THERE was a boxing match completed recently. Between two aging warriors, whose best pugilistic days were clearly behind them. Both dinosaurs of a bygone era, virtually extinct.

Yet these two protagonists refused to yield to the inevitable ravages of time. Desperately and nostalgically trying to find some vestige of a memory of their prowess, pride, self respect, self worth. Their masculinity.

When they were kings. On top of the world.

Mike Tyson is the 54-year-old former world heavyweight champion. He took on Roy Jones Jr., a relative youngster at the age of 51.

The questions remained as to why? Why now? Have not both men had enough of the pain, suffering, head injuries, concussion, cognitive and behavioural decline?

Indeed, was there ever any real interest from a fickle public, apart from morbid curiosity?

The fight ended in a draw, but provided enough entertainment for both adversaries to promise more was to come.

Rap artist Snoop Dogg said it was like watching “two of my uncles fighting at a barbecue” in his role as a ringside commentator at the spectator-less Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Former world champions including David Haye, Lennox Lewis and George Foreman were understandably more contrite, almost satisfied with the exhibition.

At times, some of the signature moves by both fighters were on display. Tyson bullocking forward, trying to land his trademark punches, while Jones tried to evade, move and box to his style.

Tyson said he was happy with the draw.

“This is bigger than championships, we are humanitarians, we are helping people. I’m happy I got this under the belt and I’ll continue to go further and do more,” he opined.

Just how this was achieved remains elusive. Perhaps he was referring to donating some of the $10 million in prize money to charity.

Jones, a former four-weight world champion, said he would talk to his family before considering fighting again. A wise and considered statement.

“I don’t do draws but the dude is so strong, man. When he hits you, his head, his punches, his body shots, everything hurts. I’m cool with the draw.”

Former heavyweight champion Foreman tweeted it was the “best exhibition I have ever seen”, Haye said the event was “competitive” and former world super-middleweight champion Richie Woodhall said the pair “didn’t disgrace themselves in any shape or form”.

Kind words indeed.

The California State Athletic Commission, which sanctioned the eight round fight, made some changes for the bout. It demanded two-minute rounds instead of the usual three minutes, larger than normal 12-ounce gloves and had said neither fighter could seek a knockout.

No knockout must have been a blow in itself to Mike Tyson, who garnered a reputation for the rapid and savage elimination of an opponent through brute force.

In a bid to ensure safety for the quinquagenarians and avoid litigation, the commission deemed a winner would not be named.

Music artists including Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg performed in a bid to add to the pay-per-view offer, and moments before his ring walk Jones questioned the small ring in use, stating: “It’s like they are feeding me to the bear.” A toothless one, perhaps.

It was Tyson who looked like he trained the hardest, outstaying Jones who looked spent by the middle of the fight.

UFC president Dana White watched and said: “Time is undefeated and takes us all down. Fighting is a young man’s game. Mike looked awesome tonight. I was blown away. It exceeded my expectations.”

The expectations must have been extremely low to start with, perhaps fearing that the bout would not go the full distance.

The term “hanging up the gloves” is often used as a metaphor when making a decision to retire gracefully from one’s chosen vocation.

In this case, it should have been taken literally by both men many years ago.

Leave us with our memories of greatness, as Tyson and Jones Jr. should have.

It is difficult to regain relevance in a world that is obsessed with youth, beauty and vanity.

But there is still room to respect their courage and fortitude as former champions, despite their age.

Ludo Aequitas – Equality Through Sport – Welcomes your views


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