Mike Tyson vs. Roy Jones Jr. preview: Predicting the 'winner' of the exhibition match

Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
·5 min read

It’s an exhibition with no winner announced and former WBC champions serving as celebrity judges, but if Mike Tyson is perceived to defeat Roy Jones Jr. on Saturday in their exhibition match at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Jones would instantly become the biggest name on Tyson’s résumé.

At 20 years, four months, Tyson is the youngest man to win a heavyweight title. He’s a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame and one of the most famous boxers of any weight in the long history of the sport.

Tyson was 50-6 during his professional career, which ran from 1985 though 2005, when a loss to journeyman Kevin McBride caused him to retire. Of his 50 wins, though, only two came against fighters who would go on to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

[Related: How to watch Tyson-Jones Jr. on pay-per-view]

He stopped the great Larry Holmes in the fourth round on Jan. 22, 1988, when Holmes was 39 and at least five years past his prime. And in perhaps the signature victory of his career, Tyson knocked out Michael Spinks in 91 seconds on June 27, 1988, to become the undisputed champion.

He was 0-3 against other future Hall of Famers, losing to Evander Holyfield in 1996 and 1997 and to Lennox Lewis in 2002.

Jones is one of the greatest fighters of all-time and his résumé is filled with signature wins. He has victories over Hall of Famers Bernard Hopkins, Felix Trinidad, Mike McCallum and Virgil Hill. He dominated James Toney in a major 1994 super middleweight bout, and Toney may yet make the Hall of Fame. He has a win over Antonio Tarver, who may also make it eventually.

Jones was widely regarded as the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world for several years and was virtually untouchable at his peak.

Now, at 54 and 51, respectively, neither Tyson nor Jones are remotely close to their peaks, and it’s hard to guess what their fight — scheduled for eight, two-minutes rounds — will look like.

What it appears to be is that streaming platform Triller is attempting to use their names to make a mark in the music business. There are a number of musical acts who will perform during the show. Given the low quality of the fights on the card, the musical acts may draw in the most fans.

But Tyson appears to be in phenomenal physical shape from the photos and videos he has shared on social media. He’s looked fearsome when he’s been hitting mitts.

The question will be how long his body will allow him to keep up the pace that we have seen in the videos he’s released.

ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - MAY 10, 2019: American former professional boxer Roy Jones Jr during a master class for students of the St Petersburg Sport Boxing Federation. Peter Kovalev/TASS (Photo by Peter Kovalev\TASS via Getty Images)
Roy Jones Jr. during a master class for students of the St. Petersburg Sport Boxing Federation on May 10, 2019. (Photo by Peter Kovalev\TASS via Getty Images)

The bout is going to be hard sparring, according to Andy Foster of the California State Athletic Commission, and it won’t be scored nor will a winner be announced. Triller CEO Ryan Kavanaugh⁩ said Wednesday the WBC is scoring the fight, however, and there will be a winner. If there happens to be a knockdown, referee Ray Corona won’t count, but will allow the fighter who has been knocked down sufficient recovery time.

There are no odds at legal sports books in the U.S., because it is an exhibition match, but Tyson would figure to be a significant favorite if there were. There are offshore sports books taking bets on the fight, though it’s not clear how they’d pay out since no winner will be announced.

But the sparring itself could be entertaining. Jones has been bothered by a balky knee, but he told Yahoo Sports that since he quit playing basketball, his knee has been better.

If Jones is able to move sufficiently, he should be able to handle Tyson without too much trouble, even in the event that Tyson chooses not to follow the rules Foster laid out and attacks aggressively.

He was a superior boxer in his day, and he’s not being asked to avoid an in-shape 27-year-old at the peak of his powers. Rather, he’s tasked with not getting clubbed by a 54-year-old who hasn’t fought in more than 15 years and who hasn’t won in more than 17 years.

The one danger Jones will face is that, for at least a while, Tyson will figure to be dangerous with his power, and Jones has had an unconventional defensive style that relied upon his remarkable reflexes and not on boxing fundamentals.

With his hands at his side and his head and neck craned forward, it will be an inviting target for a Tyson hook. He may see the punches coming, but will his reflexes betray him or will he be able to get out of the way before he’s in trouble?

I admit, I’m intrigued. I don’t like the idea of 50+-year-old men fighting, because it’s a recipe for disaster. But the thought of watching these two compete for a short while is interesting if you are a long-time boxing lover.

I have thought Jones would be the winner back when it was first announced in July when it was not known at that point that there would be no scoring or winner declared.

It’s all going to be down to public perception.

I’ll suggest the public will come away from this believing Jones got the win.

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