Even as your body betrays you, your mind denies it.Sarah Gruen, Writer, Water for Elephants
On Saturday night, which is the 27th day of the 11th month of the 20th year of the 21st century, two of the most luminous talents of the preceding century, Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jnr., will climb between the ropes for an 8 round exhibition. The boxing world, in all its enduring schizophrenia, will pray neither are the destroyer of men they once were, for fear of the damage they may still impart on each other, while simultaneously hoping that they are both exactly what they once were. The latter, for the affirmation such Peter Pan deliverance would offer those voyeurs who’s vintage they share.
What began as little more than the whimsical nostalgia of those older viewers, who digested the curated footage of Iron Mike training, to maintain fitness and ego, in the midst of their mindless morning scroll, has now taken on its own life force. Plucking Roy Jones Jnr. from a retirement he didn’t seem to accept he had to enter, despite a catalogue of hellacious knockout defeats noisily encouraging the step, has added steam to the push. Now boxing has an event, the inherent risk of which, to the two relics in the ring and the sport they graced in their youth, can not be truly assessed until the first bell rings.
Or maybe the last , or maybe for whom it tolls.
In an interview with the brilliant Brin-Jonathan Butler, who enjoys unrivalled access and honesty from Jones Jnr., in large part due to a previous week spent with an already diminished Jones Jnr. many years ago, scoring the greatest insight in to the complex motivations of the man ever put to print in the process, the darkness and delusion Jones Jnr. still operates beneath remain disturbingly evident. I’d encourage readers to seek out the audio interview via RingTV.com, it hints at a conflated agreement on the financial aspects of this ‘fight’ and, crucially, the degree of intensity both parties are expecting from each other.
The fact Tyson is 54 years old, and Jones Jnr. is shuffling behind him by a year or two, and that neither has been more than a hologram of their best self for almost two decades, hasn’t dissuaded television platforms from attaching a pay per view ticket to the ‘fight’. Nor has it stopped the ‘man in the street’, the average Joe so much of boxing output is aimed at these days, from salivating at the prospect of a Tyson renaissance. The truth, for those paying attention and keeping score, is that Tyson, if measured by the exalted index of his youth a decade earlier, was shot to shit by the time Evander Holyfield had finished with him. Motivation, and that self same ego, eviscerated by the Real Deal over two fights in the mid-90s, a slew of lost millions, incarceration and the abuse inflicted on his body.
Wishful thinking, and their own mid-life crises, has encouraged forgetfulness among the masses.
There is precedent for fighters boxing into their fifties, seeking to compete professionally when every rational observer should be insisting they stop. Only two, Archie Moore and Bernard Hopkins, did so without sacrificing either their pride or reputation. The others, of which there are too numerous to name, met only with loss, enveloping obscurity and physical ruin as reward for their extended delusion.
This event is manifestly different in that it is not a professional bout, it will not become a result of record and there are a raft of stipulations which attempt to placate regulators concerned about two middle age men damaging further the remains of that they once were. There would be no harm caused by these two simply moving around, a real life exhibit in the museum of their own careers, and one can only hope that is all this will amount to.
For the first rule of any museum visit, “don’t touch the exhibits.”, is never more important than it will be on Saturday night.