LOS ANGELES — Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. got permission from California's athletic commission to return to the boxing ring next month because their fight would be strictly an exhibition of their once-unparalleled skills.
These 50-something former champions still say they're taking this showdown far more seriously than any exhibition.
“Not a real fight? We got Mike Tyson versus Roy Jones," Tyson said Thursday in an online press conference. “I’m coming to fight, and I hope he’s coming to fight, and that’s all you need to know.”
Promoters of the pay-per-view spectacle announced that Los Angeles' Staples Center will be the site of the 54-year-old Tyson's return to boxing on Nov. 28 for an eight-round main event against the 51-year-old Jones.
Tyson's last official bout was in June 2005, and the former undisputed heavyweight champion hasn't held a title since 1996. Jones fought steadily through his 40s, long after his super middleweight and light heavyweight title reigns had ended, with his most recent bout in February 2018.
Jones also laughs at the idea that any time spent inside a boxing ring with Tyson could ever be a mere exhibition, even though California commission officials have made it clear that Tyson and Jones shouldn't be attempting to seriously hurt each other during a fight with two-minute rounds. Officials say they plan to stop the bout if either fighter is cut or significantly injured.
“Who goes in the ring with the great, legendary Mike Tyson and thinks it's an exhibition?" Jones said. "Twelve-ounce gloves? No headgear? Really? This is an exhibition? Come on, bruh. Be real.”
In short, Tyson and Jones said everything one might expect from two cagey veterans of the fight game to promote real sporting interest in this endeavor, which came to life after the online world saw footage of Tyson looking impressive while sparring earlier this year. Jones eagerly accepted the opportunity for his highest-profile fight in a decade.
Tyson and Jones believe they'll be able to put on a show worthy of their legends. They're also eager to be the latest in the growing line of athletes competing at elite levels into their 40s and beyond with improvements in sports science, nutrition and training.
“When I came along, at 32 years old, you were considered an old guy," Jones said. "But we’re freaks. That’s why this is such a big thing.”
Tyson, who is down to 215 pounds for the first time since he was a teenager, put it even more succinctly: “Time isn't anything.”
Tyson is even using the bout to kick off his still-nebulous venture called the Legends Only League, which aims to offer competitive outlets to athletes in many sports past what was once considered their athletic primes. Tyson said he probably won't be done competing after this showcase with Jones, either.
“I’m going to go as long as the league is working,” Tyson said. “I’m going to do this, and I’m going to help a lot of people, and my legend is going to be that I gave a lot more than I took.”
The fight's designation as an exhibition didn't stop the World Boxing Council from jumping in to offer a green championship belt to the winner, calling it the “Frontline Battle Belt.”
Fans won’t be allowed inside Staples on Thanksgiving weekend for a show that will also feature three-time NBA slam dunk champion Nate Robinson making his professional boxing debut against YouTube star Jake Paul.