhere, and while Top Rank wants him, I don’t think they’ll beg for him to stay.
Real or not: We will see more athletes vs. social media influencers in the ring
Ben Baby: Real…ish? YouTubers such as Logan and Jake Paul and KSI have shown the viability of turning novelties into big attractions. What Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. are doing is in the same blueprint (imagine thinking about that concept 20 years ago).
But what’s happening isn’t necessarily new. Putting gloves on celebrities and throwing them into the ring is a recycled concept. And with the commercial success of these bouts — especially ones such as Tyson-Jones Jr. that play on nostalgia from when boxing was actually good at creating stars and being a mainstream sport — don’t be surprised if similar events take place.
However, expect history to repeat itself, too. Eventually, the fad will feel old quickly and we’ll go back to seeing the boxing that we’ve become accustomed to over the past few years.
You know, come to think of it, maybe seeing celebrities fighting isn’t so bad.
Real or not: Ryan Gracia will prove in 2021 that he is the next Golden Boy star
Ryan Garcia shows off incredible punching speed as he works through drills at his house.
Salvador Rodriguez: Real — 2021 should be Ryan Garcia’s year. Despite fighting only once this year due to the pandemic, the 22-year-old made enough noise to place himself as a title contender and became one of the most popular fighters in boxing.
His next fight, on Jan. 2, against Luke Campbell for the vacant interim WBC lightweight title is excellent news for Garcia. If he wins and all goes well, Garcia could face full WBC titleholder Devin Haney. Another win in that fight means he has the ability and talent to be as good in the ring as he is on the internet, where he has more than 6 million followers on Instagram.
With Canelo Alvarez now out of Golden Boy, Garcia (20-0, 17 KOs) becomes the top star of the company. So, surely we will see more of Garcia, who alongside trainer Eddy Reynoso has scored four KO wins (in only nine rounds) in his past four fights.