Frontline Battle: Mike Tyson vs. Roy Jones Jr

Two legends of the ring will square off next weekend when boxing immortal Roy Jones Jr will face heavyweight great Iron Mike Tyson in an eight-round exhibition bout from the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The fight headlines the first-ever event produced by the Legends Only League and will be for the WBC Frontline Battle Belt, a belt created specifically for this matchup.

The rest of the card rounds out with a mixture of freakshow fights, most notably, the main card bout between YouTube sensation Jake Paul and former NBA player Nate Robinson, and fights between legitimate boxers, with former Olympian Badou Jack matched up with the undefeated Blake McKernan. It is way too early to tell how high of quality the boxing will be on November 28th, but one thing is for sure, this will be a spectacle!

How Did We Get Here?

When you look at the main event of this card between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr, this is a bit of a perplexing matchup. This was never a fight the fans were clamoring for during these guy’s primes, and they have never fought each other, so unlike so many of these legend type matchups we have seen over the years in boxing, this isn’t a rematch to settle some unfinished dispute.

Both of these guys have been retired for a while, as Tyson’s last pro fight came in a 2005 loss to Kevin McBride, and Jones hasn’t stepped into the ring for a pro fight since defeating Scott Sigmon in February of 2018.

Tyson attempted to stage somewhat of a comeback by taking some exhibition fights several years ago to help get himself out of crippling debt, but he was fat, slow, and out of shape, and the fans didn’t seem overly interested, so those efforts were short-lived. Tyson teased a comeback earlier this year by proclaiming that he was back on social media and showed some footage of his training, that admittedly looked pretty good.

The problem for Iron Mike, was that he didn’t have an opponent. Tyson got offers from all over the place, with everybody looking to leverage Tyson’s fame to secure a nice payday. Former rugby player turned boxer Sonny Bill Williams tried to get into the ring with Tyson, as well as former rival Evander The Real Deal Holyfield, who used social media to try and drum up interest in a trilogy fight.

The biggest offer came from the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship when they reportedly offered Tyson $20 million to fight with bare fists in their rapidly expanding organization. None of these seemed to be enough to bring Tyson out of retirement though, and despite him seemingly ready to spar, he was left without a viable opponent. Cue Roy Jones Jr.

Unlike Tyson, Jones Jr didn’t seem all that motivated to step back in between the ropes, as he was happily retired. The only fight that Jones was rumored to be interested in was a matchup with former UFC great Anderson Silva. Jones and Silva had similarly elusive fighting styles and toyed with the idea of fighting each other for a long time, but nothing ever came of it. That was really all that we heard from Jones since he hung up his gloves for good in 2018.

Jones was being used mostly as leverage in the negotiations between Holyfield and Tyson, and when those negotiations fell apart, we were left with a bout that I am not sure anybody asked for, but now that we have it, sure seems like a lot of fun. This might not be the fight we wanted, but it just might be the fight we needed.

Mike Tyson

For the casual boxing fan, there has never been a bigger star than Mike Tyson. Tyson emerged on the scene as a teenager and became the youngest heavyweight world champion ever. He was explosive, violent, and controversial. Tyson ruled the boxing world for a decade between 1985-96 that saw him turn into the baddest man on the planet by racking up several world titles and a 45-1 record.

Things quickly took a turn for the worse for Tyson after losing his belt to Evander Holyfield in November of 1996, in one of the highest-grossing fights of all-time. The two quickly rematched less than a year later, and Tyson’s downward spiral was thrown into overdrive when he bit off Holyfield’s ear and was disqualified from the fight. Iron Mike was able to climb up the mountain one last time and got a title shot against Lennox Lewis in 2002, and was promptly knocked out, effectively ending his career as a true title contender.

Tyson has remained a pop culture icon in the years since his boxing career ended, and while he has always toyed with the idea of getting back into the ring, it has never materialized until now. At 54 years old, this won’t be a true comeback, and nobody expects Tyson to make another run at the belt like George Forman did in the twilight of his career. But Tyson looks motivated and is in shape, and the public seems interested to see what the former baddest man on the planet has left in his gas tank.

Roy Jones Jr

During his prime, there were few boxers more electrifying than Roy Jones Jr. He had devastating power with both hands, and his head movement made it nearly impossible for his opponents to connect with meaningful power shots. In terms of raw talent, Jones might be the most physically gifted fighter that I have personally ever seen fight. Jones used his talents to get to the top of the boxing world, winning world titles in four different weight classes.

Jones won the first 34 fights of his career, with his first-ever professional loss coming when he was in the process of knocking out Montell Griffin, and Griffin took a knee, only to see Jones land multiple shots to the already downed Griffin, leading to him being disqualified. Jones avenged the loss by knocking Griffin out just a couple of months later in the first round and then went on to win his next 14 fights to further solidify himself as one of the greatest boxers to ever live.

Jones hit a rough patch where he lost 7 out of 12 fights, with all those losses coming to fellow world champions like Antonio Tarver, Glenn Johnson, Bernard Hopkins, Danny Green, and Joe Calzaghe. That stretch of struggles ended Jones’s run as one of the best in the world, and while he did finish out his career by winning 12 out of his last 13 fights, including retiring while on a 4 fight winning streak, he would never again challenge for a major belt.

