With footage of a 53-year-old Mike Tyson punishing the pads and hinting at a return to the ring catching fire on the internet, former WBO cruiserweight champion Johnny Nelson has cautioned against any comeback by the two-time heavyweight king.
Nelson, who also campaigned at heavyweight before winning his cruiserweight crown and defending it a record 14 times, poured commonsense onto the Tyson comeback debate by recalling how ‘Iron Mike’ looked in his last pro fight against the game but pedestrian Kevin McBride in 2005.
Tyson has talked about getting back into shape and fighting exhibitions for charity with old rival Evander Holyfield, now 57, also suggesting he could follow suit. This has led to some rather fanciful claims by fans and admirers that the former heavyweight legends could somehow challenge again.
Most great boxers feel the fighting itch after retirement, it’s a natural response when reliving one’s glory days, but the body can no longer duplicate the vitality and endurance of their youth.
Sky Sports analyst Nelson, who retired at the top, understands the attraction of returning after a long hiatus, but knows the end result if the former legends come back.
“It’s about the pace, that timing, that light-switch reaction. Once you’ve had time out to reflect and assess, you think ‘I could do that’,” Nelson told Sky Sports.
“But it’s our mind playing tricks on us because, when you get in the ring and you come up against a youngster who’s not as good as you technically, but has more pace than you, he will ‘do’ you every day of the week.
“We’ve seen Mike Tyson hit the headlines on the pads. And everyone’s like ‘oh, my gosh, he’s the don’.
“We’re remembering the good times, but we’re not remembering the back end of [his] career when the body didn’t switch as quick as it used to,” he said. “The body didn’t react as quick as it used to.”