We've entered a golden era of exhibition boxing thanks to Mike Tyson, Jake Paul, and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Boxing purists can say they don't like it and protest all they want, but there's a new subcategory in the sport.
We'll call it showbiz boxing — a prizefighting equivalent of professional wrestling or sports entertainment. Whatever you think of it, it's here to stay.
It has crossover appeal because it attracts participants as varied as sporting legends, YouTube creators, and veteran rappers, and they pool together a varied fan base from musical backgrounds and internet culture, with your degenerate fight fan — that's me — thrown in for good measure.
The concept of the exhibition is nothing new, as combat-sport sideshows have been rearing their ugly heads throughout history to defile themselves under the spotlights for our guilty pleasure.
But irreversible change has gathered pace in recent years, and an evolved version of the sport has presented itself to us because of how popular and potentially lucrative it's become.
This is the story of modern-day showbiz boxing — something you'll see more of in the months and years ahead.
With a lit joint wedged between his first and second fingers, Mike Tyson, an avid smoker, brought his hand to his mouth and took a long, deep drag hours before he made his 2020 comeback.
When the 54-year-old exhaled, fumes of funky bubonic chronic entwined and slowly rose, so thick they obscured parts of his face.
When he's not taking a toke, Tyson tucks his spliff into the crevice near his knuckle, with his hand balled up in a fist. But, as he talks, he gesticulates with his joint-bearing hand, leaving small trails of smoke ringing with each sharp motion.
Tyson has a 420-acre cannabis farm in California called Tyson Ranch, and he smokes while filming episodes of his popular podcast called "Hotboxin' with Mike Tyson."
"Sorry, I'm a smoker," he'll shrug. "It has no effect on me from a negative standpoint. It's just what I do, who I am."
Saturday wasn't a regular day at his marijuana resort, though, and he wasn't entertaining big-name guests from the comedy, sports, and hip-hop worlds on his YouTube channel.
This was not quite a fight — more like a glorified spar — but many eyes were fixated on Tyson's imminent exhibition as it was the return of a former king.
After back-to-back knockout losses to sub-elite fighters he would have easily handled in his prime and an exhibition tour that failed so cataclysmically it was canned after the first show in 2006, Tyson was getting his hands wrapped in Los Angeles for his first ringwalk in 14 years.
Iron Mike is back. Let's get ready to rumble.
In the ring, Tyson was always known for his controlled aggression and deceptively good defense, for becoming boxing's youngest heavyweight world champion — 20 years and four months in 1986 — and for his wins over Michael Spinks, Tony Tucker, and Trevor Berbick.
Outside the ring? That's a different story.
In 1992 he was convicted of rape and served three years in prison. USA Today recently reported he's still required by law to register as a sex offender.
Upon his release he bought pet tigers, which turned out to be a "bad accident" waiting to happen. Eventually, one of the big cats attacked a neighbor when she scaled the fighter's property.
"I had a lot of money back then, so I gave her $250,000 because she was just f---ed up," Tyson said. "I didn't know what [tigers] could do to a person's flesh. I had no idea."
That wasn't the only wild incident involving Tyson and an exotic animal.
While on a date at a New York zoo with Robin Givens, his ex-wife, Tyson tried to bribe a zookeeper with $10,000 so he could go into a gorilla den and punch a silverback in the face as it was bullying other gorillas.
The zookeeper "declined."
And then there was the garbage collector who threw away one of Tyson's already dead pigeons. "I rushed him and caught him flush on the temple with a titanic right hand," Tyson said. "He was out cold, convulsing on the floor."
That chaotic energy outside the ring overwhelmed his life inside it from the mid-1990s onward, when he returned to boxing in 1995 after prison, bit Evander Holyfield's ear in 1997, and got his face tattooed in 2003.
For many years he'd been "drinking, gorging on food, f---ing women," and he filed for bankruptcy in the mid-2000s.
Though he is widely considered one of the top 10 fighters in heavyweight history, he ended his career on a low.
Divorce, debts, and heavy losses to Danny Williams and Kevin McBride meant there was always room for a redemption story in the life and troubled times of Mike Tyson.
