News Premium

Why the Mike Tyson comeback will not happen

Mike tyson vs roy jones
The boxing media is awash with tales of the Mike Tyson comeback but a man who knows Tyson better than most explains why it's unlikely

THE Mike Tyson comeback will not happen, says former team member Steve Lott. Lott helped the late Bill Cayton and Jimmy Jacobs steer Tyson’s rise to become the youngest heavyweight titlist in history in the late 1980s. Though Tyson left for Don King, Lott, now 70 and CEO of the Boxing Hall of Fame Las Vegas, still regards Tyson as “close to being the most entertaining fighter ever.”

Lott isn’t against Tyson’s return, but sees several problems in putting together an exhibition bout.

“I don’t think this fight is possible,” he told Boxing News. “I can’t see it happening.

“The problem isn’t the fight. If the fight was tomorrow, I would back Mike against anyone. If he was fighting Lennox Lewis or George Foreman in Catskill tomorrow, I wouldn’t bet against him. But there’s the pressure of training for two or three months and every day being asked about his rape conviction and biting Evander Holyfield’s ear. Mike wouldn’t want that. Some fighters can deal with that pressure, but that’s not Mike.  There was an interview in Canada where Mike ended up calling the interviewer ‘a piece of shit’ for asking him about his conviction – and he would get that every day for two or three months.”

Lott says that if the Tyson comeback fight does happen, at least in the form of an exhibition, the Middle East seems the likeliest host.

“To put together a heavyweight championship fight is hard,” he said, “but this is more difficult.

“The idea of Mike fighting an exhibition is great because he’s very close to being the most entertaining fighter ever, but if it’s an exhibition, who decides what a hard punch is and who’s going to put it together? Who’s going to be on the undercard  and who’s going to oversee the money if it’s all going to charity? Boxing is a business and who’s going to put on a show when the money goes to charity? That’s not something Don King or Bob Arum would do.

“Who would collect the cash? Who decides the charity? And where does the fight take place? The options appear to be Las Vegas or the Middle East.

“If it does happen, I think it will be in the Middle East because they have the most money. The MGM Grand in Las Vegas could write a cheque for $10 million, but a prince there can write a cheque for $25 million and not give it a second thought.

“They would love to be able to say: ‘We had Mike Tyson here’ and the princes would be able to say: ‘We hung out with Mike Tyson.’

“They paid to have Anthony Joshua over there and Mike is 100 times more popular and more recognised.”

Lott remembers a time when Tyson was one of the biggest stars in the world.

“The Tokyo Dome was opening in 1988,” he said. “It had a capacity of 70,000 and they wanted to stage a show that told the world: ‘We mean business, come here to watch the big stars.’ They had a choice between Michael Jackson, Madonna, Billy Joel, The Rolling Stones and Mike Tyson. The others were huge stars, but only people in Japan would take notice. They chose Mike because when Mike fought, the whole world stopped to watch.”

Tyson knocked out Tony Tubbs in two rounds that night and according to Lott, he remains a huge draw.

“He’s been out of boxing for years and he still draws more attention than most of the champions around today,” he said. “People want to be entertained and when Mike fights, you never know what’s going to happen. There are only a few fighters in history like that – and Mike was one of them. He came out for round one like you had stolen something from him or the other description I liked was: ‘Mike Tyson comes out for round one like he’s just scored a knockdown and he’s coming out to finish the fight.’

“Fighters these days aren’t that exciting and it’s not their fault. They are taught to jab and run, but in 2020, people want to see someone fight and say afterwards: ‘When can I see him again ?’ the way they did when they watched Mike.

“He was huge and he still is. I’m not saying Mike is the greatest fighter ever.

“In Hollywood, Sylvester Stallone isn’t the greatest actor, but you can’t take your eyes off him and Mike is the same.”

The Boxing News verdict on the Mike Tyson comeback.

Boxing news – Newsletter

Current Issue