Jake Paul and Mike Tyson meet at a press conference to promote their fight

play

NEW YORK – For the first time since perhaps the most remarkable duo in recent boxing history was announced, Mike Tyson and Jake Paul met in person.

At the iconic Apollo Theater, where notable artists like Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, James Brown and Lauryn Hill once performed, Tyson and Paul held a press conference – along with undercard fighters Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano – to hype their July 20 boxing match . stream on Netflix at no extra cost to subscribers.

The atmosphere was festive and relaxed. There was no bad blood. The fighters in both matches showed abundant respect and admiration for their opponents. During the face-off photo at the end, with Tyson and Paul keeping their gazes inches apart, Tyson even playfully shadow-punched Paul with quick hooks to his opponent’s body. They both then burst out laughing and gave each other a light shove.

Certainly, there was the usual bravado that characterizes these events.

“Yeah, look, they call him ‘Iron Mike’ Tyson,” Paul said at one point, “but I’m titanium Jake Paul.”

And this: “I’m going to show Mike who has more power.”

Still, the press conference sometimes struggled to highlight the event’s promotion as an exhibition, or the officially sanctioned battle it has become.

An hour before it started, the line for fans to check into the Apollo snaked around 125e Street and 8e Lane. They wore New York Knicks hats and Tyson T-shirts with screen prints of his face on the chest. The crowd was undoubtedly more sympathetic to Tyson, who hails from the Brownsville neighborhood of eastern Brooklyn.

But there was also a contingent of younger spectators who professed their loyalty to Paul, whose platform on YouTube and social media has made him an icon for a generation with unconventional, if uneven, exposure to boxing.

During a question-and-answer portion in the audience, a 16-year-old from Queens, who introduced himself as Xavier, said he was an aspiring boxer who grew up watching Paul and his brother Logan, and thanked them both for ” making’ of his youth.

The boy went on to reveal that he was advocating for Paul – “please don’t kill me, Mike” – and asked Paul what advice he would give to young people with limited financial resources who are interested in boxing. Towards the end of the conversation, Paul motioned for one of his support team to take down the boy’s information, as he promised to send him “a bunch of stuff and stuff.”

Tyson leaned into the microphone with an almost mocking look on his face and said he couldn’t believe this was happening at a press conference.

“Forgive me,” he added. ‘I’m an old guy. This is new.”

The host, combat sports journalist Ariel Helwani, responded to Tyson by referencing the appeal and reach of Netflix, saying, “Netflix didn’t even exist when you were fighting.”

Tyson simply shrugged and said, “I guess that’s it now.”

Anyway, Tyson was clearly the main character, at least here in Harlem.

CHANCES: Why is Mike Tyson the underdog for the Jake Paul fight? Gambling experts offer explanations

‘I NOW LIVE MY LIFE DISCIPLINED’: Mike Tyson explains why he gave up sex and marijuana before Jake Paul’s fight

As Helwani made his way through the initial introductions of the four fighters on the card, the crowd’s energy steadily increased until it was time to move on to Tyson. The lights in the Apollo dimmed as a video played on the big screen behind the stage. As soon as the video ended, one spotlight shone on Tyson, an introduction unlike any of the three fighters before him.

Taylor, the Irish female boxer who is currently an undisputed two-weight champion, revealed it was a ‘dream’ to fight on the same card as Tyson. Before the Tyson vs. Paul fight, Taylor will face Serrano in a rematch of their exciting fight two years ago at Madison Square Garden.

But when asked about her own battle, Taylor’s first comment was to admit she was starstruck.

“I think if my family had said last year what do I want to do before I retire, whether I want to achieve something in sports or someone I would like to meet, one of the things I would have said is that I I would love to meet Mike Tyson,” Taylor said. ‘And here he is standing next to me. An icon of the sport, a legend of the sport and this is just incredible. … I pinch myself.”

Tyson said he’s “doing great” but admitted without a hint of irony that his “body is (expletive) right now.”

He has received some criticism for taking this fight despite his age, and perhaps the most important question in the matchup concerns his fitness and conditioning.

“I’m really hurting,” he added. “I wish (I played possum).”

Tyson, 57, has his birthday at the end of June. He retired in 2005, although he last fought in an exhibition with Roy Jones Jr. in November 2020. This could very well be the last chance fans have to see him in the ring. However, Tyson left the door wide open for another possible return to the ring.

“Hey, this looks like it’s going to be pretty fun,” he said. “Maybe we’ll do it again.”

When pressed about other fighters he might be keeping an eye on, Tyson quickly turned away and said, “Well, can I take care of Jake first?”

Before that happens, the promotional tour now heads to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the location of the fight, for another press conference Thursday evening.