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Tyson vs Jones: Boxing insiders not sold on pay-per-view exhibition fight

Tyson-Jones may do well on pay-per-view, but industry people don’t sound that excited about the event.

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Boxing: Tyson vs Roy Jones Jr Handout Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Tyson fights Roy Jones Jr tonight, and more people may tune in to see the 54-year-old man formerly known as “The Baddest Man on the Planet” and the 51-year-old man who once was the pound-for-pound best on any planet than watched the Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury rematch on pay-per-view back on Feb. 22.

Wilder-Fury 2 was well-hyped. ESPN, which does business with Fury’s U.S. promoter Top Rank, gave the fight time on SportsCenter, and FOX used their leverage to best of their ability, telling viewers watching football that the behemoths would collide. Around 850,000 buys were collected on cable and satellite, while co-promoter Bob Arum said about 300,000 buys were activated on direct-to-consumer outlets. Sounds like a lot, right? But when the fighters’ asks are gargantuan, the number of buys has to be more gargantuan.

We won’t know until next week chow many buys the Tyson-Jones offering does, but from collecting anecdotes, I’m thinking it does more than a bit better than Fury-Wilder 2.

How to Watch Tyson vs Jones

Date: Saturday, Nov. 28 | Start Time: 9:00 pm ET
Location: Staples Center - Los Angeles, CA
TV: PPV ($49.99) | Stream: FITE TV PPV ($49.99)
Live Online Coverage:

On the surface, that might not make sense, but scratch just a shade below, and it does. Mike Tyson is still the best-known boxer on the planet, 15 years after he last laced up the gloves for a real fight. And Roy Jones Jr is someone who even plenty of non-boxing fans were aware of when he had his heyday from 1996-2003. These are two names, and it is more and more rare for pugilists to achieve “name” status, as boxing fights off its slide into lower and lower levels of relevance.

The reasons for the sliding are another subject for another very lengthy story, but we can furnish a quick gloss summation: when no dominating athlete leads the pack, one with an aggressive style and a magnetic personality, the sport dips.

And, frankly, we see evidence of most all sports slipping, because of the super over-abundance of entertainment options available. Netflix is a really well-oiled machine, and boxing — well, it isn’t.

But old college chums have been reaching out to me, as they do once every three to five years when a fight exits the realm of “for hardcores only” and gets talked about by regular folks.

And people that never talk about boxing have sidled up to me over the past few months, and asked me if it’s true, if I think Tyson could make a comeback and win the championship again?

No, I tell them, he could not. “Editing is a magical fucking thing,” I tell them, trying not to sound like a patronizing dick. That clip you saw, you know how long Tyson was hitting those pads for? You know pads don’t hit back? (I said I tried not to sound like a dick.)

Boxing: Tyson vs Roy Jones Jr-Weigh Ins Handout Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe they listen; it looks like they are paying attention. But marketing skills usually win out over common sense, because when “they” want to sell you something, they usually do a better job at that than you do at keeping your defenses up.

What might happen is more the allure here, more than with most PPV events. Tyson might turn back the clock; he might, as he’s told us, be able to do the impossible. That is, he might be better now at 54 than he was at age 39, when he hung up the gloves because he was over it. He is wiser, he has told us in documercial videos, he could actually be better now, in some ways.

I don’t want to tell you that isn’t possible, because, like Chappelle says, you don’t want to be positioning yourself to take food from the mouth of a man. I ain’t busting up this three card monte, but neither will I be part of the promotion.

Chances are, you may end up buying the Tyson-Jones event and feeling let down. Because it is a strong possibility that your expectations, even the ones that are tempered with that strong dose of common sense, will not be met.

But I, like you may be, am curious enough to pay to see.

What about others in the boxing orbit? I asked around to some folks in the industry, to see if they plan to watch Tyson-Jones:

Bob Arum, Top Rank promoter: “No. Only idiots would spend 50 bucks.”

Michael Bentt, former heavyweight titleholder: “I probably won’t watch it. I don’t particularly care to observe an affair featuring two of the sport’s all-time greats going head-to-head way past their primes. It’s not that I don’t get it; from a business standpoint, I do. But that encounter/’exhibition’ shouldn’t be allowed to take place, particularly with RJJ’s propensity for suffering really scary KOs in the latter phase of his career. In his prime, Roy was unstoppable, as was Mike. And though Roy was much more nuanced as a boxer than Mike, Mike’s punching power and completely unapologetic objective to render his opponents unconscious speaks volumes. I don’t see it going well for RJJ.”

Lou DiBella, DiBella Entertainment promoter: “Maybe, I haven’t decided. If I do, it will be pure curiosity about the whole event. ... (The event) means nothing (to boxing as a whole). It is what it is.”

Kathy Duva, Main Events promoter: “I haven’t decided yet. Maybe if my daughters come over and watch with me. I won’t watch it if I’m by myself. ... I would only watch if my family wants to see it because we are so bored! I doubt there will be any ramifications beyond the event itself. We’ll see. ... [15 minutes later] Just checked with the kids. No interest at all. So we’ll pass.”

Jim Lampley, former HBO blow-by-blow commentator: “No, I love them both, though. Hope they make a lot of money.”

Teofimo Lopez, WBA/IBF/WBO lightweight titleholder: “I might watch it just because I don’t have anything else to do.”

Larry Merchant, former boxing writer and HBO analyst: “Exhibition! Nope. Unless they pay me.”

J Prince, boxing manager: “Got to, (for) support.”

Mark Kriegel, writer and ESPN analyst: “Think I’ll be catching up on ‘Downton Abbey.’”

Wallace Matthews, writer: “I will because I’ll write about it for someone. And write it off. Otherwise probably not. As far as I can tell, it’s a glorified sparring session.”

Andy Ruiz Jr, former heavyweight titleholder: “Yes.”

Lou Savarese, former Tyson opponent: “I will. Roy and I were roommates at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado and I know Tyson, too, obviously.”


One or two of those folks who told me they won’t, will wind up ordering — because curiosity is a bitch. Marketing is powerful. And it’s Tyson.

There is zero chance that he will be better than he was in 2005, and there chances are good that after four minutes both men look like they sipped Thorazine smoothie topped with Xanax shavings after round two. But there is a chance Mike rips a left hook, connects on Roy’s chin, and drops and stops him, no matter what they are saying the rules will allow. Then Tyson will be trending on Twitter, and if you missed it, you will be playing catch-up.

Like I said, curiosity is a bitch.

And I leave you with some Latin, cap’n: Caveat emptor.

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