In his latest column Russ Anber looks ahead to working in Roy Jones’ corner for this weekend’s much discussed showdown with Mike Tyson in Los Angeles …
I don’t think you can ever really get used to the lockdowns and the quarantine situations we’re having to deal with right now. It’s crazy times we’re living in, but it is what it is.
There’s a lot of restrictions in place for this fight due to the virus. For example, I’ll be one of just two people in Roy Jones Jr’s corner alongside trainer Tom Yankello, who many boxing fans will remember for his work with Paul Spadafora.
As for Roy himself, he’s in great spirits. At the hotel, he’s in the room next to me. We spoke last night when I arrived. He said hi and was in a very good mood. He had a steak dinner and said to me: ‘You know I’ve never had a steak the night before a weigh-in!’ That’s the advantage of fighting at heavyweight and not having to make weight!
This fight has caused a lot of discussion and controversy and some criticism as well. So here’s my take: those of us that work in boxing are always aware of the inherent dangers of the sport. And if this fight had been a case of either Roy or Mike coming back at this point and this age in their lives and fighting a young up and comer – some guy who’s 25 and in their prime and a wrecking machine – then I would have been the first one to say: ‘This isn’t right, this isn’t fair’.
Those sort of physical mismatches are problematic and needlessly dangerous because they aren’t fought on a level playing field.
But this is different. Mike and Roy are on a level playing field because they are of a similar age. To paraphrase the movie ‘Grudge Match’: this might not be Roy Jones and Mike Tyson at their best, but it’s the best they’ve got right now.
Who would have won if they’d fought back in 2003 after Roy beat John Ruiz for the WBA heavyweight title? We’ll never know of course, but Roy would have had a fantastic chance of winning. At that point, Roy had been destroying everyone at light-heavyweight and then he did the impossible against Ruiz. Granted, Ruiz may not go down in history as one of the greatest heavyweights of all time, but what Roy did in moving up and beating him despite giving away so much weight was remarkable.
So yes, this fight isn’t what we would have seen 17 years ago, but to repeat a phrase I used earlier: it is what it is! And you know what? In all sorts of sports, fans like to see legends in action. Whether it’s golf, or snooker or boxing. People love to see their childhood heroes, their idols, performing again. So I don’t see this fight as a problem or as controversial in the slightest.
There’s also this: as human beings who are other people to tell us what we can and can’t do when we are operating within the law of the land? I’m 59, I’m gonna be 60 next year and am I going to accept someone saying to me: ‘Hey, you’re old don’t do this or don’t do that!’ No, of course not! If I feel I can do something and I want to do something then I’m gonna do it.
I don’t think anyone has the right to make those decisions for you. I’ve seen some people saying: ‘This event is terrible it shouldn’t be happening’, but why not? They not being mismatched. They’re from the same age bracket. It’s a fight that we would have loved to see when they were in or near their prime and if you’re ready to accept that they’re not in their prime but they’re going to give it everything they’ve got … well, I don’t think you can ask for any more than that – in boxing or in any other walk of life.
And believe me, these guys are here to fight. The first thing I said to Roy when I saw him last night was: ‘You know this guy is gonna come at you as soon as that opening bell rings?’ He laughed, nodded and said: ‘I know!’
So we’re going into this knowing we’re going into a fight. It’s not going to be a sparring session. The athletic commission have talked about certain restrictions, but once these guys start firing punches I don’t think the referee is gonna start saying: ‘Hey guys, that punch is a little bit too hard, don’t do that’.
It’s in the nature of these two guys to be competitive. And they’re not going to be able to turn that off regardless of whatever supposed restrictions are in place
Russ Anber was talking to Luke G. Williams.