Two former boxing greats will turn back the clock on Saturday night, but when they step between the ropes they’ll find a very different game to the one they played decades ago.
Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr are going head to head in an exhibition fight at the Staples Center in Los Angeles – but an exhibition is all we will have. With both men in their 50s, there is concern for their health, so the rules for this bout have been tweaked. No, this won’t be a bloody, 12-round slugfest like something we’d hope to see in a Rocky film.
Andy Foster, executive director of the California State Athletic Commission, which is safeguarding the event, made that clear earlier this summer when the fight was agreed – and said he had spoken to both fighters over Zoom.
‘I wanted to have their assurances that they understand. I don’t care if they spar. I don’t care if they work. They are world-class athletes, even still,’
Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr will clash in a charity bout in Los Angeles on Saturday night
‘They have a right to earn, and all these types of things. They’re about the same age. We can’t mislead the public as to this is some kind of real fight. They can get into it a little bit, but I don’t want people to get hurt. They know the deal.’
Not get hurt? In a fight? It’s hard to imagine ‘The Baddest Man on the Planet’ in Tyson and four-weight world champion Jones Jr not causing any damage to each other at some point, but the restrictions placed on them may very well turn this into a glorified sparring battle.
So, what are the rules for the bout? Sportsmail breaks them all down and lays out what you can expect on fight night.
But both fighters will face a series of strange restrictions ahead of the exhibition fight
Jones Jr has voiced his concerns about some rule changes as he prepares to take on Tyson
Let’s start here, because it’s a big one and there has been some confusion.
‘They’re going to spar hard, but they shouldn’t be going for a knockout,’ says Foster.
‘This isn’t a record-book type of fight. This is not world-championship boxing right now. It’s not what this is. People shouldn’t be getting knocked out. The public can see what kind of shape Roy and Mike are still in.’
But on Thursday, Ryan Kavanaugh of Triller, the broadcaster showing the fight has insisted knockouts are indeed allowed.
He told Variety: ‘That commissioner Andy (Foster) who stated that — I have not had a direct discussion with him, but we’ve been told by the people who do that that was him trying to make a name for himself in a magazine.
‘A knockout is allowed. We heard someone say there’s no knockouts. A knockout is absolutely allowed… If someone’s bleeding, the fight’s not going to stop.
‘(California State Athletic Commission, CSAC) approved the fight. They will have a ref there. The ref will be overseeing the fight under are all normal fight professional rules, with a few exceptions.’
Mike Tyson has one of the most fearsome KO rates of all time, but none are allowed this time
Jones Jr also had an impressive stoppage record with 47 knockouts in 66 professional fights
Given their age it would seem wise to ban knockouts but then it would undoubtedly take away from the spectacle if two of the sport’s biggest punches couldn’t go out all guns blazing.
Over the course of their careers, these men were knockout artists – especially ‘Iron Mike’. With 44 stoppages from 50 fights, he was often used as benchmark. Jones Jr, too, had an impressive knockout rate – 47 from 66 fights.
But both men are no longer as fit as they once were, and there are fears that if anyone hits the deck, they could be left in a seriously bad way.
You do wonder though, if Tyson or Jones Jr open each other up and have the opportunity to go for the kill – are they really not going to take it? UFC president Dana White was left wondering the same thing this week.
‘They’re not allowed to knock each other out? How do you enforce that? I’d like to bet that doesn’t happen. Can you bet on that?’
No ifs, no buts. If either fighter sheds blood, the contest is called off.
‘They can move around and make some money, but I told them: ‘If you get cut, it’s over,” said Foster.
Headguards won’t be necessary, but they will be forced to use 12oz gloves – which should offer more protection than the 10oz gloves often used for professional fights.
Cuts are so common in boxing that each fighter employs a man to patch them up – and it’s a crucial role that can be the difference between winning and losing. The cut-man won’t be needed here, however.
The commission responsible for the bout warned it will be called off if either fighter is cut
Jones Jr (right) and Tyson will both be wearing 12oz gloves for the duration of the contest
Tyson isn’t fazed by the restrictions, saying he plans to use the skills he has been honing since childhood, although he did hint that the contest could still be dangerous even without cuts or knockouts.