Earlier this year, one of Tyson's childhood heroes, Sugar Ray Leonard, joined Tyson on his podcast.
Tyson cried in front of Leonard, said he felt "like a b----" because he's empty inside, and missed the days when he'd conquer his enemies as a self-described fighter cut from the cloth of Jack Dempsey and Sonny Liston, like Alexander the Great.
"I was an annihilator," he told Leonard. "It was what I was born for. Now those days are gone, and it's just empty."
Months later, after his wife, Kiki, challenged him to lose weight and get himself back into shape, Tyson announced his comeback.
Through his promotional vehicle Legends Only League — together with the app turned video-streaming service Triller — the former heavyweight champion headlined one of the biggest combat sports events of the year.
The failures of yesteryear were long behind him. He's now published books, starred in the HBO series "Entourage," and took a Spike Lee-directed one-man theater show across the US.
As a rehabilitated man, Tyson has had many successes, but his latest venture — showbiz boxing — will punctuate his legacy by advancing the sport's sideshow.
At a behind-closed-doors Staples Center on Saturday, Tyson was the lightest he had weighed since 1997. He was high on weed — in his telling — and ready to fight.
His opponent for the night was Roy Jones Jr., one of the most extraordinarily gifted men boxing has ever seen.
The bout itself received a mixed reaction during the promotion — could "The Baddest Man on the Planet" turn into the saddest?
Edited clips released from Tyson and his team over the past few months suggested he wouldn't, but the question remained until the opening bell.
The Tyson-Jones exhibition was neither bad nor sad.
Neither fighter embarrassed himself, or the sport, as the pair threw leather for eight two-minute rounds in a controlled manner.
Tyson fought on the inside, where he'd throw mean uppercuts with his left hand and worked his opponent's 51-year-old body, while Jones relied on as much head movement as he could muster to avoid Tyson's bombs.
Firing back, that low-handed, almost nonexistent guard he made famous during the 1990s was still there. He'd peel off single jabs and lead left hooks, and he even showboated for the empty arena.
According to CompuBox data sent to Insider, Tyson — the stronger fighter — landed 67 of his 193 punch attempts for an accuracy of 34.7% — almost double what Jones tallied as he landed 37 of his 236 attempts for a 15.7% accuracy.
Snoop Dogg reveled on commentary duty, and said the show was "like two of my uncles fighting at the barbecue."
Despite Tyson having the upper hand through the showcase, a draw was declared and both fighters received honorary WBC belts with the words "Black Lives Matter" embossed around the middle.
It's not just Tyson popularizing showbiz boxing.
Jake Paul is one of the internet's most infamous influencers.
There was even an illegitimate wedding to his fellow internet personality Tana Mongeau, who had a family emergency the following day and found out Paul continued with their planned honeymoon but was later seen on video surrounded by models in bikinis.
These antics alone are practically essential requirements to be a polarizing but popular prizefighter in the business of boxing entertainment.
Paul told Insider last week that he wanted to challenge MMA fighters like Ben Askren, Dillon Danis, and Conor McGregor in showbiz boxing — and crack the best-selling pay-per-view rankings.
But Paul's controversies are not just limited to YouTube.
He even ignores fight-game etiquette, as he posted sparring footage on social media that showed him teeing off on training partners, flooring one, and bloodying the nose and mouth of another.
He then gave the same treatment to the three-time slam-dunk champion Nate Robinson in Saturday's penultimate bout, a pro cruiserweight match before the Tyson-Jones showdown.
Paul beat Robinson to the floor in the first round and twice in the second, even though he landed just eight punches in the contest.
His final shots included a heavy, two-punch sequence while Robinson was rushing in, failing to defend himself.
A left hook and an overhand right were enough to put Robinson down on the ground for good. He lay motionless and unconscious for an uncomfortable amount of time.
It was a knockout for the ages. Regardless, the gulf in ability between Paul and Robinson was so vast that they should never have shared a ring in the first place.
Paul's finish — as ugly as it was shareable — circulated throughout Twitter, with one bootleg clip tallying over 5 million views.
