Mike Tyson vs. Roy Jones Jr. Was Badly Needed Nostalgia in 2020

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistNovember 29, 2020

FILE - In this Nov. 22, 1986, file photo, Mike Tyson, right, delivers a blow to Trevor Berbick during a boxing bout in Las Vegas. Tyson hasn’t announced any plans to return to the ring, though he did suggest on an Instagram post he might make himself available for 3 or 4-round exhibitions if the price was right. And already some people in Australia are talking about offering him $1 million to fight an exhibition against a rugby star or two. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac, File)
Joe Scarnici

Say what you want about boxing's constant obsession with the past; sometimes, nostalgia is just the thing that's needed.

Could that be any more true than this year?

You don't need a rundown of everything that made 2020 one of the most unforgettable years in modern history, and often in all the worst ways possible. You lived all those things along with everyone else, and you would probably be happy to just forget about most of them.

But the Mike Tyson vs. Roy Jones Jr. pay-per-view boxing match on Saturday night was a happy break from reality.

It was the main event for whatever Mike Tyson's Legends Only League ultimately turns out to be, streamed by sudden boxing pay-per-view leader Triller, and it featured an eclectic collection of talent you probably never saw coming.

Tyson vs. Jones was hosted by Mario Lopez of Saved By The Bell fame. 

The main card pay-per-view opened with Wiz Khalifa, and musical performances by French Montana, YG, Saint Jhn, Ne-Yo and Snoop Dogg were scattered throughout the rest of the card.

The action was called by Showtime's Mauro Ranallo, UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and retired boxing legend "Sugar" Ray Leonard. And then Snoop Dogg joined the crew on the mic for the main event.

There was a former world champion boxing on the undercard.

Heck, there was even a wild fight between a three-time NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion and a YouTube celebrity with over 31 million subscribers across all social media channels. That bout ended with the most brutal knockout this side of Gervonta Davis vs. Leo Santa Cruz.


Thoughts on the @jakepaul finish? See #TysonJones on #FITE in over 100 countries! https://t.co/xPFP3GDfKo https://t.co/iQCGf0OdXB

All of those things were great on their own, but the real reason you tuned in was to see Tyson, aka "The Baddest Man on the Planet," return to the boxing ring for the first time in 15 years to face Jones, the fighter who was Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao before anyone had ever heard of those guys.

The fight wasn't a traditional boxing match.

First of all, both of the main event participants were over 50 years old. Tyson, 54, from Brooklyn, New York, had been the youngest heavyweight champion in history back in 1986 when he knocked out Trevor Berbick at the tender age of 20.

He went on to become the most popular boxing champ this side of Muhammad Ali, but all of that was a long time ago.

Meanwhile, Jones, 51, from Pensacola, Florida, was his era's best overall fighter. He won world titles in four different weight classes, including heavyweight, and will live forever in the annals of YouTube history with some of the most tremendous highlight clips you'll ever see.

Heck, both these guys will do that, on YouTube and on whatever platform usurps it 100 years from now, too.

Of course, neither of those guys were in the ring on Saturday night in Los Angeles.

Sure, both of them were in tremendous shape for their ages. But where Tyson's peak saw him as an unstoppable force of ferocity and the legend of Jones was as a slippery-footed savant with savage intentions, Saturday night's fight was mostly about brief glimpses of the past.

The fight boiled down to Tyson tracking Jones down while the former middleweight danced around as much as his shaky legs would allow him.

There were spurts of good action in the fight.

Well, there were as many spurts of good action that one could possibly expect from two aging warriors fighting eight two-minute rounds a long time after anyone ever thought they would see them doing anything like that again.

It wasn't the Thrilla in Manila, but it was totally worth the $49.99 pay-per-view price tag.

And while the three celebrity judges assigned with scoring the fight from unseen and undisclosed remote locations called the contest a draw, the reality is that nobody needed a winner to be announced anyway.

SportsCenter @SportsCenter

The WBC scores it a draw for Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. #TysonJones https://t.co/1HHP7usgnB

Because Tyson won the night just by being back inside a boxing ring. Over 15 years ago, the last image boxing fans endured of Tyson was one of the most famous heavyweight champion of his time quitting on his stool.

Now, Tyson was the fresher fighter always charging forward, and he was doing it to raise money for charity.

Jones won the fight, too. Tyson ripped into Jones with a few hard hooks to the head and body that most probably would have expected to flatten him.

After all, the decline of Jones from "Superman" to mere mortal was one of the sharpest and most dramatic drops in boxing history. If Glen Johnson could knock Jones out, what might Tyson do?

But Jones absorbed Tyson's blows and bravely kept his own punches zinging back, too.

Most importantly, of course, fight fans won.

Or maybe mainstream sports fans won.

How long had it been since the whole world seemed excited about a big boxing match?

How long had it been in this year alone since it seemed like just about everyone you knew was interested in knowing about and supporting the same thing on any given weekend?

Tyson vs. Jones wasn't what its naysayers said it would be. It wasn't a farce. It wasn't a money grab. It wasn't boring.

Tyson vs. Jones was exactly what many probably needed right now.

It was a blast from the past that reminded everyone how fun life could be sometimes.

It was a nostalgic ride with some of your favorite people doing old things in a new way.

It was Tyson vs. Jones, and it might turn out to be the best thing about an unforgettable year.