Boxing MUST start taking itself seriously. This Mike Tyson freak show proves just how far the sport has fallen, writes RIATH AL-SAMARRAI

Kevin McBride never fought the old Mike Tyson, just an old Mike Tyson. That’s the broke and broken man he retired 19 years ago, but whose name came to define his in the way all journeymen dream of.

I called McBride recently, a few hours after we’d all heard the strangest things: the announcement that the “worst man in the world” will fight a YouTube influencer 30 years his junior in July, when Tyson turns 58. and Jake Paul will still be a clown.

“I just got a notification about it on my phone,” McBride said on the phone from Boston, where he had moved from Ireland a while back. “I’m sure there’s a few dollars in it for both of them, but I was a little surprised.”

We might add that McBride, 50, isn’t one of those who feels any major animosity about the fight, and that’s one area where we differ. If Tyson wanted to avenge his last professional defeat, he says, he would have the entire contract before it left the printer. But there was something else he said that captured what it once meant to face Tyson.

“My god, do you want to know my last thought before you step into the ring?” he asked. “It was, ‘What are you doing here?’ I knew he wouldn’t be the same Tyson he used to be. But I grew up watching Tyson, seeing him beat the shit out of people. Hurt them.

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

Netflix released a teaser clip of Paul and Tyson facing off to announce the fight

Netflix released a teaser clip of Paul and Tyson facing off to announce the fight

1710026134 831 Boxing MUST start taking itself seriously This Mike Tyson freak

‘I needed hypnosis before the fight. It’s funny, we wanted to make sure I smiled at him every time he hit me. The week before the fight we even went to see Cinderella Man, the movie about the underdog boxer, just so I could keep my wits about me.”

There was also more. Packie Collins, McBride’s trainer, once told me that the psychology extended to a little lie on fight night. When it took Tyson an hour to clasp his hands, Collins informed his man that it was because he was in his dressing room “blasting” and shaking. What Collins neglected to mention is that it was actually because Muhammad Ali stopped by for a chat.

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

And what a prize that was. Tyson quit the sport immediately afterwards; McBride won just twice more in seven fights and retired in 2011, but would forever be known as the boxer who finished great. “Good enough for me,” he said, and it was a nice smile he sent over the phone.

The point here is that Tyson wasn’t just a fighter, he was a state of mind. A colossus. An annoying guy in life and the ring. A giant who stood only six feet tall in his black boots. A man whose destruction of Frank Bruno in their 1996 rematch could have been predicted when our British hero crossed himself on his way to the ring like a man who had previously opted for the noose.

That was then. Now, with this ‘comeback’, Tyson makes himself complicit in someone else’s joke, serving himself as a punch line for a professional attention seeker who is exploiting boxing out of his desperation to do anything for a dollar.

That this fight was announced in a week where Anthony Joshua was coming off a weak crossover match with a mixed martial artist in Saudi Arabia was both fitting and depressing.

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

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

We all know he’s not a boxer. Even though he has earned over £50 million in ten fights and has surpassed almost every world champion, he is still not a boxer. No. He’s a prankster with 65 million followers on social media and it’s good for him that they follow him wherever the pranks may lead. But he lost to Tommy Fury and a man who loses to Tommy Fury is not a boxer.

But Mike Tyson does. As such, there is something quite disturbing going on that has nothing to do with his finances and security. Or Paul’s. Or the unanswered question of whether it will be punished professionally, unlike another exhibition like the tap fest Tyson had with Roy Jones Jnr in 2020.

At least that strange fight was a lucrative bit of nostalgia between old greats, on a push. This one is an escalation in the romance of boxing with freak shows, not to mention the indulgence of a fool in Paul, whose prosperity in the sport is a reminder of how far it has fallen. That it will pay significantly more to see it than most title fights should be a wake-up call to some of those responsible for the wider circus.

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

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

Mike Tyson is pictured in Saudi Arabia after Tyson Fury defeated Francis Ngannou

Mike Tyson is pictured in Saudi Arabia after Tyson Fury defeated Francis Ngannou

Maybe we can get a little too miserable about these things and focus on boxing’s bigger issues instead. Problems like widespread doping, the best dodging the best, the incompetent management that makes this possible and the influence of a narco-lord in Daniel Kinahan.

Against these issues, we must see battles like this as a symptom and not a disease. But in the past it took hypnosis to make Tyson fall. Now it seems to be the business model of a sport that, unlike most others, would benefit from taking itself more seriously.

The Salah battle is a classic

I have always had sympathy for international managers when it comes to negotiating with clubs to release mutually important players. The arrogance of some clubs in this dynamic can be truly astonishing.

But reading reports that Egypt has agitated for Mo Salah’s participation in a friendly against New Zealand felt like a strange twist on an old theme and possibly a classic of the genre.

Add his recent injuries to the context of Liverpool’s place in the title race and a month in which so much could be decided, and someone in the Egyptian Football Association might have wondered whether this was really a battle worth picking.

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

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

Kane is the best in Europe

When you saw Bayern Munich beat Lazio, you saw a team earn a stay of execution in the Champions League.

It is simply unimaginable at the moment to see them dealing with the likes of Manchester City. All this – 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 to purr about Erling Haaland every week, but for my money the best striker in Europe this season is the one who left the Premier League last summer.