As easy as it was to ignore YouTube boxers in 2018 when they held an unlicensed show in England, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore Paul, specifically, today.
The CBS Sports combat analyst Luke Thomas summarized the Paul situation as thus: "He makes you think what a f---ing idiot he is, right? You just look at him, and think, 'My God, this is the dumbest man on Earth.
"But he trains hard, has some experience, and some minor ability. That, as you can see, is plenty.
"He gets opponents that people think can beat him by virtue of athletic gifts or whatever, but he has actually done a lot more work than them, takes it much more seriously than them, and then disarms them by virtue of what an idiot he sounds like. That is actually a very clever gift, and a clever system to make money."
Thomas continued: "That's the funny thing about YouTube. On YouTube, you're not really a rapper in real life and you didn't come up through rap. But if you come up through YouTube, you can be a YouTube rapper.
"You're not really a boxer, but with YouTube you can be a YouTube boxer. You can whitewash it and do a weird version of it, and that still is quite lucrative as a calling.
"He's not doing any real boxing, but he is making a ton of money. A lot of people enjoyed the KO — a vicious KO — and as long as he picks his next opponent right, dude … he can do this for a while."
Yahoo Sports reported Tuesday that the Triller card most likely generated more than 1 million pay-per-view sales.
The fight reporter Dan Rafael tweeted that the figure could be high as 1.2 million, making it by far the best-selling boxing event of the year.
Triller CEO Ryan Kavanaugh told Yahoo's Kevin Iole that this was thanks to Tyson and Paul.
"I think it's fair to say Tyson brought in 40, 50% of the buyers," Kavanaugh told Iole. "But Jake Paul brought in 40%, too, and Snoop Dogg had a big impact."
Tyson himself praised YouTubers and said in his press conference after the event that creators like the "God-gifted YouTube boxer" Paul deserved boxing belts.
"Boxing owes these YouTube boxers some respect," Tyson said.
"Give them some belts because these guys make boxing alive. Boxing was pretty much a dying sport. The UFC was kicking our butt.
"Boxing is coming back thanks to these YouTube boxers."
Again, boxing exhibitions are nothing new and have been around for more than a century, but the concept has been popularized like never before in recent years because the sport's pay-per-view kings have gotten involved.
While Tyson, the pay-per-view sensation of the 1990s, took center stage at the weekend, the man who made it may-per-view in the 2010s — Floyd Mayweather Jr. — took part in a curiosity bout when he traveled to Tokyo in 2018.
Mayweather's exhibition with Tenshin Nasukawa, a kickboxer, was weird as the veteran knocked the then-20-year-old down three times in one round and made the prospect cry when Mayweather had his hand raised moments later.
None of those exhibitions actually happened.
But Leonard Ellerbe, the Mayweather advisor who is CEO of Mayweather Promotions, said in August that the retired fighter received "a few sick offers" regarding the possibility of a $100 million exhibition tour.
Last month, Mayweather announced a return to the ring for February 28 at the Tokyo Dome in Japan.
While the retired boxer has his next exhibition locked in, Paul is receiving plenty of options for his next showbiz boxing match.
Two well-known MMA fighters — Askren and Danis — have already responded positively to Paul's challenge to meet him in the ring.
But there are also other athletes wanting to crack the internet celebrity's skull, too.
The 56-year-old former baseball player Jose Canseco said on Twitter that he'd happily fight either one of the "Logan brothers" — an apparent reference to Paul and Paul's brother, Logan.
And two hockey players — Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner and San Jose Sharks left winger Evander Kane — also issued challenges.
"I would **** you up," Lehner tweeted Paul.
"I'd wreck ya," Kane said in a Twitter callout of his own. "Easy to beat up guys with no experience and much smaller. August 31st 2021 Vegas we can see if you really about that action."
Meanwhile, Tyson on Saturday said he wanted to box another showcase and could lure Holyfield into his Legends Only League ring.
Tyson once said he could "sell out Madison Square Garden masturbating."
Thankfully, neither he nor Paul has to do that. They've established a golden era of showbiz boxing instead.