Mike Tyson is a boxing legend … of the past, not today

Boxing

Mike Tyson is throwing rapid-fire combinations, showing off speed and accuracy with every mesmerizing punch. The former world heavyweight champion hits the pads, and his trainer smiles as he ducks out of the way of Tyson’s final shot. In these nine seconds of video, Tyson looks like a fighter in his prime. The “Bad Boys for Life”-sponsored tweet quickly goes viral, and with that comes talk of a return for “Iron Mike.”

In the wake of that buzz, former undisputed cruiserweight and heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, who defeated Tyson twice, announces his own intention to return to the squared circle for a charity event.

Tyson is 53 years old. Holyfield is 57. Stop the madness.

Instead of a renewed focus on Tyson and Holyfield, all eyes should be on the current generation of heavyweight greats — Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder. Or middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez, arguably the biggest draw in the U.S. Or current champions Vasiliy Lomachenko, Terence Crawford, Errol Spence Jr., Jermell and Jermall Charlo. Or young stars such as Teofimo Lopez Jr., Ryan Garcia, Shakur Stevenson, Naoya Inoue and Devin Haney.

Those are the faces of boxing in 2020 — the ones who put on a show each time they step into the ring. While the attention for the sport is nice, it’s time to stop putting the future of boxing in the hands of stars from the past.

Nostalgia is boxing’s addiction. We yearn for the iconic moments from greats like Muhammad Ali. We remember the fights that defined a childhood or were part of a night spent together with friends. We understand that the sport was different back then. Not so much in the actual physicality of it, but the fighters — the characters — who were engaging and held influence far beyond the ring.

Tyson was one of the most well-known figures in the world; he was polarizing, too, with his dominance striking envy into many of his would-be competitors. And Tyson spent three years in prison from 1992 to 1995 after being convicted of rape.

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Rafael Cordeiro marvels at the idea of Mike Tyson making a return to the heavyweight division even at 53 years old.

In recent years, Tyson has emerged as a friendlier figure in pop culture, appearing in movies and hosting his own podcast. But at his core, he will always be a fighter. And for fans, it seems they want to believe there are remnants of 1988 Tyson. But if you really want to see Tyson at his best, ESPN is showing nine of his greatest fights on Saturday starting at 7:30 p.m. ET. That’s a better option.

Think about this: The country collectively enjoyed “The Last Dance,” a documentary about Michael Jordan and the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls‘ championship season. But we don’t see basketball fans pining for the return of Jordan to the NBA every time he heads into a gym to shoot free throws. Instead, there is an appreciation of what he was, and what he stood for.

Tyson was similarly dominant. The undisputed heavyweight champion of the world was called “the baddest man on the planet.” But that was during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. You could argue that Tyson hasn’t been that guy since he was upset by James “Buster” Douglas over 30 years ago.

Tyson and Holyfield are boxing legends whose contributions to the sport are immeasurable. But we have to be realistic. Boxing is a sport dominated by young men in their physical primes — not middle-aged ones who long ago were at the top of the boxing world. And that’s saying nothing about the damage these fighters have already taken, and the risks of putting them back into the ring — even if it’s just for charity and entertainment.

Still, if any of these iconic fighters were to return, we’d all be at least a tad curious. And yes, most of us would watch.

The video of Tyson’s “training” has been viewed 9.5 million times. It’s built up enough hype that offers — including $20 million from the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship — have come Tyson’s way. But money hasn’t swayed the former champion just yet.

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John Fury, Tyson’s father, calls out Mike Tyson in a fight for charity.

Assuming the money talks, whom would Tyson fight? Former heavyweight champion Shannon Briggs, a relative youngster by comparison at the age of 48, says Tyson has received “tons of offers” and “some offers involving me.” There’s also 51-year-old James Toney, who has stated his own intentions to get into the mix.

Even John Fury, who named his son, current WBC and lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, after Mike, issued a challenge.

It wouldn’t be the first time boxing made way for a blatant, lucrative money grab, and it won’t be the last. But there’s only so much spotlight to go around, and before boxing ground to a halt over the past few months due to the coronavirus pandemic, a handful of stars had started to make waves.

On June 9 in Las Vegas, boxing will return, and when it does, the sport will need its breakout stars to make a massive impact right out of the gate. They’ve earned that opportunity, and the long-term viability of boxing will rest in their hands — not in the hands of two legends who are at least two decades past their prime.

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