The real reason Mike Tyson is returning to the ring at 54

·5-min read
Seen here, Mike Tyson addresses media at a press conference.
Mike Tyson's boxing comeback at age 54 isn't about the money. Pic: Getty

If this were, oh, 2004 it might be a safe assumption that Mike Tyson is fighting because he needs the money. It’s the same sad story that has played out dozens, if not hundreds or even thousands of times over the years.

On Thursday, Yahoo Sports broke the news that Tyson, now 54, will come out of a 15-year retirement to face 51-year-old former champion Roy Jones Jr. in an exhibition bout on September 12 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.

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The assumption by many is that the former undisputed heavyweight champion is broke and needs the money.

Nothing, though, could be further from the truth.

UFC president Dana White is a close friend of Tyson’s. At a June 28 post-fight news conference in Las Vegas, White noted that he’d talked to both Tyson and Evander Holyfield and urged them not to fight each other.

White said that Tyson told him there is something deep inside of him that motivates him to try it again.

“I’m a fighter, and that’s what I do,” White recalled Tyson telling him.

Almost a month later, it became official that Tyson would headline a card promoted by Triller against Jones, the former pound-for-pound king who won world titles as a pro at middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight.

Tyson blew much, if not all, of the $300 million he’d earned during the bulk of his boxing career and ended up in an acrimonious lawsuit with promoter Don King.

But the man who in 1986 became the youngest man ever to win the heavyweight title when he blew out Trevor Berbick at what was then known as the Las Vegas Hilton lives a comfortable life these days and has no money concerns.

Now, to be fair, he’ll probably make a lot of money in this one, even though it’s going to be an exhibition bout with larger-than-normal gloves and a promise for them to not try to take the other’s head off.

Pictured here, boxing great Roy Jones Jr poses for a fight during his glittering career.
Tyson's opponent Roy Jones Jr was once regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Pic: Getty

Andy Foster, the executive officer of the California State Athletic Commission, held a Zoom with Tyson and Jones not long ago to discuss the fight. They promised him they weren’t looking to KO the other.

Foster approved the fight, pending both of them passing comprehensive physical examinations that will be conducted by the commission.

Tyson fight sets up huge PPV showdown

But even with that promise to just move lightly around the ring and not take any risks, this will be an attraction. Tyson is one of the biggest names in boxing’s history, arguably second only to Muhammad Ali as the most iconic figure the sport has known.

Oh, there are others, such as Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, George Foreman, Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and Jack Dempsey and maybe a few more, who would be in the running for that honor. But it’s not a long list and Tyson’s name still carries a lot of clout, in and beyond the boxing community.

The date they chose for the fight is the same one that Canelo Alvarez is expected to fight on, though Alvarez and Golden Boy Promotions have yet to finalize a deal. Alvarez is the biggest draw in boxing now, at least in the US.

However, he’ll have trouble competing against Tyson, particularly if Alvarez has a less-than-exciting opponent.

Getting that kind of opponent for Alvarez is proving to be difficult because of the lack of fans caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Alvarez makes more than $30 million a fight, so there isn’t a lot left to pay an opponent if there are no fans in the stands paying upward of $20 million for the right to attend.

Golden Boy, Alvarez and DAZN are on a deadline to make a deal, so if it doesn’t get done soon, it could wind up moving to a different date. But believe this: The Tyson-Jones pay-per-view will badly hurt Showtime’s planned Sept. 26 PPV that features Jermall Charlo versus Sergiy Derevyanchenko and Jermell Charlo against Jeison Rosario.

People don’t often buy more than one pay-per-view a month, and with Tyson and then UFC 253 scheduled for September 19, it’s going to make it a tough sell for the Charlos.

A side-by-side picture showing Mike Tyson in his early days and in his current shape.
Fans have been blown away by Mike Tyson's training videos ahead of his comeback. Pic: Getty/Instagram

Tyson using fight to promote own business

The fight for Tyson will be a way to launch his new Legends Only League, which will feature athletes from different sports.

Facing Jones will give Tyson the opportunity to sate his competitive desires while also helping to launch his new business.

If it doesn’t work, it’s no big deal because he has plenty of money and plenty of successful businesses.

It’s not a good thing to see anyone over the age of 50 fighting, but at least Tyson isn’t planning to challenge Tyson Fury or Anthony Joshua. Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya, like Tyson a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, is mulling a comeback at 47 and said he couldn’t rule out a fight against Alvarez.

That would be disastrous.

This is Tyson the businessman using his popularity to launch another business. Will it lead to him campaigning on a regular basis? Probably not.

But if you think he’s fighting because he’s broke, about to hit the streets and desperate for cash, think again. This is 2020 and while he’s a vastly different fighter than he was in his prime, so is he a vastly different person.

This Tyson knows full well what he’s doing and isn’t looking to risk his long-term health in search of a few cheap bucks.

Kevin Iole - Yahoo Sports US Combat Columnist

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