Kevin McBride never fought the Mike Tyson of old, just an old Mike Tyson. That being the broke and broken guy he punched into retirement 19 years ago, but whose name came to define his own in that way all journeymen dream.

I gave McBride a call the other day, a couple of hours after we all heard the strangest of things — the announcement that the ‘baddest man on the planet’ will fight a YouTube influencer 30 years his junior in July, when Tyson will be 58 and Jake Paul will still be a clown.

‘I just had a notification on my phone about it,’ McBride said down the line from Boston, where he relocated a while back from Ireland. ‘I’m sure there’s a few bucks in it for them both, but I was a bit surprised.’

We might add here that McBride, 50, isn’t one of those who feels any great animosity for the bout, which is an area where we differ. Hell, he says, if Tyson wanted to avenge his last professional defeat, he’d be all over that contract before it left the printer. But there was something else he said that captured what it once meant to face Tyson.

‘My god, you want to know my last thought before getting in the ring?’ he asked. ‘It was, “What are you doing here?” I knew he wasn’t going to be the same Tyson then that he used to be. But I grew up watching Tyson, I saw how he smashed people. Hurt them.

Jake Paul will fight boxing legend Mike Tyson at the AT&T Stadium in Dallas later this year

Netflix released a teaser clip showing Paul and Tyson squaring up to announce the fight 

‘I needed hypnosis before the fight. It’s funny, we wanted to make sure I smiled at him every time he hit me. In the week before the fight we even went to watch Cinderella Man, the film about the underdog boxer, just so I could get my head right.’

There was more, too. Packie Collins, McBride’s trainer, once told me the psychology extended to a little lie on fight night. When it took Tyson an hour to get his hands wrapped, Collins let his man know it was because he was ‘bricking it’ and shaking in his dressing room. What Collins neglected to mention is that it was actually because Muhammad Ali had turned up for a chat.

Let’s not forget, all of this was so McBride could fortify himself for a Tyson who by then had lost meekly to Danny Williams, because old auras die slowly. But McBride had his big day — he knocked out the former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world in the sixth.

And what a prize that was. Tyson retired from the sport immediately afterwards; McBride only won twice more in seven fights and quit in 2011, but would for ever be known as the boxer who finished a great. ‘Good enough for me,’ he said and it was a nice laugh he sent down the phone.

The point here is that Tyson wasn’t just a fighter, he was a state of mind. A colossus. A nasty bloke in life and the ring. A giant who stood only 5ft 10ins tall in his black boots. A man whose destruction of Frank Bruno in their 1996 rematch could be foretold when our British hero crossed himself on the way to the ring like a man who would have sooner chosen the noose.

That was then. Now, with this ‘comeback’, Tyson is making himself complicit in someone else’s joke, serving himself up as a punchline for a professional attention-seeker exploiting boxing for its desperation to do anything for a dollar.

That this fight was announced in a week where Anthony Joshua walked through a feeble crossover contest with a mixed martial artist in Saudi Arabia was both fitting and depressing.

To think, just as Formula 1 mounted its campaign for the title of sport’s most dysfunctional and seedy, boxing dropped its sequined shorts to remind Christian Horner and his enemies how you really do it.

We should reiterate one obvious thing before the promoters talk all this up into something worth paying for: Paul is not a boxer.

We all know he is not a boxer. Even though he has made upwards of £50million for 10 fights and out-earns almost every world champion, he is still not a boxer. No. He is a prankster with 65million social media followers and good for him that they follow him wherever the pranks may lead. But he lost against Tommy Fury and a man who loses against Tommy Fury is not a boxer.

But Mike Tyson was. As such there is something quite unsettling in this that has nothing to do with his finances and safety. Or Paul’s. Or the unanswered question of whether it will be professionally sanctioned, as opposed to another exhibition like the tap-fest Tyson had with Roy Jones Jnr in 2020.

At least that strange bout was a lucrative bit of nostalgia between old greats, at a push. This one is an escalation in boxing’s romance with freak shows, not to mention its indulgence of a fool in Paul, whose prosperity in the sport is a reminder of how far it has fallen. That considerably more will pay to see it than most title bouts ought to wake up a few of those with responsibility for the wider circus.

Former heavyweight champion Tyson will be 58 by the time he fights the 27-year-old Paul

Mike Tyson is pictured in Saudia Arabia after Tyson Fury beat Francis Ngannou 

Maybe we can be a little too miserable about these things and should instead focus on boxing’s bigger problems. Problems like widespread doping, the best swerving the best, the incompetent governance that allows it to happen and the influence of a narco-lord in Daniel Kinahan.

Against those issues, we should see fights such as this as the symptom not the disease. But it used to require hypnosis to make a fall-guy of Tyson. Now it seems to be the business model of a sport that, unlike most others, would benefit from taking itself more seriously.


Salah battle is a classic

I have always had sympathy for international managers when it comes to haggling with clubs over the release of mutually important players. The arrogance of some clubs in those dynamics can really be astounding.

But to read reports that Egypt have been agitating for Mo Salah’s participation in a friendly against New Zealand felt like a peculiar twist on an old theme and possibly a classic of the genre.

Adding his recent injuries to the context of Liverpool’s place in the title race and a month where so much could be decided, presumably someone at the Egyptian FA might have queried if this was really a battle worth picking.


Harry Kane scored a hat-trick against Mainz to take his tally for the season to 36 goals

Kane is the best in Europe

To watch Bayern Munich beat Lazio was to see a side earn a stay of execution in the Champions League. 

It is simply unimaginable at this point to see them coping with, say, Manchester City. All of which — including Saturday’s hat-trick — makes Harry Kane’s 36 goals in 33 games in a limping team all the more impressive. 

We have reason each week to purr over Erling Haaland, but for my money Europe’s best striker this season is the one who left the Premier League last summer. 

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