(LOS ANGELES, 11/29/20) - Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. stayed competitive throughout their eight-round exhibition, ending the opening night of Tyson’s Legends Only League with a draw—and, perhaps, leaving viewers wanting to see more.
Long past their primes, there were moments when the 54-year-old Tyson’s hooks made the viewer question the year, hitting the 51-year-old Jones with body shots and presenting a far more respectable outing than he did in an embarrassing loss to Kevin McBride in 2005. Though fleeting, both fighters had moments where they reminded the paying audience why they were once elite, and neither looked out of place in the setting.
There were also points during the bout where it looked exactly like an exhibition, most noticeably with a fatigued Tyson cutting his punches short in the final three rounds and instead sparring with Jones instead of hitting the knockout blow. That was emblematic of the entire night, as this was an entertainment show that featured the occasional fight. But even though it was bereft of some of the normal fight card touches, this show offered a fun presentation of boxing that never mocked the sport.
Hosted (yes, there was a host) by Mario Lopez, the broadcast team of Mauro Ranallo, Israel Adesanya, and “Sugar” Ray Leonard called the fights. The mellifluous Michael Buffer performed the ring announcing, and just to reinforce this was anything but an ordinary fight night, there were musical acts throughout, most notably by Snoop Dogg, YG, and Wiz Khalifa.
Taking place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the pay per view delivered an incredibly high level with its production values. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there was no crowd in attendance, but the dark, smokey set was effective in highlighting the action in the ring instead of lamenting the fact that paying customers were not in the building. There was a captivating, pro wrestling vibe to the ring entrances, and the LED boards behind the ring added a tremendous amount to the broadcast.
Here are the results from the pay per view:
-- Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. fought to a draw in the main event heavyweight bout
-- Jake Paul knocked out Nate Robinson in a light heavyweight bout
-- Badou Jack defeated Blake McKernan by unanimous decision in a light heavyweight bout
-- Jamaine Ortiz defeated Sulaiman Segawa by referee stoppage to win the vacant WBC USNBC Silver Lightweight Championship
-- Edward Vazquez defeated Irvin Gonzalez by split decision to win the vacant WBC USNBC Featherweight Championship
And here are my takeaways from an enjoyable show:
Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. accomplished what they set out to do, which was put on an entertaining bout that was worth the price of the pay per view.
Tyson had his moments where he owned the ring, and Jones fans had to have delighted in seeing his patented no-look jab. There was also far too much clinching and smothering, but they never reached a low point nor did they set back the sport. Incredibly, the entire night turned out to be a tribute to boxing, with performances from hungry young stars like Edward Vazquez and Jamaine Ortiz, as well as a dominant outing from Badou Jack. Tyson and Jones were the draws, and they delivered a more-than-respectable exhibition to close out the night.
Nate Robinson’s fight against Jake Paul was remarkably similar to his NBA career, as he was all offense and no defense.
The winner of three NBA Slam Dunk competitions, Robinson also had moments where he played a key role for the Boston Celtics in their 2010 NBA Finals loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, but his bout against Jake Paul will not be added to the highlight reel.
Robinson was knocked out in the second round by Paul’s overhand right. He was too aggressive, continually leaving himself open, which set up a sequence that nearly knocked him out at the beginning of the first round, then led to the KO in round two.
Following the win, Paul called out Conor McGregor for a fight. No one should hold their breath for that bout to occur any time soon.
There were more than just fights to this card. In addition to some very good hip-hop performances, a standout performance took place in the broadcast booth.
Israel Adesanya has no plans to leave the UFC, where is the reigning Middleweight Champion, but he was phenomenal on the broadcast. He had instant chemistry with Mauro Ranallo, who was announced on Saturday as Al Bernstein’s replacement. Adesanya’s passion was visible and he clearly did his homework for the fight. He also had some fantastic delivery, most notably when dropping insight on the one-sided Badou Jack-Blake McKernan bout, stating, “I’d like to say that was a fight, but that was an ass-whipping.”
Snoop Dogg also joined the socially distant broadcast booth, which led to a mention of Snoop’s cousin, pro wrestler Sasha Banks by Ranallo, who is a former WWE broadcaster.
Badou Jack and Mauro Ranallo carved their names into history tonight, as both hold the distinction of being part of Tyson-Jones as well as the Mayweather-McGregor fight card from August of 2017.
Jack, who is donating his full purse to charity, used the fight against Blake McKernan as much-needed exposure to build interest for a rematch with Jean Pascal. Entering the McKernan fight, Jack had dropped two in a row, including a split decision defeat to Pascal last December.
Jack could not deliver the flashy knockout, but he blasted McKernan throughout the eight-round bout. McKernan absorbed an outrageous amount of punishment, eating shot after shot. Jack earned the victory via unanimous decision, and though boxing is a highly political world, there is no one more deserving for a bout with Pascal than Jack.
The first night of the Legends Only League was a successful premiere.
The structure of the card was smart. It began with up-and-coming talent opening the night, a showcase of one legitimate boxer in Badou Jack to add credibility, and then influencers in Jake Paul and Nate Robinson. The main event featured two big draws, especially Mike Tyson. That is a recipe that can work, permitting the shows don’t run too often.
The draw was an odd way to finish the night. Tyson clearly won six of the eight rounds against Jones, so a rematch between Tyson and Jones will only tell us that this draw was preordained. But there is plenty of potential moving forward, including the intrigue of a Tyson-Evander Holyfield showdown.
This speaks to both his charisma and the lack of current boxing draws, but as the calendar approaches 2021, this pay per view proved there is still interest in watching Tyson box.