Mike Tyson was known to spar without headgear during his heyday.
Decades later, he still is taking practice seriously ahead of his eight-round PPV exhibition match versus Roy Jones Jr. on Nov. 28 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“I’m the only boss; if you don’t kick my ass, you’re fired,” Tyson said during an introductory news conference officially announcing the fight. “That’s how sparring is going. Everyone’s doing their best and if you’re not doing your best to hit me, you have to go home. That’s what fighting is all about. I’m paying a guy to kick my ass, if he doesn’t kick my ass, he has to go, he’s fired.”
The 54-year-old Tyson (50-6, 44 KOs) is even getting flashbacks during his training back to his prime years when he was on the cusp of becoming the youngest heavyweight champion in boxing history.
“I’ve been boxing younger guys and harder guys, and they’re assuring me that I’m doing very well. I’m looking forward to this,” Tyson said. “The last time I was 215 pounds, I believe I was 18 or 17 years old. I’m really happy with everything that I’ve been doing. Just total confidence and self-affirmation, it’s just amazing. I’m ready to do this stuff. I can’t even explain it with words.”
Tyson and Jones Jr. were once on a collision course to fight each other at the beginning of the millennium when the latter improbably climbed up to heavyweight to win a world championship in a fourth division.
As Tyson brings himself back into fight shape, he and his adversary are both maintaining the exhibition and matchup that’s been 20 years in the making will be a “real fight.”
"I look at film of Roy when he was at his best because that's the guy I anticipate fighting," Tyson said. "I'm in the best shape. I boxed seven rounds so far and it keeps improving. I'm boxing younger guys and hungry guys and it's showing me that, from the looks of things, I'm doing really well."
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.