Among the many character traits that fighters across all combat sports share is an unwillingness to walk away. The competitive mindset of the pro athlete is so often honed to reject the idea of defeat; that any obstacle, no matter how big, can be overcome by persistence and hard work. And while in major team sports the decision as to when an athlete’s big league career will end is often made for them, in fight sports every time one door closes there’s almost always another one standing open.
This past weekend provided a sterling example of that kind of free-ranging infrastructure, when 54-year-old Mike Tyson took on 51-year-old Roy Jones Jr. Two former boxing superstars more than a decade removed from the prime of their careers, who nonetheless managed to make what seems likely to be a resounding financial success out of a glorified sparring match on PPV. After the bout (mysteriously declared a draw, by the WBC’s celebrity judging panel) reporters asked Jones about his fighting future, and whether he’d be taking more exhibition bouts—like the one he’d recently teased against former UFC great Anderson Silva.
“I don’t really have a good sense about boxing,” Jones said (transcript via MMA Fighting). “If somebody calls me I’ll say I’ll do it. It’s not really fair to ask me, you should ask my other counsel because I’m not really too smart. I don’t know how to say no. So thank God boxing ain’t drugs, ‘cause I’d never say no.
“I don’t really know what to tell you right now. If it’s me, of course you know me I want to get back in there. But it’s not just about me.”
This exhibition bout marked the first time that Jones had returned to the ring since announcing his retirement in 2018 after a unanimous decision win over Scott Sigmon.
As for Tyson, however, ‘Iron Mike’ seems like he’s full steam ahead on a reboot of his boxing career, at least at the exhibition level. The former undisputed heavyweight champion is already calling out Evander Holyfield for a trilogy bout of their famous (and infamous) 90s rivalry. And for his part, RJJ sounds confident Tyson can find real success moving forward.
“Mike can fight anybody if he just keeps going and stays in shape like he’s doing now,” Jones said. “Because it surprised me that he was able to go them eight rounds like that, so with him going eight rounds as strong as he was, he’s capable of fighting anybody.
“Truthfully, people are going to have problems getting out of the first couple of rounds with him. That was the hardest part is getting past them first two or three rounds. If he catch you, you’re gonna have problems. Like I said, I was feeling everything, so I know that he’s a really exceptional puncher still and he can do anything he wants to do. For him, it makes sense to do it a smart way, but he can do anything he wants to do.”
Tyson hasn’t competed professionally since retiring mid fight against Kevin McBride back in 2005. He did take one exhibition bout, against Corey Sanders, shortly afterward in 2006. Still, his exhibition bout against Roy Jones Jr. this past weekend marked the first time that Tyson had stepped into the ring competitively in almost 15 years. And at the moment, it seems unlikely to be the last.