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Roy Jones Jr exclusive: "If you have to think twice about fighting Mike Tyson - you're not a real fighter!"
Former four-weight world champion Roy Jones Jr returns to action in a long-awaited showdown with former heavyweight supremo Mike Tyson, exclusively live on BT Sport Box Office HD on Saturday 28 November.
Both conquerors of the heavyweight division in their heyday, “Iron Mike” and RJ forged legacies built on world championships that will be etched in boxing history forever.
To the agony of fight fans in the late '90s and early 2000s, however, their paths never crossed; it seemed like the fight would be destined to remain another of the sport's great ‘What ifs?’.
But now Tyson and Junior will lay it all on the line - exclusively live on BT Sport Box Office HD - in pursuit of one night of glory as they go toe-to-toe for eight two-minute rounds.
The bout has been sanctioned by the California State Athletic Commission under certain conditions, intended to prevent the match going beyond “the boundaries of a competition boxing exhibition”.
Under such terms, the referee will be permitted to step in and stop the fight at any time. But speaking to BT Sport’s Steve Bunce in the build-up to this mega-event, Jones Jr suggested his opponent would be training to “take him out”.
“It’s not gonna happen, but that’s what he’s gonna try to do,” Jones Jr explained.
“As soon as he [Tyson] misses that first punch, it’s time to turn things back on him. If someone says ‘y’all should stop’? Y’all shouldn’t have let us start then!”
A mere mortal might question Jones’ motivation for wanting to step into the ring with a man of Tyson’s reputation; with the 54-year-old, who famously became the youngest-ever heavyweight champion at just 20, claiming “the gods of war” had implored him to return to boxing.
“They’ve ignited my ego and want me to go to war again,” Tyson said in May.
Did Jones, a former four-weight world champion, think twice before accepting the invitation to return?
He knows his best chance is to win early so he’s going to come and give it all he’s got
- Roy Jones Jr
“It’s Mike Tyson. If you gotta think hard about that [accepting the fight] there’s something wrong with you. You’re not a real fighter,” the Floridian said.
“I’m fighting one of the greatest heavyweight fighters to ever grace the game. One of the most dangerous punchers to ever grace the game. One of the most exciting people… who also by the way, bit a guy’s ear off… so when you go in the ring with him you better be ready for any and everything.”
While his opponent will be ending a self-imposed exile lasting more than 15 years since his defeat to Kevin McBride in 2005, competition is a little fresher in the memory of Jones Jr.
The 51-year-old remained active late into his 40s and fought as recently as February 2018, defeating Scott Sigmon in a farewell fight in his native Pensacola, FL.
Did it take “Superman” long to settle back into the groove of training camp?
“It was very easy to become Roy Jones the boxer, the competitor and the champion again,” he continued.
“That part has been easy. The part that hasn’t been easy has been becoming Roy Jones, the consistent guy that turns up every day to do what you gotta do. That’s the hard part.”
Among the crowning achievements of a man who won almost everything and anything, Roy Jones Jr became the only fighter ever to begin his professional career in the super-welterweight division and go on to win a heavyweight world championship when he beat John Ruiz in 2003.
Giving up almost 30lb in weight, Jones dazzled on his way to securing the WBA strap, snatching the belt with a deserved points victory that he had hoped would set him up for a lucrative showdown against Tyson.
“It never materialised though,” the former light-heavyweight explained.
“At the time, he said he was done with boxing. He didn’t have the hunger for the sport no more and I don’t wanna fight a guy that doesn’t want to box.
“Why would you fight a guy that does not have the hunger for the sport rather than when he was at his best? I don’t want that.
“Now he came back and asked me would I fight? I wanted the fight 17 years ago and I want to fight now so of course I would!”
Having campaigned so late into his athletic prime, there were few men left that could convince Jones Jr to emerge from retirement.
On his last appearance, the 66-9 superstar told the crowd inside the Bay Center only UFC legend Anderson Silva - who at the time was serving a suspension for the use of a banned substance - could tempt him to don the gloves once again, calling on UFC boss Dana White to make the fight happen.
“I know you’re listening Dana. I know Anderson is suspended. But that’s the only other fight Roy Jones will return to the ring for. Other than that, the chapter’s closed,” he said.
Thankfully one final chapter will be written this weekend as Jones finally fulfils his wish of almost two decades ago – and the former Olympic silver medallist is expecting a ferocious start when the first bell rings at the Staples Center.
“He’s going to see if he can pin me against the ropes right away - which is not going to happen - but he’s going to try and do that,” Jones predicted.
“I’ve gotta use my legs right away to avoid the ropes because he’s coming straight at me. He knows his best chance is to win early so he’s going to come and give it all he’s got to try and take me out.”
Does Jones think Tyson will be a spent force after his early flurry of activity?
“I don’t really know,” he grinned.
“But what I’ve got planned, it doesn’t really matter.”
Watch Mike Tyson vs Roy Jones Jr exclusively live on BT Sport Box Office HD on Saturday 28 November.