Mike Tyson’s making a comeback. Maybe, but probably not like you think. Then again, who the hell really knows in this economy?
With boxing on hiatus like almost every other sport around the world, the legendary heavyweight had observers speculating like crazy that some kind of return to the ring was imminent after Iron Mike posted a video on social media of a training session that ended with him proclaiming “I’m back.”
Tyson looked spry and powerful hitting the gloves, showing off some of the incredible skills that once upon a time made him The Baddest Man on the Planet and the youngest heavyweight champion in boxing history. But let’s be real here—anyone in relatively decent shape can look great smashing leather in an empty gym and the odds of a 53-year-old Tyson, who hasn’t fought professionally in 15 years, actually lacing up the gloves for a legitimate fight appear to be slim to almost none. Tyson’s former trainer certainly isn’t buying all this comeback talk.
“It’s silly,” ESPN boxing analyst Teddy Atlas told WPIX in New York. “It’s a little too much.”
But the idea that Tyson, one of the most fascinating athletes of the 20th century who has remade himself in retirement into a successful podcaster, cannabis entrepreneur, and entertainer—he's reportedly making an appearance at the next AEW PPV—would even flirt with the idea of some sort of comeback raises a few questions. Namely, do we want to see him fight again? Do we need to see him fight again? Is this even a legit attempt to return to boxing? What's motivating Tyson to get back in the gym?
Iron Mike will have to provide the answers to that, but for every rumored return—celebrated or quizzical—there are pros and cons. Here are the good and bad sides of a potential Mike Tyson comeback.
If You Never Saw Tyson Fight, This Can Be Your Chance
The wonders of YouTube allow you pull-up just about any major fight you want over the last 50 years and run it back. If you’ve never actually seen Tyson from his heyday—the mid-to-late 80s. Do yourself a favor and queue up a few. They won’t be long watches since his fights rarely went more than a few rounds when he ruled the heavyweight division.
Iron Mike scared the shit out of other fighters and captivated general sports fans like few athletes ever have before or after because he possessed viciously raw and electrifying power that’s comparable to current KO king Deontay Wilder. When it comes to heavyweights, or just about any boxer across all divisions, power is usually the last thing to go and there’s little doubt Tyson couldn’t clock an opponent and cause damage these days.
He Could Re-Write History
Tyson’s final few years in boxing were forgettable for a lot of reasons. Three of his final four fights were losses and he was never really the same after losing to Evander Holyfield in their first match in 1996. Well, more accurately, he was never really the same after Buster Douglas knocked him out in 1990. But we all know Tyson acted bonkers in his rematch with Holyfield in 1997, a fight that almost destroyed boxing.
Rumors have swirled that Tyson and Holyfield, 57, could step in the ring and finish off their trilogy. And nostalgia is always a strong play no matter the genre. Holyfield even talked it up in a recent interview with TMZ. The former rivals are now friends and because of that, it sounds like Tyson isn’t Holyfield’s first choice if the Real Deal is also making a comeback of sorts. Holyfield, who just re-entered the gym to begin training again, said he’d like to fight former heavyweight champ Riddick Bowe, 52, if had he a choice.
But friendship’s never stopped a pair of pugilists from squaring off in the past and if the money’s right and public support for Tyson-Holyfield III is large enough, know that oddsmakers have opened Iron Mike as a roughly -300 favorite in the hypothetical match. Could Tyson exact some revenge on Holyfield and finally earn a win over the fighter he’s probably most frequently compared to?
In the End, It’s Just Entertainment and Likely For Charity
What the hell? Nothing else is going on so if Tyson wants to fight somebody, it’s sports programming, right? While I thought it was embarrassing for the sport, the fight last year between social media personalities Logan Paul and KSI garnered the attention of many non-boxing fans. Professional boxing might return shortly to the States—reportedly WBO featherweight champ Shakur Stevenson could fight in Las Vegas June 9, headlining a Top Rank card—but that hasn't been officially announced.
Also, it’s been speculated that Tyson and Holyfield would together, or separately, return to the ring for charity. In Tyson's case, he told the rapper TI via IG Live that wants to raise money for substance abuse organizations and homeless charities. In Holyfield’s case, he wants to raise funds for #Unite4OurFight which is a campaign looking to help underprivileged students during the pandemic.
Whether or not you want to see Tyson return to the ring—or Holyfield or both—it's hard to knock a guy for trying to do some good while the world’s on fire, right?
He’s So Old
We’ve all seen the social media videos over the last few months of Tyson displaying his hand speed at his house and punching power in the gym. But just because he looked great working the mitts, a craft he perfected over 30 years ago, doesn’t mean it’s going to translate at Tyson’s advanced age when it’s the real thing.
The muscles don’t fire like they used to. The body doesn't bounce back from the punishment training requires. It surely doesn't absorb the blows like it once could. Boxing is about timing and it can take years for a fighter to work off the rust after prolonged inactivity—and we're not even talking about a year or two or five away from serious training with Tyson. Sure, you could see some flashes of the great Tyson, but they’ll be extremely fleeting. Especially if he had the audacity to face someone with a legit boxing pedigree significantly younger than him.
“If the great Hank Aaron, at 80-something years old, got video in a batting cage hitting some good line drives—and I’m sure he could still do it because that man was great—would people be clamoring to have him comeback and hit against [Justin] Verlander in the MLB?” Atlas asked.
Of course not. And what does Mike have to prove? For Tyson’s sake, for Holyfield’s sake, we don’t need to see them take more punishment at their advanced ages. Both are businessmen now—Holyfield’s running his own boxing promotion these days—and a body and brain in its 50s, that already has a ridiculous amount of wear and tear on it, is may more susceptible to serious, unnecessary injury. Do you want to see them in the ring wearing headgear? They’re so old it should probably be required.
Finally, the last boxer of notoriety to fight professionally in his late 40s before retiring at age 50 was the great Bernard Hopkins a handful of years ago. Props to the Executioner for pushing himself to the limits and taking on the incredible risks, but boxing enthusiasts would like to forget those fights if they haven't already.
It Would Be an Exhibition Match
Hypothetically, a Tyson comeback fight would almost assuredly be an exhibition match and not a professional bout because what athletic commission would sanction Iron Mike to fight a current professional in either boxing or MMA? It almost assuredly would't happen. And despite his reputation, Tyson isn’t crazy enough to fight someone with boxing skills 20 years his junior.
So Tyson, if he’s going to step into the ring and it’s not against Holyfield, Iron Mike would have to find a retired fighter or another fool willing to go toe-to-toe with him, even though that individual wouldn’t come anywhere close to leveling-up skills-wise with the legend. You really want to see that kind of a mismatch?
Remember the last boxer of note that giddily participated in an exhibition boxing match? Kudos to Floyd Mayweather for bagging a massive payday (reportedly $9 million) for less than three minutes of work when he pummeled the smaller and out-matched kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa in their New Year’s Even 2018 exhibition bout. Mayweather toyed with Nasukawa in a farce of a fight before Nasukawa’s corner threw in the towel near the end of the first round.
We don’t need to see Tyson square up against a rugby player, as was rumored recently. Or a wrestler. Or anybody that’s never fought professionally as a boxer. Because it wouldn’t be a fair fight and mismatches in boxing are as boring as they are dangerous.