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Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. vow violence despite fight being billed as exhibition

Mike Tyson, left, and Roy Jones Jr. have a staredown while separated by plexiglass after their weigh-in on Friday.
(Manouk Akopyan / For The Times)

Mike Tyson says he’s ready to disable Roy Jones Jr. when the former boxing champions meet Saturday night. Jones says he’s ready to die in the ring.

California State Athletic Commission executive director Andy Foster, however, says this is not a real fight, its judges won’t score the scrap or announce a winner, knockdowns are not welcome and the exhibition will be stopped if it comes anything close to Hagler vs. Hearns.

Something has to give when Tyson and Jones mix it up for eight rounds at Staples Center in a pay-per-view event.

The 54-year-old Tyson and the 51-year-old Jones will bring a combined 116 professional wins and 105 years into the ring.

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Mike Tyson, 54, rediscovered his passion for boxing during quarantine. He’s returning to the ring Saturday for an exhibition against Roy Jones Jr.

The proceedings will unfold over eight two-minute rounds, with 12-ounce gloves and without headgear, and longtime referee Ray Corona will be policing the action. There even has been anti-doping testing for the match.

The event’s producer, Ryan Kavanaugh, is a longtime Hollywood executive whose investment company Proxima Media is the majority owner of TikTok rival Triller. The social media platform reportedly paid $50 million to broadcast the fight. Kavanaugh is not a boxing promoter, but he might as well be Don King waxing promotional poetic and hinting that the late ‘80s version of Tyson will be making a comeback.

“This is a real fight in every way. The word exhibition does not actually have a definition in boxing except that it’s not going on a professional record,” Kavanaugh said. “The gloves are slightly a little bit more padded, but it’s like putting a roll of Kleenex in front of a moving truck.

“When [the CSAC] says ‘the fight is for fun’ … Tyson and Jones have made it clear it’s not for fun. The referee is there to make sure no one gets killed, Tyson doesn’t bite [Jones’] ear off or break his arm.”

Foster wants to make sure the marketing is dialed down a notch.

“I talked to Tyson and Jones at the same time and I trust that they are going to give me their word,” said Foster, a former fighter who wants to guarantee safety for the quinquagenarians. “Let’s be clear: I think they are going to hit each other some. I expect it to be a good, hard, boxing exhibition, but not like some kind of [real fight].”

Tyson is set to earn $10 million and Jones will haul in about $3 million. They are maintaining that their fight will be just as engaging as if they met at the turn of the century when they were on a collision course and four-division champion Jones was a heavyweight king as well.

“You got Mike Tyson and Roy Jones,” Tyson said. “I’m coming to fight, and I hope he’s coming to fight. That’s all you need to know.”

Jones (66-9, 47 knockouts) backed up Tyson (50-6, 44 KOs) after watching the former heavyweight champion unleash explosive workout videos all year.

“Who goes into the ring with the great, legendary Mike Tyson and thinks, ‘Oh, this is going to be an exhibition?’” Jones said. “12-ounce gloves? No headgear? Really? This is an exhibition? Come on, man. Be for real.’”

Tyson weighed 220.4 pounds and Jones stepped on the scale at 210 Friday at the downtown JW Marriott.

Former L.A. Times boxing writer Bill Dwyre says the sport is intoxicating, fascinating, mind-boggling — not in the ring, but everything outside it.

The pay-per-view will launch Triller’s live events business and Tyson’s latest venture in the sports startup Legends Only League. Twenty-one cameras and a 300-person crew will document the event. A 16-episode docuseries preceded it.

Former boxers Christy Martin, Vinny Pazienza and Chad Dawson will score the bout remotely, and a “Frontline Battle Belt” will be awarded.


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