Published: July 15, 2004
Well here’s part 3. Still looking for part 1.
(Phew, last in a series, except, it could be the start of something big.)
LAS VEGAS, July 7 – It’s hard to fathom why we seem to care about Mike Tyson, one way or another. He’s just another ex-pug who isn’t wise enough to realize when the “ex-” is attached to his career and that he should be engaged in another occupation to satisfy the creditors.
Mike Tyson, we are going to pretend, can come back at the age of 38, mend his wayward ways, train seriously for the first time in what, 15 years?, and recapture his glory days and the undisputed heavyweight championship.
Let’s get real.
I’ve got news for you. Look around. The REALITY is that it won’t take much for Tyson to vault back to the top of the worst heavyweight division since Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johannson were swapping the title more than 40 years ago.
All it will take is all those things we don’t believe Tyson can do anymore, all those things he hasn’t been doing for 15 years. You know, in the ring, little things like jabbing, or moving his head, or not loading up on each punch, throwing one at a time, getting bored if he can’t take the opponent out in a couple of rounds.
It’s been bigger things outside the ring. Long Island iced tea. Weed. Oh, he loves the weed, says “alcohol is much worse.” We talked about it and maybe he’s finally learned that, for an athlete, sometimes it’s better not to do what he said he had done – “take a hit in the dressing room on the way to the fight.”
He got caught in Michigan, remember, and they changed his victory over the fleeing Andrew (Foul Pole) Golota into a “no contest.” Hey, it made him mellow, maybe he should be prescribed marijuana medicinally as part of an anger management cure.
But from the way he talked, and for some reason I stopped taking notes as we discussed our personal habits, I thought he was about to ask the boss and Maxboxing.com co-founder, Gary Randall, if he had a joint on him. The conversation on that Phoenix visit, the day after his 38th birthday, had ranged far from rape convictions and children.
Yet there was something new about this “new” Mike Tyson. He seemed to get it. He seemed to understand that, for a while anyway, there can be no funny cigarettes. Oh, he’s not sure about living up to that plan of seven fights in three years to get out of debt that his lawyers filed with the bankruptcy court, maybe because it might not take seven fights IF…
It’s as his trainer, Freddie Roach, says, “Bankruptcy is good for Mike.”
For the first time in eons, Tyson could be a real force again. The Phoenix could be rising in Phoenix.
Okay, when I saw him, he was making all the same mistakes, forgetting after a round or two about head movement or combinations or throwing his jab. His legs were heavy, his feet moved in cement. But Gary Randall went back a week later with our Steve Kim, and the boss, whose only writing should be of checks, knows what he sees. He said the cellulite on the backs of Tyson’s legs seems to have vanished. The feet were “happy,” the second visit. The original Mike Tyson used to be able to move from side to side against opponents, changing angles quickly, his feet as quick as his hands. Randall was describing a retro Tyson.
When I was there, it was only Tyson’s third day of sparring. He seemed in physical shape, and the hand speed was there, but the mental focus was not, the way it has not been for years. But a week later, Randall swears, “he busted up David Bostice for six rounds,” all the while doubling and tripling his jab, throwing combinations, moving his head. Randall said Bostice quit after six rounds, the other sparring partner, Timur Ibragimov, didn’t want to work, and there was Tyson, asking to go on but with no dance partner.
It doesn’t sound very promising for Danny Williams, the fragile Brit he is facing July 30 in Louisville on a $45 pay-per-view card. Williams has talent. The former British and Commonwealth heavyweight champion is 6-foot-3, will weigh about 250 pounds instead of his usual 260, and brings a good jab and power to the table.
The question about Williams has always been his confidence, or lack thereof. He has some amazing losses on his record, including a six-round stoppage last year by the light-hitting but otherwise capable Turk, Sinan Samil Sam. He lost to Julian Francis, the Brit kayoed in two by Tyson.
Buster Douglas, I reminded Tyson, lost to a basketball player. Mike knew it was Mike (The Giant) White – (a sidebar: The Giant was sent down to Brazil to face Adilson Rodriguez, lost a hometown decision, but walking in the street was signed up to play hoops in a local pro league and stayed for a year). I said he could be in trouble if Williams’s mother died before this fight – the way Douglas’s mother passed away while he was training for Tyson.
Tyson pshawed me. He sees the loss to Douglas not as one where Buster fought the fight of his life, his fragile confidence overcome by his dedication to his mother. He sees the loss to Douglas as his own fault. This is a good sign, Tyson taking responsibility for his own deeds or misdeeds. It shows, I believe, another example of his long-last maturing.
Williams, make no mistake, is no Kevin McBride or Peter McNeeley. The guy Don King is putting in with WBO champion Lamon Brewster on Sept. 4 here, Australian Khali Meehan, has been beaten only once as a pro – in 32 seconds by Williams. The Brit is expected to get knocked out early so there is no pressure on him at all. He says Tyson is “probably 40 percent of what he used to be,” but that still made him “a world-class fighter.” Tyson hasn’t fought in 17 months, and that
was for 49 seconds – his total workload for two years. Edge to Williams. But, no, let’s not expect a Tyson derailing at this level.
The big question remains, “Who cares and why?”
Just turn on to the video on this site and you can see why. Tyson is a fascinating character, a troubled youth who became an even more troubled young man. He is Exhibit A as to why money doesn’t cure everything. So many people root for him, I believe, out of empathy with the human condition. If Tyson can somehow right his life, then any of us can find redemption. Tyson is, in a minor way, a kind of religion, a test of faith that man, knocked down again and again, still has the ability to rise. Most of Tyson’s falls were trips; he knocked himself down, stumbling over his own weaknesses.
If a man falls off the wagon four times, do we then discard him, or do we give him another chance? And another? Tyson is running out of chances in the ring. Life is a lot tougher than boxing and the fight is a lot longer.
by Michael Katz