Trainer: 38-year-old Tyson can still be a contender


Published: July 15, 2004

Fifteen years ago Mike Tyson was the most feared boxer in the sport, overpowering opponents on his way to becoming the youngest heavyweight champion ever.

Freddie Roach knows that’s not the Mike Tyson he’s currently training.

Roach said today’s Tyson still has the knockout power and speed to become one of the world’s top heavyweights. But his focus now is to make Tyson more of a tactical fighter.

Roach said Tyson won’t depend on one big punch to take out British fighter Danny Williams, 31, when they meet July 30, in Louisville.

Roach has been training Tyson to use his jab and combinations to break Williams down.

Then he’ll look for the knockout.

“We all wish we could be 20 again,” Roach said by conference call Thursday. “Obviously, Mike’s not going to turn into a boxer or a mover. Once he gets distance with the jab, everything else will fall into place.”

Iron Mike thinks he’s had enough training. Tyson was civil and funny at a news conference in Louisville on June 29, and said he wasn’t there to be a tough guy. Roach sees the predator in Tyson coming out as the fight gets closer.

He’s been a gentleman outside the ring,” Roach said. “But I can see it coming a little bit. He’s getting a little moody. He’s tired of training right now. He’s ready to fight.”

As anxious as Tyson is, Roach wants him to be patient in the ring. Tyson’s plan is to have seven fights in two years to dig himself out of debt. For that plan to be successful, he needs time in real fights, not just gym workouts, Roach said.

“We need rounds,” Roach said. “He can’t be sharp fighting one-round fights.”

Williams grew up a fan of Tyson’s but estimates the former champ is only about 40 percent what he used to be.

Roach said Tyson is about 50 percent of the fighter he once was, but he’s getting better daily. The trainer still counts his fighter as a force in his division. Tyson may even contend for one of the belts if he stays busy, Roach said.

“The heavyweight division isn’t deep right now,” Roach said. “Mike may be at 50 percent right now but he will be getting better and better if we keep him active and keep him in the gym. And that’s the important thing we need to do is get a fight scheduled right after this one. Down time’s bad for any fighter.”

Tyson’s had plenty of that. His last fight was a first-round knockout of Clifford Etienne in Memphis in February 2003.

Tickets for the Tyson-Williams match sold quickly when they went on sale, but have since tapered off. Approximately 7,000 tickets, mostly in the lower price range, had been sold as of Wednesday, said Burt Watson of Straight Out Promotions. The match will be held in Freedom Hall, which holds about 20,000.

MALCOLM C. KNOX, Associated Press Writer

Source: sfgate