Promoting this Tyson bout is half the battle

By
TysonTalk

Published: July 16, 2004

It is only 14 nights and counting until Mike Tyson more or less returns to boxing in Louisville, Ky. Even as you read this, the tension down there is so thick you could cut it with a wet noodle.

The bean counters at Showtime Boxing’s pay-per-view network are tense. The IRS, which sure as hell would like a payment against the money Tyson owes it — a sum large enough to ransom King Richard the Lionhearted and get him back in the Crusades — is tense.

The beneficent Shelly Finkel, who bills himself as Tyson’s “manager” in some states and his “packager” in others — depending on how high he can run his legal take-out pay — is tense. The locals who have to try to sell out Freedom Hall are tense. I mean, it’s not as though this is an easy sell like, say, Evel Knievel jumping over the Churchill Downs infield or a giant tractor pull.

Still, there are the usual civic optimists who think this event could be the greatest attraction since desperate bartenders began stuffing grass into perfectly good whiskey and calling the vile end products mint juleps. Which event could produce the most nausea is conjectural.

In any event, here comes Mike, who hasn’t been in the ring (much to the fiscal discomfort of the IRS, Showtime and bankruptcy court) since February of 2003. He brings with him, of course, his own handpicked opponent, a fellow named Danny Williams from England. He had been scheduled to fight a journeyman named Kevin McBride, who is a household name only if you reside in the McBride household.

As an opponent, McBride was made in heaven for Tyson — or wherever such fistic opponents spring from — until his people mentioned money. Shelly immediately waved his wand, thought about a cheaper fighter, better TV sales in England and, then, waived his magic ballpoint pen. Quicker than you can either “Abracadabra” or “Give me an opponent with the heart of a lion and the chin of a poet,” McBride disappeared in a puff of smoke and, in his place, there stood Danny Williams.

The promoters are quick to tell you that Mr. Williams could give you a lot of trouble. But Mr. Williams ain’t fightin’ you. He’s fighting Mike Tyson.

They also trumpet the fact that Williams is the World Boxing Union’s heavyweight champion. He has also been the British heavyweight champion and the British Empire heavyweight champion.

In the year 2004, these are titles only slightly lower in prestige than being elected Mayan War Chief.

Last year, in a European heavyweight title challenge, Sinan Samil Sam dropped Williams three times and stopped him in the sixth round. Apologists for the pride of Brixton, England will shrug and tell you that when Williams was told he was going to fight a fellow in Berlin, he expected to see someone built more along the lines of Herman Goering in the other corner.

Williams also lost a 1999 decision to Julius Francis, whom Tyson knocked out in two rounds in 2000.

When everyone got together in Louisville for the traditional photo-op press conference, they sat beneath a large red and black sign that read:

“Return for Revenge.”

When you think about this you may be inclined to ask, “Revenge upon whom?” That’s because you don’t understand that slogans used to sell fights like this one don’t have to make any sense. It’s the alliteration that counts, stupid.

Neither fighter has ever fought in Louisville. But if you persist in trying to make sense out of this, you may draw one of three conclusions from this battle cry:

A) The revenge belongs to Memphis, Tenn., because after playing host to Tyson-Lewis and Tyson-Etienne, it stunk up the Pyramid Arena so badly the town ran out of deodorant and now it’s somebody else’s turn.

B) Danny Williams is going to fight Gen. George Washington.

C) “Remember the Alamo” and “No Justice, No Peace” were already taken.

Mike Tyson has earned more money than any fighter who ever lived. He recently got a $14 million settlement from Don King and yet he is nearly $40 million in debt. He is estimated to have spent more than $300 million.

Off that record, he isn’t a fighter. What he is, is a magician. The three Gabor sisters, Michael Jackson and the Enron gang all combined couldn’t spend that much money.

Is there danger in this fight for Mike Tyson?

Who knows?

“I feel the time has come to really make a move,” Williams says. ” I am happy with the role as an underdog. I am fighting the greatest heavyweight in the world. This is the time to raise my game. I have been training hard. I am going to get this victory.”

Speaking of training, the other day Danny Williams brought a new sparring partner named Clifford Etienne into his camp. The very sound of his name conjures up Louisiana visions of gumbo and zydeco — neither of which is going to be much help to Williams.

You may remember Clifford as the earnest young man who tried to overwhelm Mike Tyson by smacking his own jaw against Tyson’s right fist. When Etienne went down, you could almost hear glass tinkle.

“I think,” Williams says, “he can tell me about the intimidation factor.”

Based on how his performance ended, it is difficult to guess what he could tell Williams beyond the fact that he should have sold advertising space on the up-turned soles of his boxing shoes.

BY JERRY IZENBERG

Source: nj.com