Look, there is no question that 54-year-old former heavyweight boxing champion, professional cameo-maker, and presumable Hannibal fan Mike Tyson could beat up the average, middle-aged man. Hell, he could probably still beat up a disproportionate percentage of the general public, especially since, in footage shown on Monday’s Tonight Show, Tyson has whipped his well-tenderized flesh into comparatively impressive shape once more. That’s because Tyson has announced that he’s fighting fellow AARP-eligible former champ Roy Jones Jr. (who’s 51) in an exhibition bout on September 12. Said Tyson to the ever-fawning Fallon, “Anyone who does this or attempts to do this ain’t no bum.”
Tyson was talking about his supposed newfound respect for anyone who steps into the ring, no matter how overmatched, punch-drunk, or dangerously, vulnerably over-the-hill, and he was more or less effusive in praising Jones for his similar courage/foolhardiness in lacing ’em back up for the pay-per-view exhibition match. Still, with a multi-part documentary series leading up to the bout, Tyson hyping his upcoming Legends League (for other athletes unwilling to admit their time has passed), and an undercard featuring former NBA star Nate Robinson fighting YouTube irritant Jake Paul, there’s an air of unsavory spectacle around the whole thing. That didn’t stop Fallon from (virtually) reaching out to ruffle his guest’s salt-and-pepper beard with fanboy enthusiasm for the sight of a couple of fighters whose last meaningful bouts took place more than a decade ago punching each other repeatedly in the head. (Something even boxing legend and guy who knows plenty about the dangerous lure of one last fight George Foreman has said is a terrible idea.)
Fallon being his puppy-dog self, the conversation turned from lucrative self-exploitation to talk of Tyson’s Shark Week adventures underwater (no, he did not, as the Discovery poster implied, punch any sharks), and the lightning round opportunity for the controversial and famously troubled former champ to brag about beating up some fictional characters. For the record, Tyson would whip Rocky and Ivan Drago, but would recuse himself from fighting that wily Daniel LaRusso. He also claimed he’d beat MMA fighter, occasional boxer, and fellow Fallon fight idol Conor McGregor, with Fallon not spoiling the chummy fun with reference to either fighter’s sexual assault histories or anything. Tyson told Fallon he’s also looking forward to watching Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx portray him in the upcoming biopic Finding Mike, explaining that there are no doubt a lot of comics “who want to kick [Foxx’s] ass,” and speculating, “It’s gonna be really interesting to me, observing myself.” Even if, as his upcoming sideshow suggests, self-awareness might not be an aging boxer’s most lingering legacy.