The senior circuit will officially be making its way inside the squared circle with a special spectacle when the youngest heavyweight champion in boxing history aims to accomplish some old-folk accolades.
After months of teasing the world with explosive boxing workout videos, the 54-year-old Mike Tyson is taking it one step further and making a comeback into the ring when he fights 51-year-old Roy Jones Jr. in an eight-round exhibition match Sept. 12 at 9 p.m. E.T.
The three-hour event, billed as the “Frontline Battle,” will be distributed on pay per view through Triller, an upstart entertainment platform built for creators, and it’s tabled to take place at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
Tyson’s publicist told BoxingScene.com that pricing on the pay per view is still to be determined, but purchases can be made beginning Aug. 26 on TysonOnTriller.com. An undercard fight between former NBA star Nate Robinson and YouTuber-turned-boxer Jake Paul is also in the works to provide chief support.
Tyson took to TV on Thursday, joining ESPN’s “First Take” with Max Kellerman to begin promoting the fight.
“We’re both accomplished fighters. We know how to take care of ourselves … we’ll be alright. Trust me,” said Tyson. “I’m looking to be 100% of Mike Tyson in the ring … I’m a neophyte in taking it easy. I don’t know how to do it that way. I am one speed, forward. I don't know, Roy is just going to have to deal with that.”
Tyson said the event will take place under the umbrella of a new company he’s launching in Legends Only League, an entity co-owned by Eros Innovations, a venture creation group. Tyson was motivated to start the league to give stars of yesteryear a second lease on engaging in competition through all kinds of sports.
“The fact is, we live a different lifestyle, being the greatest,” said Tyson. “I never took that many punches. I [retired]. I lived my life. I’ve been through some experiences, and now I’m back. I feel that I took care of my body and state of mind better than most fighters that retired before me and came back … It’s going to be amazing. I’m looking forward to it.”
Tyson (50-6, 44 KOs) lost three out of the last four fights before retiring in 2005. He is returning to the ring at this stage of his life because it's for charity, he says — and he feels that he can still compete.
“It’s just because I can do it, and I believe other people believe they can do it too. Just because I’m 54, it doesn’t mean I have to start a new career, and our life is totally over. Not when you feel as beautiful as I do. I’m sure other people feel the same way. “
Tyson is not worried about the inherited risks involved by taking blows to head for the first time in 15 years.
“The rules in California are that we must wear headgear,” said Tyson. “We’re there to show our skills, and we’re fighting. This is what I learned in boxing when I was a young boy — when you sign that contract, there is an unwritten clause in there that can die at any moment during training or fighting.”
California State Athletic Commission executive director Andy Foster told BoxingScene.com that Tyson and Jones Jr. won’t be wearing headgear for the fight, they’ll be lacing up 12-ounce gloves and there won't be any judges present at the fight to score the action, so technically there won't be a winner unless a knockout somehow occurs, or either fighter is deemed unfit to continue.
Referee Ray Corona will get the assignment for the night and be tasked with policing the level of competition and fierceness in action.
Translation: Don't expect Hagler-Hearns, or anything remotely close to a real boxing match.
"They can move around and make some money, but I told them 'if you get cut, it's over,'" said Foster.
The former four-division champion Jones Jr. (66-9, 47 KOs) last fought in 2018 and hasn’t officially announced his retirement yet. During the early part of the century, Jones Jr. and Tyson were supposed to fight while they were still at the peak of their powers, and when Jones Jr. had won a version of the heavyweight title in 2003 when he beat John Ruiz.
The dream match-up will now take place 17 years later in what should be a choreographed contest.
In 2006, Tyson fought in an exhibition match with former heavyweight Corey Sanders to launch the “Mike Tyson World Tour.” The promotion was designed to offer a series of exhibition matches for Tyson, but it never developed further after the initial event.
The card between Tyson and Jones Jr. could potentially compete with a Canelo Alvarez fight on Mexican Independence Day weekend if it ever comes to fruition for the pound-for-pound great. Alvarez, Golden Boy Promotions and DAZN have long-been eyeing Sept. 12 as a return date for a fight.
According to the press release announcing Tyson's return, Iron Mike has partnered with Triller on all future boxing events.
The upcoming fight will be promoted with a 10-part docu-series with bi-weekly shows on the platform.
The event will also feature special musical performances. Triller is backed by such entertainers like Snoop Dogg, Lil Wayne, Future, The Weeknd and Pitbull, and one can assume some of the artists will be involved in various capacities.
“Anybody who society says they are too old or over the hill but still have it in them, come with us,” Tyson said in a promotional video announcing his new venture. “Get your agent, get your manager, and come to get with me, and you'll be living your glory years for a second time. We're polishing old stars and making them shine again.”
Tyson continued singing the same tune when talking to Kellerman on Thursday.
“Anyone who would like to perform, and can pass [medical] exams, I would like to see them on the [Legends Only League] tour,” he said. “The people who society says are overaged and washed up have a bigger fan base than fighters and players playing now. The name of the game is to get our fans excited, and see us again.”
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist and member of the Boxing Writers Assn. of America since 2011. He has written for the likes of the LA Times, Guardian, USA Today, Philadelphia Inquirer, Men’s Health and NFL.com. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan or via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com.