I have never considered myself a wet blanket, especially when it comes to boxing. But the simple fact of the matter is this — if Mike Tyson is serious about returning to competitive boxing, someone needs to have a word with him.
Tyson is just weeks away from his 54th birthday and has not fought since June 2005. Even then, the sight of Cus D’Amato’s former prodigy inside the ring was not something that your average boxing fan could claim to have wanted to see.
Once an iconic knockout artist considered unbeatable, Tyson looked tragic against Irish journeyman Kevin McBride. Clearly untrained and out of shape, the 38-year-old could not dispatch of McBride and failed to answer the bell for the seventh round.
Fast forward to 2020, and some believe Tyson has what it takes to compete for a title. All on account of a little footage showing the former heavyweight champion hitting pads with Rafael Cordeiro.
Admittedly, Tyson looks in fantastic shape for a man of his age. But to suggest that he can return to training following 15 years of inactivity and compete — even against even a half-decent heavyweight — is crazy. In reality, it would not take long for that statement to hold true in a fight. Trust me.
But more than the potential damage that Tyson could suffer inside the ropes, what does all this excitement and hype tell us about the current state of boxing? And is there something to learn about where the sport is right now from the frenzy over a 54-year-old former fighter finding his way back to the “sweet science”?
Here are my thoughts on why Mike Tyson’s comeback is bad for the sport of boxing.
Tyson and the Casual Boxing Fan
Nostalgia is a quality capable of sweeping us off our feet with more power than a left hook from “Prime Tyson” himself.
Some pine for the glory days when the sounds of The Beatles, The Doors, or The Rolling Stones dominated the airwaves. Others look back on their youth, when summers were seemingly longer and warmer. But for many casual fans, the days of the all-conquering, invincible Tyson take them to their happy place.
And the comments… I mean, you couldn’t make these up — “Tyson could beat Anthony Joshua” had me questioning my sanity. The subtle brilliance of “If Fury could knock out Wilder, Tyson could do it quicker” was a highlight. Oh, and not to forget the downright baffling “Tyson would outbox Mayweather.” You might think these are made up to emphasize my point, but they are very real.
Of course, these comments represent a minority of fans who are happy to give their opinion on something they clearly have no idea about. But that could be a summary of the majority of people on social media, right? But when it comes to Tyson, things have the tendency of getting ridiculous. And that was before the former wrecking ball announced that he would be making a comeback.
In the social media age, the term “Prime Tyson” is enough to see a fan lambasted for their lack of boxing knowledge. Even if the term itself seems innocuous to the average observer, it acts of something akin to a boxing version of “Godwin’s Law” to fans who look back at Tyson’s career as anything but stellar.
But those rose-tinted specs sit too pretty for some. So why not assume that Tyson, even at 54 years old, could come back and show this current crop of “sub-par heavyweights” how it is done?
Tyson’s Era Was the Last of the Great Heavyweights
There is no disputing that the period between 1988 and the turn of the century was littered with exceptional talent.
Tyson’s name features heavily on that list, sure. The other two guys considered as genuine greats were Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis — both beat Tyson.
Now, this is not going to turn into a Tyson-bashing piece, because I grew up a huge fan. I am still a fan and am glad to see the Brownsville native enjoying a happy, healthy life over the past few years.
But his list of achievements inside the ring was not as great as his reputation among some of his fanbase would have you believe. His biggest wins came over a good fighter in Donovan “Razor” Ruddock (twice), Michael Spinks, Trevor Berbick, and an aged Larry Holmes.
There is a debate to be had regarding his personal life affecting his attitude to his career, but the facts are that he underachieved in the sport. And the last few years of his career were horrible to watch.
But that does not prevent fans from wanting to see him back. Especially those who claim to have fallen out of love with the sport around the same time that his career nosedived into mediocrity.
Some of those same fans will cite the weakness of the heavyweight division today — once the golden division in the sport — as a reason to look back at Tyson’s run in the 1980s as godlike.
What Tyson’s Return Tells Us About Modern Boxing
Sure, heavyweight boxing is not the big deal it once was, but it’s fairly strong right now. Until recently, Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, and Deontay Wilder bossed the 200+ pound class with unbeaten records. Fury’s recent dismantling of Wilder and Joshua’s knockout at the hands of Andy Ruiz changed that, but these three are still worth at least a few big fights between them.
But the trouble is that boxing is just not what it was. It’s easy to look back at the 1980s and 1990s with fondness because boxing as a sport was far more popular, and the fights were a much bigger deal than they are today.
The problems with modern-day boxing have long been known — sky-high pay-per-view prices, poor officiating, a lack of big fights, perceived corruption… there is a lot to fix, but no one appears ready to fix them.
In reality, the past 15 years or so has seen the popularity of the sport suffer as a result. Promoters and TV networks want the monopoly. Throw in an oversaturation of titles — as well as unbeaten fighters avoiding quality opponents for fear of damaging their records — and you get an unfixable situation.
So it is understandable to look back with fondness to a time when the best fought the best, big fights were available on TV networks, and pay-per-view cards were stacked.
But Tyson is hardly going to bring all that back now, is he? But if we look at the situation optimistically, what good can come out of all this?
Finding Positivity in Tyson’s Comeback
Look, I don’t want to see Mike Tyson vs. Wanderlei Silva beating seven bells out of each other, but there are some who would pay big money for the privilege.
Silva is just one opponent that has been linked with a Tyson fight, except this fight would likely go down in the bare-knuckle boing promotion, BKFC. This isn’t exactly something I would be comfortable watching.
But let’s be real — Tyson still holds an ambassadorial role to many in the sport. He has fans that were not even alive the last time he laced up gloves. And if he does decide to have one last fight, the sport could, in some way, benefit from that exposure.
That said, Tyson’s return has to be done tastefully. Forget about the baffling comments of WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman, who claimed to be prepared to rank Tyson for a potential fight against Tyson Fury, because that is just downright dangerous.
Instead, I’d like to see Tyson have the opportunity to do something for the love of the sport. A Mike Tyson vs. Tyson Fury exhibition fight for charity is more up my street. I’d happily get behind that, or Tyson vs. another opponent in a safe setting.
But the idea of a 54-year-old Tyson coming back to save boxing? Forget it — more than anything, that would be dangerous for both the health of Tyson and the sport of boxing.
The hype surrounding the former champion’s ring return has taught those willing to listen a lot of things. But the biggest takeaway is that boxing is in further danger of losing touch with reality — perhaps its lack of big-time stars might have something to do with that.
And That’s My Two Cents
I’m sure Mike Tyson won’t be losing any sleep over how I see things. I can just hope that he decides against a return to competitive boxing, and I’m not alone in feeling that way.
Regardless of how you feel about Mr. Tyson, he is a ring legend that still has the ability to entice the attention of fans. By setting up a charity boxing bout with the likes of Tyson Fury or Evander Holyfield, hopefully, some good can come from his “comeback.”
But more than this, let’s hope that boxing can get its act together. By addressing some of the major problems that stand in its way, the sport can reclaim many of the fans that grew disillusioned with it over the years.
If Tyson can help that cause, he’ll always have my support.
Adam is a sports writer and tipster with a strong background in MMA and boxing.
A self-confessed sports fanatic, when Adam is not watching and writing about rugby, soccer, Gaelic Games, and F1, he can often be found working on methods and strategies to beat the bookies.
For his troubles, Adam is a big fan of Leinster Rugby, Glasgow Celtic, and trusting the process.