IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston looks ahead to Mike Tyson’s high profile exhibition bout with Roy Jones at the weekend, after bookmakers withdrew all odds from the clash.
We have what could be called a curiosity attraction in Los Angeles on Saturday, an eight (two-minute) rounds exhibition bout on pay-per-view featuring ageing greats Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. The WBC will be presenting a special “Frontline Battle” belt to each contestant.
When the sportsbooks posted betting odds, the event piqued one’s interest.
Now, however — at least as of today — the betting lines have been taken down.
My guess is that the books feared some sort of fiasco when it came to grading the event.
The California commission has made it plain that it doesn’t want anyone to get hurt here. The boxers have been asked not to go for a knockout. The referee has been instructed to stop the exhibition if either man suffers a cut.
There will be no official decision although former boxers Christy Martin, Vinny Paz and Chad Dawson will be scoring the event remotely (that is, via a TV monitor) with scores posted after each round.
My assumption, when betting lines were offered, was that the books would pay out on the Christy, Chad and Vinny scorecards (rather like the days of “newspaper decisions”) and that a knockout would speak for itself.
But, with no official decision rendered, there are so many potential grey areas here when it comes to the books grading a result.
What if Tyson gets frustrated and, I don’t know, drops Roy with a punch after the bell? Would that be a voided wager? If so, Jones bettors would no doubt scream that they should have won their bet on a disqualification.
And, another scenario. Say one man wins three of the first four rounds on the ex-pros’ scorecards but gets a minor-looking cut in the fifth and the exhibition is waved over? Would the boxer in front on the unofficial cards be ruled a winner? Or would that bet be voided?
So many questions, so much confusion.
And what of the exhibition itself?
Tyson is 54 years old. The former heavyweight champion was last seen in a boxing ring 15 years ago, when he embarrassed himself against the lumbering Kevin McBride. Aussie great Jeff Fenech was in Tyson’s corner that night. Fenech threw in the towel after six rounds with Tyson looking exhausted.
Jones is 51. His last fight was in February 2018, when he won a unanimous decision over the plucky but ordinary Scott Sigmon in a cruiserweight bout, when Jones weighed 199 pounds. This is six pounds more than Jones weighed when he won the heavyweight title by outpointing John Ruiz.
Considering his age, Jones didn’t look too bad physically against Sigmon. He showed flashes of his old ability and he had no problem going 10 rounds.
Jones has stayed involved in boxing. He has been training fighters and doing some promoting. Tyson has been doing his thing away from boxing: some acting, a one-man stage show and involvement in a marijuana ranch. (Interestingly, VADA drug testing for Saturday’s exhibition apparently will not include testing for marijuana.)
Tyson has looked good in the gym, hitting the pads and so on, but we don’t know how he will perform when punches are coming back at him.
The scoring could be all over the place: ex-boxers/active boxers don’t always see a round or a fight the way an experienced judge would see it.
And it wouldn’t shock me to see some sort of weird ending, with one of the boxers suffering a pulled muscle or a biceps tear or something similar, simply because an older athlete is more prone to injury than a younger one.
Even when it was always clear that betting on this event would be a crapshoot, there was some wagering activity. I actually liked Jones’ chances at odds of 8/5 (+160) simply because he was an active boxer as recently as 2018 whereas Tyson hasn’t been in a boxing match for 15 years.
Now, though, at least as of today, there is no longer a betting option.
As I understand it, wagers already placed are still active. I’m thinking that the best thing for everyone concerned would be for all wagers to be declared “no action”.
And the exhibition as a PPV event? Without a betting handle, and with the contestants told not to try to hurt each other, I’m afraid it slips into the realm of irrelevancy for many of us.
But it will no doubt take its place in boxing history, if only in the “oddities” section, as the night when two ring immortals faced each in a public sparring session on pay-per-view television.