‘We’re there to show our skills, and we’re fighting. This is what I learned in boxing when I was a young boy.
‘When you sign that contract, there is an unwritten clause in there that you can die at any moment during training or fighting.’
NO JUDGES RINGSIDE
So if there’s no officials ringside, how are we going to know who wins the fight?
Well, we won’t. No winner will be declared for this bout – it is an exhibition after all.
You’ll be relieved to hear that there will be a referee inside the ring to ensure both men adhere to the rules – the experienced Ray Corona – but no one will be scoring this, not officially anyway.
There will, however, be a title on the line – the WBC Frontline Battle Belt. Confused yet? Luckily, Foster is on hand to explain how this works – with former fighters Christy Martin, Vinny Pazienza and Chad Dawson acting as a remote judging panel.
No judges will be present ringside due to Covid fears, and no official winner will be announced
Former light-heavyweight fighter Chad Dawson will be one of three remote judges
‘There’s no winner going to be announced,’ Foster said.
‘I do think that’s very important to get out there. The WBC is going to have some guest celebrity judges remotely, not official, not 10-9 [scores], nothing like that. No cumulative score.
‘The unofficial scores are for entertainment only and that’s done by the WBC remotely. Not by the commission because the commission didn’t credential those judges because of COVID. It’s for entertainment purposes only.’
While the prospect of no knockouts, no bloody cuts and no winner might disappoint fans, the fight is still reported to have broken pre-fight PPV sales. This week Tyson screengrabbed a report that it had broken records.
He wrote: ‘Numbers don’t lie. Haters are mad they can’t get numbers like this. Saturday is reckoning. Roy Jones Jr you better be ready.’
The main priority of the commission is to keep both fighters in good health, meaning this won’t go on for 12 rounds. Instead it’s been decided that the fight will be reduced to eight rounds lasting two minutes instead of three.
But while both fighters have accepted not being able to strike a huge blow on their opponent, fighting two-minute rounds is something that has not gone down well in either camp.
When Tyson was asked if he was disappointed by the shorter rounds, he said: ‘Absolutely. I’m sure they have their reasons for doing it. But it’s not about me, there’s a charity [element] … I’m just happy we’re doing it.’
There will be eight rounds, with each one reduced from three minutes to two minutes
Jones Jr was even angrier when asked about the rule change, stressing that lowering the time in the ring doesn’t lower the danger posed and claimed it was simply ‘cheating the fans’.
‘Why we got to do two-minute rounds? Why? If something’s going to happen, it’s going to happen anyway … two minutes, three minutes, five minutes. Don’t really matter.
‘So, for us, what difference does it make? Two minutes doesn’t do anything for him or for me. To be honest with you, it cheats the fans out of it.
The change has not gone down well, with Jones Jr claiming it would hand Tyson an advantage
‘It would give us a little more time to set up a better shot than we could have in two minutes. It was advantageous for everybody to keep it to three minutes.’
He even claimed he was putting himself at a greater risk because he would come up against a fresher Tyson, but was reluctantly agreeing to the measures and would now have to ‘work a little faster’.
‘Everything’s to his advantage, that’s to his advantage too.
‘At this point, the fans are so excited about it, I wouldn’t want to pull the rug from under the fans and they [the organisers] will try and sue me.
He claimed Tyson would be ‘fresher’ and more dangerous if the rounds were made shorter
‘It’s not really worth it, so I’m going to go in for these two-minute rounds, but I’m going to have to work a little faster than I expected to.
‘They just decided this last week. They change stuff on me by the week. I guess I read the memo wrong. But what they don’t realise is that the longer you keep Mike fresh, the more dangerous that is for me.
‘I need to get Mike un-fresh quick, so we can get out this danger zone.’
You might struggle to put a wager on this fight.
Some betting markets have been pulled but there are still some taking bets despite there being no winner declared.
Sportsmail attempted to find betting odds for the fight at SkyBet, William Hill, Paddy Power and BetVictor and either got an error message or was told the betting event had been removed from the page.
Betfair said they were offering odds on the fight but removed betting ‘as there is ambiguity about how a result (if any) will be determined’.
It added that ‘a limited number of bets have already struck and will stand pending a result being announced’.
Some betting companies have removed markets due to ‘ambiguity’ about the result of the fight