Mike Tyson’s return to boxing at age 54 ended in a draw with 51-year-old Roy Jones Jr. on Saturday in an eight-round showdown by former heavyweight champions.
Fifteen years after retiring with the 2005 loss of the company Kevin McBride, Tyson made his comeback at the Staples Center in Los Angeles without spectators in a match-per-view matchup that mixed curiosity and nostalgia.
California State Athletic Commission officials demanded two minutes of rounds instead of the usual three minutes, mandates larger than standard 12-ounce gloves, said none of the fighters could seek a knockout and explained that there could be no official winner in safety movements for over- 50 warriors.
“Sometimes the two minutes felt like three minutes,” Tyson said. “I’m glad I got this under my belts and I look forward to doing it again.”
An “unofficial” panel of former World Boxing Council champions at ringside drew the match, a result that Tyson applauded despite seeming to dominate.
“I’m fine with that,” Tyson said, admitting he thought he had won the fight. “Yes, but I’m good with a draw. The crowd was happy with that.”
Jones, who looked tired and grabbed Tyson much of the fight, was unhappy about the draw.
“I’m never happy with a draw. I’m not drawing,” Jones said, acknowledging that Tyson injured him throughout the fight, especially with body blows.
“If he hits you with your head, blows, body shots, it does not matter, everything hurts. Body shots definitely took a toll. Body shots are what make you exhausted.”
Tyson, who went 50-6 with 44 knockouts, lost 100 pounds and started training again, his desire to get back in shape became a hunger to strap on his gloves again.
Jones, who went 66-9 with 47 knockouts, had not fought since a victory in cruise weight in February 2018. He hoped that a solid effort against Tyson could start a fight with the 45-year-old Brazilian mixed martial arts star Anderson Silva.
‘It will hurt’
Tyson came out aggressive and fast, swung and often connected to Jones’ body, which could sometimes hit and escape, and then hugged Tyson often when everything else failed.
“You came back. I hit you with good shots and you took it,” Tyson told Jones. “We have to do this again.”
A hard left to the head stood Jones in round two and he spent much of the third and fourth rounds holding and moving into tricks with Tyson.
“There’s something in there that’s taking a beating from Mike,” Jones said. “Once I’m in there, I’m game. I go to the end. I know when he hits me, it’s going to hurt.
Tyson landed an inner right and a hard left against Jones’ head in the fifth round, then connected to the body with a solid right and left in the sixth, Jones avoiding a right uppercut and tying up Tyson before he could land big combinations.
Tyson swung the midsection of Jones in round seven but was held before he could press the advantage.
In the eighth and final round, Tyson hit a couple of left hooks against his body but Jones tied him up and they ended the trade with blows.
“I was very happy to go the eight laps,” said Tyson. “I’m more happy to walk the distance.
“I was afraid I could hurt myself. Why is no one worried about my ass? I have not done so in 15 years.
Tyson overwhelmingly controlled the heavyweight division in the late 1980s but fought through the 1990s and lost the title, was convicted of rape and served a ban after biting Evander Holyfield’s ear.
He faded from the stage after the 2002 loss of the world title to Lennox Lewis and has now returned to help launch his Legends Only League for senior star athletes.
“This is bigger than fighting for a championship,” Tyson explained. “I help people now.”