Most boxing fans will be hoping for a dose of nostalgia, but plenty will be tuning in for the sheer spectacle
We all know that Mike Tyson should not be returning to boxing, 15 years after quitting on his stool.
He is 54, and has spent a decade and a half away from the ring. But because of the weirdest kind of sporting voyeurism — and the place he once held in people’s minds, thanks to his wrecking-ball rise to the top — there will be a million or two tuning in to watch him.
The comeback will take the form of an “eight-round exhibition bout” with Roy Jones Jr. Both fighters (and most spectators) will be praying for a little nostalgia. But the rubberneckers will be out in force too, I suspect.
There will be those saying this bout is a bad image for the sport, that it is fit only for the circus and that it is only happening because the world’s current best heavyweights don’t fight each other often enough.
But there is still a fascination with Tyson who, in his pomp, was as revered as he was reviled, standing 5ft 11ins tall and taking on the super heavyweights of his era. Indeed the aura Tyson carried makes some believe that he was the greatest heavyweight of all time. Not in my book — but the way he intimidated opponents, the raw power, his fearlessness, combinations and peek-a-boo style, plus his outright hand speed were a thing to behold.
The question is how much of that remains. The reality is that Tyson quit on his stool against Kevin McBride, and last held a world title 24 years ago. But during lockdown Tyson has trained to get himself into shape, and captured imaginations in doing so. The short videos of the former champion training with coach Rafael Cordeiro, and his delivery of shapes and combinations, grabbed the attention of millions.
Even the first promo has brought out a little of the old Tyson, growling that he will not be making a fool of himself in the ring against another American boxing legend.
His opponent, 51-year-old Jones, was talked about as a potential opponent for Tyson almost 20 years ago. He held titles in four different weight classes — middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight — and fought 75 times, the last of those bouts coming in 2018.
I suspect that neither fighter is capable of taking the other’s head off — they are old men in their fifties, after all. But I feel compelled to watch. It piques my curiosity.
Tell me you won’t watch it. I won’t believe you.