The Fight

This won’t be a typical professional boxing bout. This is technically going to be an exhibition match, and while exhibition matches generally force the fighters to wear headgear in the state of California, the California State Athletic Commission has made an exception and will allow them to compete without the required headgear.

The bout will only last 8 rounds instead of the standard 12 rounds, with each round lasting only 2 minutes. Both fighters will be wearing 12-ounce gloves, and the match has been described as a hard-sparring match by CSAC director Andy Foster. With these fighters both being over the age of 50, and neither of them having fought in quite some time, you can expect a slower-paced fight, with more hugging than haymakers.

Betting Odds

When this fight was first announced, the books opened up with Jones as the betting favorite. While Jones spent much of his career fighting at a lower weight class than Tyson and will undoubtedly be the smaller man in the ring on Saturday night, he is 3 years younger and has fought much more recently. Jones had most of his success at light heavyweight, but he did capture the heavyweight strap in his career, so he has shown an ability to beat bigger men in the past. So, in my head, that betting line seemed to make a lot of sense.

Opening Betting Line Tyson vs Jones Jr

  • Matchup Odds
  • Mike Tyson -105
  • Roy Jones Jr -135

But what has happened since this fight was announced to the public, most certainly doesn’t make any sense. Nearly all of the betting action has come in on Tyson, and the books have had no choice but to adjust the betting line several times. As it stands today, Tyson is now a prohibitive betting favorite over Jones Jr. What was once a line that made sense and was based on sound logic, is now a betting line that, in my opinion, is a direct reflection of Mike Tyson nostalgia.

For those of you that don’t fully understand how betting lines are made and adjusted, I will quickly get you up to speed, as I don’t want you looking at this betting line and thinking that the books see Tyson as a big favorite.

What’s In A Line?

When a sportsbook posts an opening number, they use all of the data available to them to make the most informed decision possible on the outcome of the contest. By and large, these opening lines are very sharp. Sportsbooks have been around a long time, and if their opening lines were square, they would lose money. However, after that initial line, every time a book adjusts a number up or down, it is a reflection of the betting action, not a change in opinion on how these see the contest playing out. Books make their money by charging juice on both sides of a wager. The books are looking to stay evenly booked on both sides, so they don’t have too much exposure on any single outcome. So, just remember, when a betting line moves, it is the public moving the number, not the sportsbook!

The public seems to remember the Mike Tyson that was a killer in the late eighties and early nineties, not the Tyson that was overweight, slow, and sloppy in his last boxing exhibition against Corey Sanders in 2013. I am not going to lie, I grew up a huge Mike Tyson fan, and his Instagram footage of him looking in shape got me awfully excited, but at the end of the day, I make my bets with my brain, not my heart.

Current Betting Line Tyson vs Jones Jr

  • Matchup Odds
  • Mike Tyson -200
  • Roy Jones Jr +160

The Bet

I am siding with the sportsbooks in this one. Both of these guys are a shell of their former selves at this point. This isn’t a blockbuster mega-fight; this is a sparring session between two old men. I think the action will be slower than we all hope it will be, and both guys have even been instructed to try and not knock each other out!

I don’t want to go back and tarnish Mike Tyson’s legacy here, but he was a guy that would headhunt and look for knockouts in all of his fights. Tyson was never overly technical. He had otherworldly power and used it to put guys to sleep. With him not swinging for the fences in this one, I am not sure how he wins. Of Tyson’s 50 professional wins, 44 of them came by way of knockout. Tyson was never a guy that would try and outpoint his opposition, and at 53 years old, I am not sure he is going to be able to do that now.

Have you ever heard the term you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Tyson is the definition of an old dog at this point in his career, and he isn’t suddenly going to turn into a technically sound point fighter.

While Tyson was a headhunter his entire career, Roy Jones Jr was one of the most technically sound fighters to ever step into the ring. Jones Jr always displayed excellent footwork, and while he also had devastating one-punch knockout power, Jones generally would batter his opponents into submission before finishing them off. Jones Jr had 19 decision victories in his pro career out of his 66 career wins. I think he picks up one more decision victory on Saturday night in LA.

My heart wants this to be an all-out war, with heavy hands and lots of action. But my brain tells me that these two guys are way past their primes and that this will be more of a friendly sparring match, where Tyson will have one hand tied behind his back without being able to use his most effective weapon, his power.

As I mentioned above, I always bet with my brain, not my heart, so I am going to side with the logic in this one and Back Roy Jones Jr to pick up an underwhelming decision win. And thanks to the Tyson nostalgia-crazed betting public, I get to pick up some nice dog money while I do it. Give me Roy Jones Jr +160 in what just might be a snoozefest!

The Bet
Roy Jones Jr
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Jason Gray / Author

Jason is a true Las Vegas insider as he has called the sports betting capital of the world his home for sixteen years. Jason started out his career in gaming by running the biggest poker tournaments in the world and managing some of the biggest sportsbooks on the strip. Jason has transitioned out of casino operations and has been covering sports betting for the sports geek for just over two years. His main focus is on baseball, college basketball, and the NFL

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