For all the hoopla and fear coming in, Saturday's pay-per-view exhibition match between boxing legends Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. turned out to be a largely positive affair from all.
The pair of former champions, with a combined age of 105, gave fight fans every bit of nostalgia they could have asked for over eight, two-minute rounds inside the Staples Center. Though the fight ended in an unofficial split draw on the WBC-appointed judges scorecards, the bigger and better result was that neither man was badly hurt in the bout.
Let's take a closer look at the biggest takeaways from an action-packed night of celebrity fun from Los Angeles.
1. This was a win for Tyson in just about every way
First of all, the decision of a split draw (fueled by ceremonial judge and former world champion Vinny Pazienza's absurd scorecard) was a joke even though the fight's official status as an exhibition meant the history books won't care about who won or lost. But for anyone watching all eight rounds of this fight, Tyson far exceeded expectations with his stamina. He had Jones in survival mode throughout by targeting the body early to slow down his quicker foe and consistently hurting him with power shots. While Tyson was the rightful betting favorite given his advantage in power, few expected him to be the fresher fighter throughout. Tyson hadn't boxed professionally since 2005 and Jones retired just two years ago. But even more than his performance, hearing the humility and joy in Tyson's voice during the post-fight interview proved to be an unexpectedly genuine moment. This was obviously cathartic for Tyson to return to the ring in such a positive manner and make a difference in doing so by donating his check (he made a guaranteed $1 million per CSAC) to charity. Let's not forget, the tail end of Tyson's pro career was filled with fouls, mayhem and an uninterested shell of a former champion quitting on his stool. Tyson talked up how great it felt to be a humanitarian, which is a far different label anyone than would've given him back in the day.
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2. The commission's fears proved to be unfounded
And this was a good thing, for the record. Look, there were many ways in which this fight could have played out poorly, both from an entertainment standpoint and also for the health of both former champions. That's why CSAC executive director Andy Foster was so forthright in trying to declare this "entertainment" fight would play out as nothing more than "hard sparring" with neither man going for the knockout. Luckily for all parties, the result played out somewhere in between sparring and a slugfest and the best part, of course, is that no one got hurt. As Bellator MMA found out last decade, promoting "old guy fights" can be a slippery slope for so many reasons. Although fans weren't treated to a trademark Tyson knockout on this night given Jones' ability to survive and tie up the bigger puncher throughout, CSAC's attempt at hand-holding seemed to go too far in the buildup. The one touch, however, that seemed to make the biggest difference was the decision to lower the rounds to just two minutes even though both fighters openly protested. Should Tyson and his promoters look to continue rolling the dice with more nostalgic fights that showcase whatever is left inside the tank of once great fighters, they should accept the kind of modified rules that help prevent a bad outcome. Just the same, CSAC or any other regulatory body should understand that there is only so much safety that can be provided when two men agree to trade punches.
3. The entire PPV delivered entertainment
Let's be honest about something: Even at the highest level in boxing, PPV cards are typically forgettable and non eventful (at best) until the start of the main event. Tyson-Jones might have been one of the worst promoted PPVs in boxing history. From marketing and public relations to the confusing divide between the commission's definition of the fight rules and those of the boxers and the promotion, this felt like one giant debacle. But the show itself, from start to finish, was surprisingly entertaining throughout. Despite a lack of household names on the undercard, the actual boxing was well matched and the fights full of action (which, again, is atypical to the usual dreck of one-sided showcase bouts). The empty Staples Center was also transformed into cool looking set not just for boxing, but a number of musical performances from big-name hip hop artists that, well … didn't suck. And even though the announce team had equal moments of highs and lows, it received a last-minute boost of cohesion when veteran blow-by-blow man Mauro Ranallo was added the day of. In addition, UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya showed a good deal of personality and expertise to his analysis. There were so many elements to this bizarre broadcast that should have failed yet somehow didn't. Speaking of the announce team …
4. Snoop Dogg was a surprising MVP
This point is not debatable. His concert performance inside the arena, where he echoed Wiz Khalifa's earlier move by openly smoking marijuana throughout, was a piece of nostalgic fun unto itself. But Snoop brought an incredible amount of levity to the broadcast booth over the final two fights that helped the PPV not take itself too seriously (which was smart considering the carnival nature to the matchmaking). Snoop was hilarious when comparing Tyson and Jones to his uncles fighting at a backyard barbecue and his singing after Nate Robinson was knocked out cold was the perfect mix of inappropriate fun. UFC has experimented in the past with using Snoop as a commentator on an alternate version of its broadcast and the "D-O-double-G" also lent his voice to the UFC video game. A stunt like this can only work in this type of setting where entertainment is almost paramount to what happens inside the fighting surface. But it worked.
5. The Paul brothers take boxing seriously
No, this isn't a misguided claim that if Jake Paul, who brutally knocked out former NBA guard Nate Robinson in the co-main event, or older brother Logan decided to pursue a legitimate run as title-chasing pro boxers that either one would excel there. This is, however, a tip of the cap to the YouTube stars and professional trolls as to how each one operates within the current celebrity boxing scene, which has become popular over the past two years. Jake Paul, who improved to 2-0 with a pair of violent finishes on Saturday, appears to be a decent athlete at 6-foot-1. But the thing that prevents the pro boxing bouts he and his brother draw an incredible amount of eyeballs to is how seriously both take the sport in terms of training and performing inside the ring. There have been many variations of celebrity boxing over the years and most of it has been sloppy and awful to watch. But Jake Paul respected the sport and was successful because of that in how he dispatched Robinson and then called out MMA fighters Conor McGregor and Dillon Danis in hopes of landing future fights. No, this doesn't make dealing with the Paul brothers' public personas any easier, but their fights aren't half bad to watch. And as far as the genre of celebrity boxing is concerned, that's rare.