Russ Anber gives the view from the Roy Jones corner on ‘Superman’’s showdown with “Iron” Mike Tyson, including the full story behind Jones’ gloves which paid tribute to basketball legend Kobe Bryant…
I tell you what – it was a surreal yet exciting feeling on Saturday night at the Staples Center to be in the corner as two of the greatest names from the history of boxing in Roy Jones and Mike Tyson faced off in the ring.
It really was an amazing thrill being a part of it all and working in Roy’s corner was very special indeed. Sure some people are criticising the event and not giving Mike and Roy any credit. They’re saying: “these guys aren’t in their prime!”
And that’s right, they’re not! But we should appreciate them for what they did when they were in their prime and for the fact they were willing to come out here and work so hard in there. Like I have told you before, who is anyone to tell people like Roy and Mike they can’t do, what they want to do? After everything they have done and accomplished in their careers, they have earned that absolute right.
It was a physically rough fight. Especially for Roy because he was having to try and tie up Tyson when they were on the inside and that’s no easy feat! Roy expended lot of energy trying to tie Tyson up and not allow him to bomb away when they were in the inside. Tyson is so very strong in his upper body and his legs are so big and thick.
He’s a powerful guy. I mean he weighed in at 220lbs – that’s close to what his best fighting weight was! Meanwhile, Roy was 210lbs, which is way over his usual fighting weight. So that’s not Roy’s best weight.
It was really exciting to be a part of this event. Based on the number of messages I’ve received and the number of tweets that have come my way it’s seems like everybody was watching this fight! Whether you liked it or didn’t like it, you were watching it!
Roy enjoyed the whole experience too I think. It was a small ring though and I think that really changed his strategy. There was no room for him to move, literally. It was a 16-foot ring. It was tiny. Two steps from the centre and you were in the corner! We had to completely change the fight plan when we saw how small the ring was. I’m still bothered by the fact that this was not stipulated in the contract.
If it had been a bigger ring Roy would have been able to stay out of the way and not engage in the infighting and wrestling that went on as he tried to neutralise Tyson. But I thought Roy did great against a huge, powerful guy like Mike. I was a little worried at the end of the first round because he came back to the corner and he was huffing and puffing. He was breathing hard. I thought to myself: ‘oh boy, we’ve still got seven more rounds to go.’
But Roy hung in there. And that’s because he has the heart of a champion, man. The heart of a champion!
It was also a great honour that through this fight we were able to honour another great sportsman in the late Kobe Bryant through the gloves, gown and shorts that Roy wore that were made by my company Rival Boxing.
It meant a lot to Roy that he was able to pay homage to one of his all-time favorite basketball players. That we could do this for Roy was amazing for us at Rival. For Roy to recognise a legend like Kobe and for us to help him do that was an honour.
We had the idea to produce some gloves in Kobe’s memory just after he passed, with the purple and yellow coloring reflecting the Lakers’ colors, of course. We came up with the design and wanted to use them for a fight in LA or for a specific fighter who loves Kobe or had a connection to him or LA. But we couldn’t find the right fighter, the right person and the right moment.
So when Roy reached out to us and said he needed gloves for the Tyson fight we proposed the idea to him and he loved it. He had seen the design that we’d made initially, gave the go-ahead and then we made everything for him – the whole uniform, including the shorts with the black mamba snakeskin in homage to Kobe’s nickname.
It was a perfect moment – a legend like Roy Jones paying tribute to the legend that was Kobe Bryant at the Staples Center – Kobe’s house.
There have never been a pair of gloves like this ever made before, by anyone. I am so honoured that Roy used my gloves again in this massive event, and you know what? Mike Tyson loved the gloves too! He wanted to wear the second pair that we brought along but unfortunately they were too small for him. But Mike loved the gloves and he also told me how much he liked our sparring gloves which he wore throughout his training as you could see in numerous social media posts. When Mike found out I was “Rival” he invited me back to his dressing room, where we exchanged numbers!
Russ Anber was talking to Luke G. Williams.