We know the who, the when and the where:

Mike Tyson will take on Jake Paul on July 20, fighting in AT&T Stadium outside of Dallas, Texas, broadcast live on Netflix.

We even know the why.

This is going to earn more money for Tyson and Paul than anything else could for them in this era, all for a main event that will last an hour or less, and for the four or so months of training and promotion until then. 

Tyson, of course, is the long-retired former heavyweight champion, once The Baddest Man on the Planet. He was a cautionary tale who ended his career both broke and broken down. And he became a tale of redemption who steadied his life, found better health and greater happiness than we, and especially he, ever expected. 

His name still carries greater cachet worldwide than any other active boxer, even 19 years removed from his last fight, 21 years removed from his last win, 22 years removed from his last shot at the heavyweight championship, more than 27 years removed from the last time he held any world titles himself, and more than 34 years removed from the great upset defeat that many believe was truly the beginning of Mike Tyson’s end.

There’s a reason that people are talking about this event. Every circus needs an attraction. There was no greater attraction in the United States of the 1980s than Tyson in his prime; no greater circus in the 1990s and early 2000s than Tyson; and no retired fighter in the years since who has been as able to cash in on his name for so long, and to such a great extent, the way Tyson has and still does.

Those are the many reasons Tyson was selected by Jake Paul. The influencer who first decided to box as a lucrative stunt, then decided he wanted to box for real, chose this once very real boxer in order to put on the most lucrative stunt possible.

What we’re missing, for now, is the what.

They will fight. This much we know. What that fight entails, what that fighting looks like, and everything else involved is a mix of speculation and educated guesswork.

Here’s what little the reporters have learned so far:

“A lot of rumors out there about Jake Paul vs. Mike Tyson as a professional fight or an exhibition,” tweeted Damon Martin, the news editor for MMAFighting.com, on Thursday, March 14. “Just spoke to the Texas Commission and they tell me they've received the request for the card and the date but no official fights, etc., so nothing [has been] determined yet.”

“Is it pro or is it [an] exhibition? They want pro, but that’s up to the Texas commission,” said combat sports reporter Ariel Helwani. “We’ll have to wait and see. Weight? I’m told heavyweight. Rounds? I’m working on that as well.”

Back, then, to the speculation and educated guessing:

This will likely be an exhibition, as was Tyson’s match with Roy Jones Jr. back in November 2020, a show that featured Paul’s second pro fight, when he knocked out former NBA player Nate Robinson. Tyson, after all, is 57 years old now and will be just a few weeks past his 58th birthday when he steps in the ring against Paul, who is 27 years old, which means that Paul wasn’t even born when Tyson lost to Buster Douglas in 1990, was just five months old when Tyson bit Evander Holyfield’s ears in 1997, and had just finished up second grade when Tyson retired following his loss to Kevin McBride in 2005.

Tyson-Jones featured eight two-minute rounds, rather than the three-minute rounds customary in men’s boxing. 

Otherwise, this is a distinction without a difference.

There is nothing stopping fighters in an exhibition from approaching it like competition. Just because it doesn’t go on a fighter’s official record doesn’t mean they won’t try to hurt their opponent and win. Floyd Mayweather Jr. has knocked out a handful of his exhibition foes; he also carried others to the final bell, but there was never any question whether Mayweather had done better. 

(Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. was well into his 50s when he fought a trilogy of exhibitions with Jorge Arce in 2019 and 2020. They wore headgear but seemed intent on trading spirited combinations exclusively to the head.)

And there is nothing about an official fight that would stop the fighters from otherwise treating it like entertainment or an exhibition. Tyson wouldn’t care about another loss on his record, just so long as he doesn’t get terribly hurt. Paul wouldn’t care if he got knocked out by Tyson, even a version of Tyson who’s approaching 60, just so long as he remained healthy enough afterward to cash his check. 

Laughing all the way to the bank and accumulating residual interest would help numb any residual pain. And for all of us who remember the age-old question from when we were young — “Would you step in the ring with Mike Tyson for $1 million?”— Paul gets to do that for much more money against a much older version of Tyson who won’t be trying to hurt him too badly.

