Mike Tyson Reclaims Boxing Spotlight With Upcoming Jake Paul Fight

The 57-year-old former heavyweight champion will face the YouTube star-turned-boxer in a sanctioned bout this summer. Why? That's up for interpretation.
Jul 12, 2023; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Mike Tyson arrives on the red carpet before the 2023 ESPYS at
Jul 12, 2023; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Mike Tyson arrives on the red carpet before the 2023 ESPYS at / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Enter at 126th St., read the email to reporters covering Monday’s press conference to promote the fight—yes, the fight—between Mike Tyson and Jake Paul, though by 4:30 pm, the designated time for media to arrive at the rear entrance of the famed Apollo Theatre, the line had snaked down to 125th. The crowd for the open-to-the-public event formed even earlier out front, with the first fan staking out a spot at 6 a.m. and hundreds pushing up against the entrance before noon. 

It has been nearly 20 years since Tyson promoted an official fight, but if the turnout on Monday is any indication, interest in him is stronger than ever. Gone are the ink-stained print journalists that once chronicled the former heavyweight champion, replaced by an army of camera phone-toting YouTubers, representatives from a world his opponent, Paul, was born in. At one point, Tyson, 57, interrupted a fan who was using his time to ask a question to hit Paul up for money. 

“I can’t believe,” Tyson said, “that we’re at a press conference.” 

He was, because, and it bears repeating: Mike Tyson is going to fight. The youngest heavyweight titleholder ever, the former undisputed champ, the self-styled baddest man on the planet will climb back into the ring on July 20 when he takes on Paul at AT&T Stadium in Texas. A sanctioned bout—translation: the result will go on both fighters’ official records—Tyson-Paul will be contested over eight two-minute rounds. 

Said Tyson, “Let’s f—ing go.”

OK—but why? Tyson’s last official fight was in 2005, when he was battered by Kevin McBride. He returned for an exhibition against Roy Jones Jr. in 2020, and though he performed well, it didn’t spark calls for a comeback. His finances have stabilized. He operates a successful cannabis company, aptly named Tyson 2.0, and hosted a video podcast that attracted high profile guests and millions of viewers.  

So why would Tyson, who will be 58 when the first bell rings this summer, want to get in the ring with the 27-year old Paul?  

“Well, it was a no-brainer,” Tyson said. “It was just he was the new up and coming guy in the scene and I like shaking the sports world to his core and I'm doing it now. It's just something I want to do.”

Money certainly is a reason. It’s unclear how much Tyson will make to face Paul, but those connected to the promotion insist it’s a lot. Tyson-Paul will be broadcast on Netflix, the streaming giant which has been dipping its toes in live sports. Ariel Helwani, who hosted the press conference, announced that 120,000 people had signed up for the ticket presale. At a minimum, it seems, Tyson will earn eight figures. 

It was a little surreal watching Tyson. Before his last big fight—against Lennox Lewis in 2002—the press conference ended with Tyson biting Lewis’s leg. This one finished with a halfhearted face off where Tyson and Paul exchanged playful jabs, looking more like old pals than in-ring rivals. Asked about his training, Tyson said it was going great, but conceded his “body is s— right now.” He said that he and Paul were “friends” and that he was impressed with all Paul has accomplished. 

“I really like Jake a lot,” Tyson said. “But once he's in that ring, you have to fight like his life is dependent on it, because it will be.”

Paul did his best to sell the event. He declared his power superior to Tyson’s and shrugged at the suggestion he couldn’t take Tyson’s best shot. Paul (9–1) is no slouch. He’s young, heavy handed and improving by the fight. 

Paul, who began boxing after achieving fame on social media, has a 9–1 official record.
Paul, who began boxing after achieving fame on social media, has a 9–1 official record. / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

“I'm a natural born heavyweight,” Paul said, estimating he weighed in the 230-pound range. “This is what I was born to do, to move up into this weight class, and I'm going to show Mike who has more power. Because he's underestimating me. I think everyone else is underestimating me.

“I believe that I hit harder. I know it's going to be tough. I know I'm going to have to fight through adversity. I know I might even go to the canvas. I'm scared, don't get me wrong, but it's not about the fear stopping me. It's about going into it even though I am scared. And that's what true bravery is.”

As Paul spoke, Tyson appeared amused. He flashed the packaging of a new energy product he was promoting. He chuckled when a reporter asked Amanda Serrano, who will move up in weight to challenge Katie Taylor for Taylor’s undisputed 140-pound championship on the undercard, where she put the extra pounds. He dismissed a question about his age, noting, correctly, that even as he approaches 60, he is still one of boxing’s biggest stars. 

“I think the people that [question] that wish they were up here, because no one else can do it,” Tyson said. “Who else can do this? Who else can shut the sporting world down? No one else can do it. So you got the both of us and we're going to do this. And we're friends. There's no doubt it's friends. But in that ring we're not going to be friends. That's just what it is.”

In a few months, we’ll find out. 


Published |Modified
Chris Mannix

CHRIS MANNIX

Senior Writer, Sports Illustrated Sports Illustrated senior writer Chris Mannix has boxed with Juan Manuel Marquez, played guard in the NBA's D-League and even tried his hand at bull riding at the Sankey Rodeo School in Martin, Tenn. The latter assignment left him with a bunch of bruises and a fractured collarbone. "I liked all the first-person experiences, but fighting Juan was my favorite assignment for SI," says Mannix. "It was a tremendous experience that required brutal training and introduced me to a fear I never knew I had." Mannix has covered the NBA since he arrived at SI in 2003. He currently writes columns and profiles in the magazine and for SI.com and also serves as SI's NBA draft expert. Among the NBA stars he has profiled: Chris Bosh, Russell Westbrook and Andrei Kirilenko. As a teenager Mannix was a locker room attendant with the Boston Celtics for eight seasons (1995-2003) and covered high school sports for the Boston Globe. "Working for the Celtics was like attending a different fantasy camp every game. I spent pregames D'ing up the likes of Tracy McGrady, Ray Allen and yes, Michael Jordan. Last time I went one-on-one with MJ he beat me 48-0. I got one shot off … and it was blocked." Boxing is also one of Mannix's specialties. He has reported for SI on several championship fights, annually hands out SI.com's boxing awards and writes the website's "Inside Boxing" column. Mannix won the 2012 Boxing Writers Association of America's awards for Best Feature over 1,750 words and Best Feature under 1,750 words. In addition to his duties at SI, Mannix serves as host of The Chris Mannix Show on NBC Sports Radio (Sundays 6–9 p.m. ET) and is a co-host of Voices of the Game, with Newy Scruggs every Wednesday from Noon–3 p.m. ET. In addition, Mannix is a ringside reporter for Epix and Fight Night on NBC and NBC Sports Network, and is a regular guest and fill-in host on The Dan Patrick Show and The Crossover on NBC Sports Network. He also regularly appears on sports radio shows across the country, including weekly appearances in Miami, Orlando and Salt Lake City.  Mannix received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Boston College in 2003 and graduated from Boston College High School in 1998 (which makes him a double Eagle). He resides in New York City.