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John Kavanagh questions Mike Tyson vs. Jake Paul: ‘I don’t think someone approaching 60 needs to be fighting’

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Mike Tyson is stepping back into the ring for what is sure to be one of the most watched fights of his storied career. But not everyone thinks it’s a good idea for the heavyweight legend to be fighting.

John Kavanagh, head of SBG Ireland and longtime coach of UFC star Conor McGregor, is one critic of the upcoming July 20 fight between Tyson and Jake Paul, which takes place at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The boxing match is scheduled to air live on Netflix.

It is not yet known if the bout will be an exhibition or a professionally sanctioned bout — all of Paul’s fights have been pro bouts since 2020 — but Kavanagh is hoping that it’s the former to minimize the risk of Tyson suffering a serious injury.

“I don’t know whether there’s a wink and a nod behind the stage,” Kavanagh said on The MMA Hour. “Is Tyson going to be 60, 58? Full force blows to the head at 58. No, it’s not a good idea, no matter who you are. You don’t need to be doing that. If it was kind of an exhibition, and they’re kind of sparring, great. Because I was asked about not necessarily just Mike, but this kind of YouTube boxing stuff, and my take on it now rather than being snobby about it is I just love anything that gets more kids involved in sports. Great if it’s combat sports, boxing wrestling, mixed martial arts, whatever the case may be. And if Jake Paul is doing a good job of filling local boxing gyms — that’s a little bit of what we’re trying to do — brilliant.

“I’m not into the whole whatever else he’s doing, particularly in that bout — I don’t think someone approaching 60 needs to be fighting. It would appear Jake hits hard, he’s knocked out a few guys. So I just hope that it is what it is, it’s kind of an entertaining thing, and they move around the ring and kind of spar. As long as it’s that, thumbs up.”

At 58, Tyson is more than 30 years the elder of the 27-year-old Paul, which has prompted a fair share of criticism since the booking was announced. Still, there is some optimism that Tyson can dial back the clock and add Paul to his unmatched reel of knockouts, optimism that has been bolstered by training footage that “Iron Mike” recently released.

There’s also the possibility that the bout will be a glorified spar, with neither man going all-out for the knockout. It’s a scenario Kavanagh believes could be enough to satisfy viewers.

“I just think the majority of those people are not going to be really high-level boxing aficionados,” Kavanagh said. “Like, what are they really watching for? They want to see a good press conference, maybe a bit of shoving and shouting, whatever else they put on. They’ll want to see a spectacular event, you know, lighting and fireworks, great walkouts.

“But once it goes click, they don’t really know what they’re looking at or they’re not going to have massive interest. I think as well their stomach wouldn’t be able to see really hard fighting. I guess the point I’m making is the majority of people watching this is going to be for the entertainment side of it, so put on an entertaining show.”

Paul is coming off of a pair of first-round knockouts over journeymen boxers and a unanimous decision win over former UFC star Nate Diaz. He is 9-1 as a pro, which also includes a win over MMA legend Anderson Silva and a vicious knockout of former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley.

Tyson retired from pro competition in 2005 but has made a couple of exhibition bout appearances since then, most recently fighting fellow boxing great Roy Jones Jr. in November 2020. The two battled to a split draw after eight rounds of action.

Though there are plenty of ways Tyson vs. Paul could go viral for the wrong reasons, Kavanagh hopes the interest around the matchup could at least lead to a few positive outcomes.

“Look, he could go out there and spark Jake, but there’s a reason why there’s not too many people approaching 60 fighting professionally,” Kavanagh said. “I suppose George Foreman was up there, late 40s. He had that style where he didn’t have to move much, but Tyson, there’s a lot of moving.

“As a gym owner, I think this generates a lot of interest in the sport of boxing, and if this gets a couple of thousand kids to go to the local gym, and maybe a few kids that never heard of Mike Tyson to appreciate him, look back at him in the 80s and 90s — I’m trying to drag the positivity out because I just certainly wouldn’t like to see something like [Woodley], a hero of ours, getting badly knocked out.”

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