Jake Paul vs Mike Tyson is another dull and dangerous freak show, but boxing is hooked

Jake Paul vs Mike Tyson is another dull and dangerous freak show, but boxing is hooked

A Swat team storms a boxing venue in Nashville following a hoax bomb threat at the weekend. In the process, the boxing show Misfits 13 is halted for 80 minutes, the fight between influencers Yuddy Gang and Lil Cacra declared a no-contest.

Prior to Saturday night, Yuddy Gang is better known for filming himself eating food to voiceovers, with 6.3 million people tuning in on TikTok. In the fallout from the delayed fight, the YouTuber KSI, who set up Misfits promotions company, threatens to sue the person responsible for the crank call.

It is the last bizarre chapter in the world of crossover fights, which the company was set up to promote in 2022. They are even supposedly in talks about luring former England football captain Wayne Rooney into the ring.

Boxing crossover fights are big business, be it influencers, former fighters, or those from the mixed martial arts world like Francis Ngannou, recently felled in just two rounds of boxing by Anthony Joshua but earning in excess of £15 million for a very brief night's work.

And looming on the horizon is the latest and arguably worst freak show of all: Mike Tyson, who will be 58 at the time of the bout, taking on a fighter three decades his junior in Jake Paul.

At 58 years old, Mike Tyson doesn't belong in the ring against a 28-year-old Jake Paul

Carl Froch to Standard Sport

Former super middleweight champion Carl Froch wants an end to such fights, regularly venting his frustration about them on his YouTube channel Froch on Fighting.

"At 58, Mike Tyson doesn't belong in the ring against a 28-year-old," Froch told Standard Sport. "Where's this all going to end? Will it end with Jake Paul knocking out Mike Tyson and causing serious injury. I sincerely hope not."

Froch was only marginally less uncomfortable with Ngannou, an MMA fighter, stepping into the ring against a former heavyweight world champion in Joshua.

It quickly became apparent that the Cameroon fighter was out of his depth and his strong showing in a previous fight against Tyson Fury was perhaps as much about Fury's lack of preparation in not taking that fight seriously enough.

"Joshua-Ngannou was only classed an acceptable fight because Ngannou did so well against Tyson Fury," added Froch. "It should never have happened. He had a slow jab, his chin was in the air and he didn't know how to defend himself. It was almost unfair and dangerous."

And Froch is right. Ngannou could have been seriously hurt and it feels only a matter of time before someone gets badly injured or worse in these mismatches. But money talks and there are vast riches on offer as well as a new, younger audience tuning in to the sport for the first time. It's why established promoters have increasingly been flocking to the crossover boxing scene, among them Frank Warren and his Queensberry Promotions operation.

As well as promoting Fury-Ngannou, he was also behind Jake Paul's fight against part-boxer/part-social media star Tommy Fury, which the younger Fury won after eight rounds.

MMA fighter Francis Ngannou has faced both Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua (Getty Images)
MMA fighter Francis Ngannou has faced both Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua (Getty Images)

Of crossover boxing as a whole, Warren said: "I'm not very open to it, to be honest. In general, I'm not a fan of crossover fights." But he argues the Fury-Paul fight made sense as both fighters had legitimate boxing licences and Fury earned 1,000 times more than a typical eight-round fight at this stage of his career. And Fury Sr's fight against Ngannou happened, he says, as the latter was the only viable stand-in opponent at that stage.

Boxing has long been a circus, but it feels like the ringmasters have lost control, particularly when sanctioning a grandfather in Mike Tyson to step back into the ring nearly 20 years after his retirement.

Warren makes the point that "you can't stop a 70-year-old from climbing Mount Everest, so too if they want to fight" but, to his credit, says it is not something he would ever be involved in.

That said, there is always someone seemingly willing to sanction it, and so the freak shows keep on coming. But at what cost to boxing? Is there not a danger they diminish the sport or put it in the shadows, given the popularity of the social media fighters?

Warren doesn't agree. "We've had wrestling supposedly finishing boxing, then UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship], and it hasn't. Everything has its place." In truth, the more crossover fights that have occurred, the duller they have become. As Froch puts it: "These fights are rubbish to watch, absolutely appalling, in fact. They're draining the dregs of the barrel."

Unfortunately for boxing, they're here to stay.