Tyson, a former heavyweight champion and once the most fearsome fighter in the world, moved forward and threw heavy punches, moving his head from side to side to dodge incoming fire.
Jones, a past champion in four different divisions, was faster, and looked to rattle Tyson with salvos and well-timed left hooks.
Soon, both men were breathing heavily, which is understandable between two combatants in their 50s. The biggest shock might have been that two men that old could fistfight for 16 minutes without a serious injury stopping the action. No broken bones, no torn tendons, no trick knees locking up.
Not even a bruised ego, thanks to the bout’s judges.
The World Boxing Council enlisted three retired fighters to score the fight, and they ruled it a draw.
In a post-fight interview with Jim Gray, a still out-of-breath Jones stood with his arms folded across his midsection, and talked about the force of Tyson’s body shots.
Tyson, still glistening in sweat, sounded reborn as a fighter, and gleefully speculated about his future as an exhibition headliner.
“We gotta do this again,” he said to Jones, who never responded to the prospect directly.
For about 30 seconds there, it looked like both boxers were going to go all out in the final round, but then reality set in. “Not a battle of the ages, but a battle of the aged,” the announcer quipped.
Tyson looks like he could go a couple more rounds, while Jones looked done a couple of rounds ago. Tyson got some shots in, while Jones got maybe one.
Tyson won the round, and should have won the fight.
The three celebrity fighting judges scored the fight a draw.
Why a draw, and not a split decision? Were the judges actual scoring the fight for real, or just having some fun? Was it decided even before the fight that it would be a draw?
Who knows, and who cares? Mike Tyson fought Roy Jones Jr. in 2020, everybody had fun and nobody got seriously hurt. A draw seems appropriate.
Jones opened this round with a salvo, bouncing lefts and rights off Tyson’s dome.
The offense didn’t deter Tyson, who pressed forward with big lefts and rights.
So Jones opened up again, pelting Tyson with another flurry of punches.
The first round Jones won definitively.
But seven rounds in we haven’t had a serious injury, so they’re both winners in that sense.
Since this is technically an exhibition there isn’t supposed to be a knockout, but Tyson threw a couple of punches midway through the round that had lights out intent. They just missed Jones.
Besides that, a lot of clenching. Jones landed one clean shot near the end of the round.
Tyson looks fresher. He landed a right hand to the body early, and several left hooks upstairs as the round progressed.
Jones is still clinching, still looking to force Tyson to carry his weight, but Jones is fading fast.
Between rounds he slumped in his corner, grimacing and breathing heavily while his cornermen doused him with water.
More of the same: Any time Tyson got close, Jones wrapped him up as quickly as possible, even being warned by the referee at one point.
Jones showed a bit of an attacking strategy, trying to catch Tyson surprised with unconventional footwork and a quick jab or two, but it didn’t particularly work.
When he wasn’t being grabbed, Tyson landed a couple of right-handed hammers to the body.
Jones is deep into his game plan for this fight: lean on Tyson, walk him back if possible, and make him tired. A solid strategy if you’re fighting a 54-year-old, but not quite as foolproof if you’re 51, as Jones is.
Tyson threw the heavier blows. Jones threw the faster punches. Neither fighter landed many clean shots.
Lots of heavy breathing though.
Tyson opened the second round by immediately exploding into Jones, with Jones quickly grabbing him to slow things down, much like the first round.
Tyson landed the biggest shot of the night so far 30 seconds into the round, a strong left to Jones’s face.
There was a bit of extracurricular activity after the bell, and for a second it looked like there was some animosity. But then the fighters remembered it was an exhibition and hugged each other.
Roy Jones trainer: Make turns quicker
Tyson started fast, bobbing, weaving, jabbing, hooking, and missing.
Jones started quickly, too — moving feinting, jabbing, and missing.
Eventually the two faded fighters fell into a clinch, one of several that defined the first round.
Roy Jones Jr.
Nate Robinson got absolutely dominated by Jake Paul, getting knocked down three times en route to his knockout loss. Robinson’s former teammates and opponents in the N.B.A. all seemed to tune in.
Nick Young was disappointed:
That was no representation of the NBA Family lol
— Nick Young (@NickSwagyPYoung) November 29, 2020
Stephen Curry was concerned …
… while Andre Iguodala replied to him with a “Friday” reference.
Bradley Beal got dragged into a meme:
And Markieff Morris had the wisest tweet of the night:
Boxing ain’t that sport to play with!!
— Keef Morris (@Keefmorris) November 29, 2020
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night? The production value of the stream is actually pretty good.
Even with a $49.99 pay-per-view price, an event on Fite TV sponsored by Triller and Weedmaps doesn’t necessarily scream professional. The quality of a phone pointed at a television screen would not have been too unexpected.
