By VICTOR ORDONEZ, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson teased fans for weeks — posting workout videos and cryptic messages on social media — before finally announcing his long-awaited return to the ring.
I. AM. BACK. #legendsonlyleague. September 12th vs @RealRoyJonesJr on #Triller and PPV #frontlinebattle @TysonLeague pic.twitter.com/eksSfdjDzK
— Mike Tyson (@MikeTyson) July 23, 2020
On Nov. 28, Tyson, 54, will face off against “Captain Hook” — also known as former four-division world champion Roy Jones Jr., 51.
Unlike fights of their generation, Tyson’s return to the ring won’t be presented by HBO, ESPN, Showtime or any other legacy network. Instead, the fight will be presented by Triller, an up-and-coming music video app akin to TikTok.
“At the end of the day, someone like Tyson has the pick of the litter,” Triller CEO Mike Lu told ABC News. “What our team was able to do for Tyson was really showcase the identity of Triller … and we just vibed with him.”
Founded as a music video app, the platform allows users to create professional-looking music videos in a matter of seconds using artificial intelligence — making the app a clear competitor to TikTok. And like TikTok, Triller has become more of a creative platform for users to produce many genres of video-based content.
“We get compared to TikTok often enough, but the way we look at it: we are the voice of an American based Gen Z platform,” Lu said, drawing a distinction from TikTok’s Chinese roots. “Another difference: We have grown 100% organically. We’ve never spent any money on marketing, it’s always been word of mouth interactions or people sharing creative content they made on Triller.”
Relying on that organic growth, Triller has more than 140 million downloads, with celebrities like Alicia Keys, Cardi B, Marshmello, Roddy Ricch and Eminem regularly using the app to create their own music videos.
“We’ve got a saying here, which is: ‘We want the next Chris Brown or Justin Bieber to be discovered on Triller,'” said Lu.
Along with the rights to the live event featuring Tyson, Triller — an app with no current footing in the world of sports — obtained streaming rights to a soon-to-be-released, 10-part docuseries featuring behind-the-scenes footage of the fight. Two episodes will be released each week leading up to the match.
“The way we look at our product: We define cultural moments,” said Lu, acknowledging Triller’s unprecedented introduction to the boxing scene. “Obviously we went against all the major [legacy companies], like ESPN. Everyone wanted this, but per our motto — ‘You do you’ — we allowed Tyson to express himself on our platform that’s all about creating and defining that cultural moment … and that’s why Tyson agreed to do it.”
Amidst the pandemic’s rocky economy and TikTok’s uncertain future in the United States, CNBC reported that Triller paid a whopping $50 million for the exclusive rights to the event.
“I can’t comment on rumors like that,” Lu said regarding exclusive’s reported price tag. “But look, at the end of the day we believe in Tyson, we believe in this cultural event … and I believe history will tell us this was the right move for us.”
Techcrunch reported earlier this month that Triller was seeking $250 million in funding that would push its valuation to over $1 billion, citing a source with knowledge of the matter. This would be an Olympic-length leap from its $130 million valuation reported last October by the Wall Street Journal.
A three-hour live event, the Tyson vs. Jones bout will last eight rounds and be part of a multiple-fight card. The event will also include significant undercard matches as well as musical performances to be announced in the coming weeks.
The fight will also be available on traditional pay-per-view platforms and the cost of the event is reported to be $49.99.
The fight, dubbed “Frontline Battle,” will be the first event in a series produced under Mike Tyson’s Legends Only League, a venture owned by Tyson and STX president Sophie Watts’ Eros Innovations. Per the deal, all rights for “Frontline Battle” are controlled by Triller. Lu has also teased further collaboration.
“We haven’t announced anything … but our goal is to move forward [working with them],” Lu told ABC News.
Lu added that Triller would be presenting similar events in the world of sports, music and entertainment in the near future.
Tyson himself has taken to Triller in anticipation for the event — sporting Triller attire with a promotional “Triller Presents” intro. His announcement video received over four million views on the platform.
Tyson is known as one of the most feared heavyweights in history, claiming the division for himself throughout the late ’80s. He became the youngest heavyweight champion in history with a 37-0 record before the world witnessed one of the greatest upsets in sports history: Tyson was knocked out by James “Buster” Douglas in Tokyo in July 1990.
Jones went on to be named the best boxer of the 1990s by Ring Magazine. After nearly 50 victories in the ring, Jones finally met defeat in a controversial disqualification against Montell Griffin. Jones swiftly repaid the favor in the first round of a rematch shortly after.
Although Tyson’s upcoming fight is slated to be an exhibition match, according to Andy Foster of the California State Athletic Commission, Triller plans to present a Vegas-scale event as the world-renowned champions return to the arena.
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