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Tyson and Jones argue with California commission about stated protocol for exhibition

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USTA 19th Annual Opening Night Gala Blue Carpet Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images

The boxing legends continue to insist it will be a real fight next month, but the commission has been repeatedly very clear.

The Nov. 28 pay-per-view exhibition bout between 54-year-old Mike Tyson and 51-year-old Roy Jones Jr is still on track to happen a month out, and the two held a virtual press conference today to promote the event again.

Tyson hasn’t fought since 2005, when he quit after six rounds against Kevin McBride, while Jones last fought in early 2018, beating Scott Sigmon in a farewell fight in his hometown of Pensacola, Florida.

There’s been a lot of talk about this exhibition, and it really does have some genuine buzz, because they’re two famous athletes — Tyson is one of the most famous athletes of the last 40 years — and because the idea is kind of crazy since they’re middle-aged men and dramatically past their primes and all that. You have an audience that is genuinely interested in seeing this go down, and you also have an audience who are curious about what could be a train wreck.

As for both parties, please don’t say you haven’t been warned if you buy the PPV next month and wind up feeling ripped off at the end. As much as Tyson and Jones continue to claim this is a real, normal fight, the California commission continue to state very clearly that they will not allow that:

California State Athletic Commission executive director Andy Foster stated that the bout, which takes place at Los Angeles’ Staples Center, should not be confused with a “fight-fight” and that the fighters have been instructed to not go beyond “hard sparring.” Foster also said referee Ray Corona will be enforcing that neither man is to actively look for a knockout and will keep the intensity of the bout in check.

Foster has also stated that the fight will be stopped if either man suffers a cut at any point.

Tyson and Jones both responded to questions about all that by continuing to push the idea that they’re really going to fight:

“Listen, I don’t know what you’re talking about that it’s not a real fight,” Tyson said. “It’s Mike Tyson and Roy Jones and I’m coming to fight and I hope he’s coming to fight. That’s all you need to know.”

Jones doubled down on the thinking, stating, “First of all, if you think you’re going to get in the ring with Mike Tyson, the last guy to get an ‘exhibition’ with Mike got dropped in the first round. If you don’t know that, there’s something wrong with you. Who goes in the ring with the great, legendary Mike Tyson and thinks, ‘Oh, this is an exhibition’? 12-ounce gloves? No headgear? Really? This is an exhibition? Come on, bro. Be real.”

California’s Andy Foster has previously stated very clearly that if the commission feel the fight has gotten out of hand, they will step in. I suppose you could pay to see if one of the old guys swings on Foster or referee Ray Corona if/when that line gets crossed.

Jones later got angry when asked why he and Tyson would bother with the fight being worked through the WBC, who have implemented remote scoring — meaning this fight will be scored, unlike most exhibitions — and have put up the “Frontline Championship” for the winner. He compared fighting for belts to being “like drugs, I can’t say no,” which Tyson agreed with.

As for “the last guy to get an ‘exhibition’ with Mike” getting dropped in the first round, that was back in 2006, when Tyson “fought” Corey Sanders on pay-per-view, and it was widely regarded as farcical. Ray Mancini worked commentary for the fight, and moaned that they were “making it obvious that it’s a sparring session, come on.” The live crowd booed, which won’t be a thing this time as there is no crowd. You can watch it here, for what it’s worth.

Tyson and Jones are selling the event, as they would be expected to do. But one way or the other, it seems quite clear that you are not going to fulfill the dream of seeing what Tyson-Jones might have looked like in 2003 after Jones beat John Ruiz to win the WBA heavyweight title. If they go in there and do “hard sparring” as they’ve been told to not exceed, people are going to feel ripped off. If they actually fight, the fight is going to be stopped, and people are going to feel ripped off. This might sell well, but there’s never been a situation more obviously set up for fans to be upset when all is said and done. There really doesn’t seem to be an outcome at the end where people are widely happy with having paid money for this show.

The event will also feature YouTube guy Jake Paul against former NBA player Nate Robinson, and Badou Jack facing club fighter Blake McKernan, among other bouts.

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