People have theories on what will happen in this Mike Tyson asterisk comeback fight against Roy Jones, but I'm thinking John Beninati, the matchmaker, has a better handle on it than 99.9% of the people out there.
The Bronx native makes matches for Haymon Boxing, and used to work in the WWF before becoming a boxing lifer.
This is his fourth year working for the industry giant Haymon.
The Scarsdale, NY resident made his boxing bones working for Don King, after getting started in the pugilism sphere doing work for David Meyrowitz. He ran “Miracle Promotions,” did the brother of Bob Meyrowitz, the “King Biscuit Flower Hour” founder who was part of the crew that got UFC off the ground.
“I met Bobby Goodman, who was with Don King, and was doing matches, Trinidad, Holyfield, and Mike Tyson fights, from 1998-2003,” Beninati told me.
And guess what? After his stint with King, Beninati made tussles for Gary Shaw, and yep, guess who made Tyson's last fight, to this point, in 2005, against Kevin McBride?
Yes, Beninati, who is readying a book (“On the Mat”)–sounds like a must get to me–which will have the juicy anecdotes from his time in the WWF, and with boxing's Barnum, Don King. It comes out next year. “The co feature was Laila Ali versus Erin Toughill,” Beninanti recalled.
Tyson-McBride unfolded in DC, but to be honest, Tyson “unfolded” long before that. “It was a payday for Mike, and he got it,” Beninati said.
“I remember, Tyson told promoter Richie Cappiello, I will eat you and your kids,” Beninati said, chuckling. “Mike was one of the nicest human beings on this planet, he knows history, his boxing history. He was a very nice man who had nobody to turn to, and he turned to the wrong people. He had a MILLION hangers on.”
And he was too generous at times, too.
Beninati recalls that Mike had a thing with a secretary in the DK office. They were out, they were driving and passed a dealership, and she remarked that she liked a Beemer of a certain color in the lot. Guess what $100,000 car was in front of her place the next day, a big bow on the roof?
“And imagine that happening again…and ten times. Expensive date!”
OK, so will Beninanti be watching Tyson v Jones, then?
“I will watch,” he said. “I will watch for the nostalgia. And I give Roy a great shot (to win).” But, he admitted, there's a really good chance that the 8 rounds featuring the two legends won't be scintillating.
“It's maybe gonna be boring. Fifteen years ago, Mike was shot. What makes it different now? I do think nobody will get hurt. I will be stunned if somebody gets hurt.”
Beninanti thinks Jones might well be able to duck, dodge, slip and slide enough to keep from getting clanged. “Roy has been much busier of late. And he will be slipping. No, it's not the Roy of 1998, but it's not the Tyson of 1998 either.”
Man knows how people match up…what aging does to guys…how mindsets affect performance. He helped build Alfredo Angulo, Antonio Demarco, James Kirkland, Julian Williams, Errol Spence, Andre and Anthony Direll, Chris Avalos and Chad Dawson. As an advisor, he is helping steer the professional ship of 11-0 Uzbek Ravshan Makhamadjonov, a super welterweight.
Beninanti has seen all the sides of this game, so I lean in and listen when he acknowledges that if this PPV does well, that could lead to more “legends” getting shots at this sort of event, and that might not be good, if they do it without headgear. Guys have to wary of not assessing themselves accurately as they get into their late 30s, 40s and beyond. “Sipping their own Kool-Aid,” is how Beninati puts it.
And I don't want to be the Ralph Nader of this space, but yeah, I do not want to be acting like I have a cut of the promotion. This main event might be a real stinker. “Is there a five percent chance it isn't disappointing,” Beninati said. “I hope not, but I think it's gonna be disappointing.”
Or not, as long as your expectations are set at a reasonable level. I'd lobby you to be seeking to come away from watching Tyson-Jones pleasantly surprised at best, and resigned to an “it was what it was” POV at worst.