In the early to mid-2000s, there was a (thankfully) brief trend known as “bum fights.”
Which was essentially consisting of some sick jerks paying a couple of people living on the streets a negligible sum of money to fight in front of them while they placed bets or simply cheered them on.
It was a truly grotesque display—the kind that makes you question basic humanity. The videos weren’t hard to find on ye olde internets, and some enterprising scoundrels found a way to make some ugly money off of them. I’m willing to bet some low-class trash with a few bucks in their pockets still indulge in this dehumanizing endeavor, but for the most part, it’s been squashed.
Or has it?
Because make no mistake about it, when Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. enter the ring tonight, that’s what’s going to be on display—a high class bum fight.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Tyson and Jones aren’t bums! They are two of the greatest fighters of the last half century!” To which I would respond, “Were.” They were two of the greatest fighters of the last half century.
As Tom Hardy explained to James Gandolfini’s “used ta be somebody” character in “The Drop,” “It’s done. It’s over. It’s been over for a while now.”
How long has it been over? It’s been more than 15 years since Mike Tyson ignominiously retired on his stool against some hunk of soft beef named Kevin McBride. Hell, it’s been 18 years since he’s been in a relevant fight (Lennox Lewis, June 8 2002). He is now 54 years old. Just nine years from collecting social security and getting a discount plate of food-like substance from Denny’s.
And what of Roy Jones Jr? He’s “only” 51, but his ring walk this weekend is probably much more perilous than Tyson’s. Sure, Jones last fought just two years ago, but he hasn’t been the same since suffering devastating back to back knockouts in 2004 against Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson.
The last time Jones was in the ring in a fight that mattered was all the way back in 2010 when he took a UD loss against Bernard Hopkins where he was clearly overmatched.
The eight years that followed that bout were mostly about Roy taking fights against names no one other than his opponents’ mothers could put a face too.
To make matters worse for Jones, besides his late-career history of getting his bell rung, he’s not even a natural heavyweight. His opponent may be an older man, but by weight, he belongs in the big man class.
Jones, a fighter who largely made a career out of footwork, evasiveness, and electric hand speed, has none of those attributes anymore. And I fear that is likely to cost him tonight.
Whereas the end of Tyson’s career was marked by a loss of will, Jones’ was marked by an erosion of skill.
And no matter how much Jones tries, I don’t think he’s going to be able to get away from Tyson.
But you know what? I digress. To even talk about this fight in a serious manner as to strategy and potential outcome is a waste of words. This is a fight between two men who were not fit for the ring the last time they were in it. Aside from a few extra bucks in some peoples’ pockets, nothing good will come from this fight. The sport of boxing will do nothing more than gain some rubbernecking notoriety, and neither man will burnish his legend.
And yes, I know these are two adult men, and if this is what they want to do with their lives, they are certainly allowed. But why does anyone want to see it? Are we such ghouls that we want to watch two washed up, over 50 fighters do cumbersome battle just because we know their names and what those names used to mean? Because I shit you not, if something awful happens in that ring on Saturday night, the blood won’t just be on the hands of the fighters slugging it out, or the promoters putting up the cash—it’s also going to get on our paws too. We are the ones who created a market for this farce.
Now, I know some of you are probably thinking, “It’s just an exhibition.” But to hear Mike Tyson’s conditioning coach, Rafael Coreiro tell it, “If he has the opportunity and realizes (Jones) felt it, he’ll go for the knockout.”
On the other hand, let’s say it is just an exhibition, and these two guys just go into the ring for a light sparring session, is that really what passes for the biggest fight of the year?
Either way, what we have here is a carnival act. “Come see the bearded lady.” Only in this case, there’s two bearded ladies and they’ll be taking swings at each other. While we watch…by choice.
Look, not everyone who stands around gawking at a bum fight is responsible for the fight’s creation. They may not have put up the money or placed a bet on the combatants, but all those who stand on and look are complicit. These bouts need an audience to exist and to continue. Tonight, you have a decision to make. Do you wish to be complicit? Do you wish to be the audience for this? Do you wish to provide the market for this miserable folly?
I fear when I see the numbers come in, I’ll find the answer to those three questions will be an unqualified “yes.” Then the next question I will ask myself is, “what does that say about us?”
Sadly, I think I already know the answer to that one too.