There is no animosity between Tyson and Paul, no matter what is said in front of cameras and on social media over these coming months. There are no stakes or concerns about pride, no need for Tyson to defend boxing against an invader, no need to show that he can still be “Iron Mike” at 58, just so long as the 58-year-old version of Tyson doesn’t embarrass himself.

That’s assuming that, well, these assumptions are correct. We don’t yet know how long Tyson and Paul will fight for, how hard they will fight, what kind of precautionary medical testing will be done, what rules and restrictions will be imposed by the state athletic commission, and what gentlemen’s agreements, spoken and unspoken, there will be between the fighters once the bell rings.

Even in an exhibition, the devil is in those details.

Tyson and Jones didn’t seem to be trying to hurt each other, though Jones spoke afterward of how painful it was to absorb all of those body shots. They seemed instead to be enjoying putting their bodies through the motions again after their fighting days had ended. They were there to be paid, yes, but to be paid to entertain the limited fans in attendance and those who had purchased the show, seeking a pleasant evening and some nostalgia, a welcome distraction during that first year of the Covid-19 pandemic.

California’s athletic commission had promised beforehand that they would otherwise protect the fighters from danger, lest muscle memory and competitive instinct take over.

“California commission officials have made it clear that Tyson and Jones shouldn’t be attempting to seriously hurt each other during a fight with two-minute rounds,” reported Greg Beacham of the Associated Press at the time. “Officials say they plan to stop the bout if either fighter is cut or significantly injured.”

Of course, Tyson and Jones said differently:

“Not a real fight? We got Mike Tyson versus Roy Jones,” Tyson had said at a press conference, according to the AP. “I’m coming to fight, and I hope he’s coming to fight, and that’s all you need to know.”

“Who goes in the ring with the great, legendary Mike Tyson and thinks it’s an exhibition?” Jones had said. “Twelve-ounce gloves? No headgear? Really? This is an exhibition? Come on, bruh. Be real.”

They were selling the show, banking on the fact that buyers would enjoy whatever happened in the ring, as they were likely purchasing because of *who* was in the ring.

You should expect Tyson and Paul to follow a similar blueprint in the buildup. Although this is on Netflix, available without additional charge for the streaming service’s subscribers, they know that marketing this as a half-assed exhibition would lessen the number of viewers, limiting Netflix’s return on its investment. 

Tyson and Paul don’t want to overpromise, though, nor will they want to underdeliver. They want this to be a show without it being, well, for show.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t have some worries. Anyone taking punches to the head can get badly hurt. A 58-year-old is in even more danger, even if that person is a former heavyweight champion, and even if that former heavyweight champion is taking on an opponent with far less experience.

(Similarly, we don’t want to see a novice boxer get badly hurt. The devastating knockout that Anthony Joshua scored last week over mixed martial arts’ top heavyweight, Francis Ngannou, felt better once we knew that Ngannou was going to be OK, aside from the immediate aftermath of that concussion.) 

Yes, Paul is the fighter who couldn’t beat Tommy Fury — an untalented boxer who is more famous for being half-brother to Tyson Fury and for being on reality television — and the same fighter who’s been preying on weak pro opposition while otherwise developing in front of our eyes.

However, his opponent, this old Mike Tyson, isn’t the Mike Tyson of old. He’s not even the Tyson who fought Jones three-and-a-half years ago. He has a phenomenal physique for a man his age, even more impressive when you recall how much weight Tyson had gained during the deep depression of his initial years in retirement. 

No amount of brief, well-edited training footage with pads and heavy bags — the same thing that captivated viewers ahead of the Jones pay-per-view — can show us whether Tyson can take a clean punch with cruel intentions behind it landing flush to the head, or whether his body can hold up to the rigors of an extended fight.

Hopefully we won’t need to know.

Hopefully Tyson and Paul can thread the needle, walk the tightrope, do whatever cliché you feel fits best to describe an entertaining fight that is more entertainment than true fight, but doesn’t have so little fight that it stops truly being entertaining.

Go into this with the right expectations and you likely won’t be disappointed. We know the who and the why, the when and the where. We may not yet know exactly what Tyson vs. Paul will bring on July 20. But having a good idea of what we’re getting into with it will help us with what we wind up getting out of it.

Follow David Greisman on Twitter @FightingWords2. His book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” is available on Amazon.