But these fights actually look great. There is a lighting grid right above the ring — which probably wouldn’t work outside of the pandemic because it would block the view of fans — that is shining directly onto the fighters. All other lights are off, giving the fights a cinematic feel, like a better version of how the Barclays Center is lit for Brooklyn Nets games.
The camera work is also quite different from normal. The main camera seems to be both lower and closer than usual, and it is never still, slowly panning as if it is being shot by a drone. There are no camera operators on the posts, but additional cameras are on jibs for close-up and alternate angles.
Most professional sporting events this summer and fall suffered from being played in cavernous venues that often felt lifeless without fans. But this feels like something completely different, a production wholly conceived of during the pandemic that takes advantage of no fans rather than suffers for it.
Boxing purists might not like it. The moving camera may cause queasiness. The look wouldn’t be out of place in a boxing video game. But at least it is different and interesting.
The former Knicks basketball player Nate Robinson entered the fight with a stark speed advantage over the YouTube star Jake Paul, and Robinson showed it off repeatedly, sprinting across the ring throwing wild punches before falling into a clinch. When the referee would separate the two novice fighters — combined pro boxing experience: one bout — Robinson would back off and then run in again.
Paul isn’t a craftsman, but he has spent the last year training with boxers, including Floyd Mayweather protégé J’Leon Love. So even if he’ll never contend for a title, or even beat a full-time boxer, he’s boxed enough to recognize a pattern.
So late in Round 1, when Robinson rushed straight in, Paul clipped him with a right hand to the back of the head for the fight’s first knockdown.
In the second, Robinson still hadn’t varied his tactics, so Paul had no reason to do anything besides try to time him with a big right hand.
And it happened.
The first one dropped Robinson, but the 37-year-old beat the referee’s count.
The second one deposited Robinson flat on his face, midway through the second round, ending the fight, and sparing us four more rounds of rushing, clinching and mauling.
The California State Athletic Commission, which regulates all fights in the state, has been down this road before. Last year, about this time, the agency sanctioned a fight between Logan Paul and KSI, two YouTube stars who had fought once before, in London. Calling them amateur fighters is both accurate and insulting to real amateur fighters who train and fight for years.
But deciding whether or not to permit a bout between two YouTubers wasn’t particularly difficult. As Andy Foster, the executive officer of the commission, explained it, the basic goal is to make sure all fights are safe, allowing for the fact that the two fighters are trying to pummel each other in the face. Two physically matched, mostly unskilled YouTube stars is a safe, even match, even if it doesn’t sound particularly compelling.
By that token, Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr., both in their 50s and former professional fighters who know exactly what they are doing are, well, professionals.
Record-wise, the fight will not count; it is considered an exhibition. But every other fight will, including the one between Nate Robinson, the former N.B.A. player, and Jake Paul, the YouTube star and brother of the aforementioned Logan Paul.
Late in Round 1, 33-year-old prospect Blake McKernan landed a right hand to Badou Jack’s head, the kind of clean punch that wins the Sacramento, Calif., native respect and room to operate when he’s fighting the kind of guys that fill out his 13-0 record.
But Jack isn’t a journeyman like Alfredo Contreras or Miguel Cubos. He’s a former world champ at 168 and 175 pounds, and he absorbed the shot without blinking, which made sense. That punch was McKernan’s only connection in the opening round. Jack landed 16 times.
The remaining seven rounds were only marginally more competitive.
Jack stalked McKernan and landed every variety of punch — jabs, right hands, lefts and rights to the body. McKernan retreated and chose his spots to counterattack, but Jack overwhelmed him.
Every judge scored every round for Jack, who improved to 23-3-3, and now hopes for another title fight against Jean Pascal, who defeated him last December. McKernan left the bout with his first loss and a hematoma above his right eye.
Midway through his victory over rugged lightweight Sulaiman Segawa, 24-year-old Jamaine Ortiz boasted roughly 5,700 Instagram followers.
By the time Ortiz finished off Segawa to seal a seventh-round technical knockout victory, that figure had jumped by more than 1,000. And by the time rappers French Montana and Swae Lee launched into their post-fight medley, Ortiz’ Instagram following had cracked five figures.
By that metric, Ortiz, a smooth switch-hitter who improved his record to 14-0, recorded one of the biggest wins of the evening, captivating casual fans and drive-by viewers with his performance and converting them into fans of his own.
Anybody wondering whether this card would feature real fights should thank the matchmakers, because Ortiz-Segawa was as competitive and fast-paced and violent and skilled as the featherweight bout preceding it.
Segawa, a southpaw slugger who fights out of Silver Spring, Md., actually outlanded Ortiz 129-121, but Ortiz connected on the bout’s definitive blow — a left hook to the rib cage that dropped Segawa to a knee. He beat the count, but Ortiz unloaded a series of shots, prompting referee Ray Corona to stop the fight.