Decades removed from their athletic primes, Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. proved their mystique can still capture the public’s imagination. With illegal streams well into the millions and the #1 trending topic across most social media platforms, last night’s event has a strong chance to be the most lucrative boxing pay-per-view of the year.
But what does that mean going forward? Without the centralized commissions that oversee the NBA and NFL, boxing’s return during the pandemic has been much more difficult. Promoters have been left to their own devices with mixed results, such as the disappointing numbers of the Charlo brothers first Showtime ppv vs. the solid numbers of Gervonta Davis’s KO of the Year candidate win over Leo Santa Cruz. Top Rank CEO Bob Arum is presently decrying the financial pitfalls of promoting his best fighter, Terence Crawford, while Golden Boy lost it’s most prized attraction, Canelo Alvarez, earlier this month.
To the chagrin of some boxing purists, Tyson-Jones captivated the general public, something the Sweet Science has struggled with since the end of the Mayweather/Pacquiao era. And it was done with all the things conventional wisdom has said doesn’t work in boxing, like celebrity music performances (Wiz Khalifa, French Montana, SAINT JHN etc.) and commentators (Snoop Dogg was BY FAR the event MVP — DAZN should open up the checkbook for this man). Triller nailed everything from the presentation, camera angles, and even the matchmaking had something for everyone with championship-level fighters (Badou Jack) and a viral KO in the celebrity grudge match between Jake Paul and Nate Robinson.
While the Tyson-Jones fight wasn’t some barnburner, it was a treat to see flashes of the old Iron Mike when he dug in those body shots. Roy wasn’t as impressive with the constant holding, but there was a persistent level of intrigue in wondering if Tyson would catch him with a fight-ending shot.
The supposed “draw” from the celebrity judges was obviously scripted to leave a storyline for a rematch or other fights. Tyson made it clear he’s willing to get back in there. But is this truly a viable model like Ice Cube’s Big Three venture?
This writer doesn’t see the novelty being strong enough to constantly have people shelling about $50-$80 a pop, but the public could be persuaded to get behind a few more Tyson grudge matches — a “rubbermatch” with Holyfield for sure seems like a no-brainer. But for long-term viability, this event could easily morph into an Ultimate Fighter-style TV show with Tyson and other legends training two celebrities who’ll eventually face off in a season finale or ppv card.
When our boxing greats can no longer maintain their in-ring brilliance, we prefer them to fade into the background. We cringe when we hear delusions of comebacks against men decades younger. Last night was not that. It was a chance to have the boxing version of a Verzuz battle without the spectre of serious injury or humiliation. And for Tyson moreso, it was the chance to not have his final ring memory be sitting on his backside, arm draped on the ropes in complete surrender to Kevin McBride 15 years ago.
For that alone, Triller brought a smile to most of our faces