Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Saturday Fight Night: Previewing Mike Tyson v. Roy Jones Jr. (& Nate Robinson v. Jake Paul!) [UPDATED]

He’s back. Kinda.
He’s back. Kinda.
Image: (Getty Images)

More than 15 years ago, Mike Tyson sat on his ass for 13 seconds at the end of round six against journeyman heavyweight Kevin McBride. Referee Joe Cortez told Tyson to “come on” or “get up” a total of 12 times — because he wasn’t even knocked down, he was pushed. Even after the bell rang, Tyson appeared disinterested, which he confirmed by quitting as he sat on his stool, ending the fight — and his legendary professional career — live on Showtime.

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It’s the last time the boxing world cared about a Tyson fight before his inspiring public rehabilitation and self-reinvention since that day: June 11, 2005.

For Roy Jones Jr., the beginning of the end came one year earlier, on May 5, 2004. Jones was pound-for-pound the best boxer in the sport at the time, with his only prior defeat being a nonsense disqualification against Montell Griffin in 1997. (He avenged himself with a first-round knockout less than five months later.)

Following the Griffin bout, Jones Jr was savagely knocked out in four other alarming instances before retiring in 2018 at 49 years old.

Neither Tyson, 54, nor Jones, 51, unquestionably two of the best boxers ever, need to fight one another on pay-per-view this coming Saturday at 9 p.m. You could form a compelling argument for the Tyson of 1985-1990 being the most captivating athlete of all time. You could mount an equally riveting case that Jones was the second greatest athlete of the 1990s behind Michael Jordan.

Still, we are to believe that it’s only an eight-round exhibition, meaning the fear of watching Jones’ head pound the canvas like a fallen cinder block, again, is at least minimized to some degree — even if Tyson, again, at 54, looks like this. To that end, California State Athletic Commission co-executive director Andy Foster told MMA Fighting that fans should temper expectations, which seems on-brand for 2020.

“Let’s call it an exhibition. That’s what it is,” Foster said. “I want the public to know what this is because I don’t want people to be disappointed. As long as they know this is an exhibition, I’m fine for everybody to earn … There are no official judges. The WBC is going to have some guest celebrity judges remotely, not official, not 10-9 [scores], nothing like that. No cumulative score. No winner announced … That’s a very entertainment centered thing. It’s about entertainment. It’s not about competition.”

No official winner, only eight rounds of two minutes, and a bad cut will end the fight automatically.

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The real competition is on the undercard, however, featuring actual boxers in noteworthy bouts like former World Light Heavyweight Champion Badou Jack (22-3-3, 13 KOs) taking on undefeated Blake McKernan (13-0, 6 KOs), as well as prospects like 24-year-old lightweight Jamaine Ortiz (13-0, 7 KOs), taking on Hasim Rahman Jr (9-0, 4 KOs), the namesake of his heavyweight champion father.

And then … there’s Nate Robinson versus Jake Paul.

What happens when a 5-foot-9 three-time slam dunk champion super athlete meets a 6-foot-1 YouTuber, who actually has a TKO victory on his resume? It’s 2020, man. Who the hell knows. We know Robinson has been training diligently, and while boxing isn’t something you just pick up and excel in, he is the type of athlete who seems to be good at damn near everything.

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“I wouldn’t say he’s the same caliber athlete (as me) cause I don’t think he could go play basketball in the NBA. I don’t think he could play football in the NFL. I don’t think he could go play Major League Baseball, and I can do all those things,” Robinson says of Paul in the video below.

Paul is also training vigorously for what will be his boxing follow up, even going as far as calling himself a boxer (and a rapper) in the linked video.

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On his behalf, his trainer and hypeman D Cut says, “He’s fucking dedicated. We’re out here running the middle of Red Rock, we’re in the middle of the desert. We’re putting in that extra, extra work. We don’t have to do that shit, we’ve got a gym in the house like Nate Robinson likes to brag about for us.”

Man, I don’t even know where to go from here. Unfortunately for the art of boxing, Paul alone will likely lure in a large audience, keeping the trend of YouTubers becoming part-time fighters alive … for now at least.

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But regarding entertainment value? The Robinson-Paul grudge has show-stealing potential if Tyson versus Jones is merely a celebratory exhibition rather than a frightful conflict. And, again, the actual boxers on the card, like Jack and McKernan, deserve your attention as well.

Update: At 4:48 ET, Triller co-owner Ryan Kavanaugh sent out a statement refuting the above California State Athletic Commission’s claim of there being no winner:

“Know there have been some false rumors swirling, so to be crystal clear — The WBC is scoring the fight. There could be a knockout and there will be one winner. Anyone who says there is going to be no judging or no winner either does not understand the rules or has their own agenda. Unquestionably. 100%. DraftKings is the betting partner and is taking bets on the fight in New Jersey, New Hampshire and Illinois. The only difference in this fight is the gloves are 12 ounces, there are eight rounds and the rounds are two minutes rather than three. That is it.”

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Update II: Kavanaugh elaborated Wednesday evening:

“We have nothing but the utmost respect for Andy and everyone at CSAC. For total clarity we are not implying that CSAC is picking a winner or scoring this, WBC is doing both. WBC is scoring under a 10-9, and a knockout will be a win under WBC’s scoring. The results will not be reflected on their fight record. We apologize for any confusion and look forward to a great night of fights Saturday night.”