Lots of jokes were made before Saturday night’s boxing PPV pitting the 54 year old former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson against 51 year old ex-multi-division titleholder Roy Jones Jr.
Which was perfectly understandable. Aside from the main eventers age, there was also the fact the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) was so adamant this was an exhibition and not a real fight they declared there would be no official winner (an outside panel ruled Tyson vs. Jones to be a draw; many viewers gave their decision to Iron Mike). They even instituted what many referred to as a “no knockout rule” for Nov. 28’s final fight at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
But while the show was not without incidents purists would call embarrassments to the sport, it was broadly acclaimed as a worthwhile night of entertainment. Early numbers point to it being a financial success, as well. Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer reported on the internet interest in the show, and compared it to UFC and WWE events:
The Mike Tyson vs. Roy Jones Jr. exhibition was gigantic mainstream-wise. The fight did 12 million Google searches, and there were another 5 million for Nate Robinson and 100,000 for Badou Jack. No card in a long time has hit numbers like this. The numbers were bigger than Conor McGregor UFC fights and even bigger than Ronda Rousey vs. Holly Holm was. It was multiples of WrestleMania.
It all just makes you wonder, “why can’t WWE do this?”
This was a pro wrestling show from top-to-bottom. Aging legends sparring, b-list celebrities & athletes from other sports in side show matches, and even a legitimate boxer or two. Mixed in were musical performances from hip-hop acts. The announce desk was even manned by ex-WWE Mauro Ranallo and Hall of Famer Snoop Dogg.
Sure, Tyson is a one-of-a-kind attraction. With his transformation this century into an adored pop culture icon, he may even be a bigger draw than he was in his 1980s prime.
But Vince McMahon has tried to pull off this kind of old man superfight numerous times, and despite having months to prepare, WWE’s rarely been able to pull of something on the level of the eight rounds of sparring Tyson and Jones delivered on Saturday night. Any promotion with an internet following should be able to produce a Logan Paul, and yet we’ve never had MJF or King Corbin trending on the Monday after a wrestling PPV.
While its diehard fans love to debate pro wrestling’s ratings, it’s undeniably still a bankable product. The business/artform faces a lot of challenges in the modern marketplace - some self-inflicted, others not. It’s probably never going to recapture the public’s attention like it did at the end of the 20th century, but shouldn’t a single show be able to get people talking if an event described as “two uncles fighting at the BBQ” could?
Let us know what you think, Cagesiders? Did you check out Tyson vs. Jones Jr.? Was it a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle, or is it something other sports entertainment promoters should be able to emulate?