Paul v Tyson a reckless Hollywood pursuit

THREE years away from 60, Mike Tyson’s exhibition fight against Jake Paul has been sanctioned as a professional 10-rounder against a boxer 20-years his junior. | Archives

THREE years away from 60, Mike Tyson’s exhibition fight against Jake Paul has been sanctioned as a professional 10-rounder against a boxer 20-years his junior. | Archives

Published May 2, 2024


YOU’D think it the plotline to a film: The upcoming bout between an elder, former heavyweight champion of the world, and an unpopular media influencer-cum-boxer meeting in the ring, divided by decades, but at the end brought together as gladiators who only respect one another.

That is because, in fact, it’s not referring to the heavily promoted Jake Paul v Mike Tyson fight at the end of July, but the actual happenings of Rocky Balboa, released in 2006.

As far as Rocky movies go, I’d personally place it quite high up – perhaps better than Rocky II and the bloody awful Rocky V, but certainly not as good as the original, or as memorable as Clubber Lang in Rocky III. Rocky IV has a funny nostalgia attached to it personally, and would probably fit somewhere in the middle.

Anyhoe, in Rocky Balboa, a mourning Rocky comes out of retirement at 60 to face the current and much, much younger champion, Mason “The Line” Dixon after a video game simulation suggests that the title character would not only go the distance against his much younger opponent, but knock him out, too.

Of course, Dixon is hugely unpopular with fans, who question his credibility. The two set up their fight as an exhibition match but it eventually devolves into a slug fest over the 10 rounds.

At the end, the crowd are uproariously pleased. Rocky has overcome the grief of the death of wife Adrian, and Dixon has won the adoration of boxing supporters. It’s all very Hollywood, and you expect the people behind Paul v Tyson watched way too much of the fliek on repeat, dreaming of such an end to their harebrained scheme.

For that is what it has seemingly become. Paul v Tyson was still palatable when it was just an exhibition match, but that is no longer the case.

Earlier this week, there was a sense of shock – for sure, a moment of air escaped the lungs in a gasp of surprise – when it was announced that the Paul v Tyson fight would be sanctioned as a professional boxing match.

Tyson is nearing 60 and hasn't stepped into the squared circle since 2005, while cruiserweight Paul – who is 27 years old – doesn’t have the worst record at 10-9-1 with six KOs, but is 30 years the junior of the “baddest man on the planet”. Indeed, as if to punctuate the generational divide between the two, Tyson’s other monikers as “Iron Mike” and “Kid Dynamite” contrasts starkly to that of Jake “The Problem Child” Paul.

The match will involve eight two-minute rounds, with 14oz gloves. They’re not as heavy as the 16oz Tyson used during his heyday when he was landing haymakers, but they will pack a hefty bit of weight behind them in an encounter where head contact will be permitted and no headgear will be used.

The bout will also go on each fighter’s professional record, adding uncalled for gravitas to the proceedings.

If you could see my face now, you would see it contorted in a grimace of concern. Without being ambiguous on the matter, I’ll just state it frankly: Guys, this isn’t a good idea.

The reputational damage it could do to boxing – which really doesn’t need such negativity – aside, someone could get seriously hurt, and that probability – even if it is only slight – is just not worth the danger. But, it seems, someone has envisioned a Hollywood ending to this story, with dollar signs revolving like a one-armed bandit in their eyes, and hasn’t considered all the consequences.

Boxing is a contact sport – a dangerous one at the best of times – and that is part of the appeal, but it isn’t reckless, and Paul v Tyson’s stipulated rules certainly feel that way.

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