And for Now, in Tyson's Corner, It's Jeff Fenech

By
TysonTalk

Published: June 5, 2005

Source: Washington Post

By Mark Schlabach

PHOENIX — As former heavyweight
champion Mike Tyson backed Corey Sanders into the ropes of the ring in
Central Boxing Club during a workout last month, trainer Jeff Fenech
stood in the corner, yelling: “Beautiful, Mike! Beautiful!”

Fenech,
an Australian and former champion in three weight classes, is training
Tyson for the first time in preparation for Saturday night’s fight
against Kevin McBride at MCI Center. Tyson, who turns 39 on June 30,
spent the past two months training in Phoenix before arriving in the
District on Friday night.

“We know what we have to do for this
fight and we know what we have to do after this fight,” Fenech said.
“We’ve done more than enough for this fight. We’ll have no excuses at
all. What people will see is how much more patient and smarter Mike
Tyson is now.”

Tyson, once the most feared fighter
in the world because of his power and ultra-fast hands, has lost two of
his last three bouts. Tyson (50-5, 44 knockouts) was knocked out in the
eighth round by heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis on June 8, 2002, his
last opportunity to win a title. Tyson knocked out lightly regarded
Clifford “Black Rhino” Etienne in 49 seconds on Feb. 22, 2003, but then
was stunned by Danny Williams, who six months earlier had lost the
British heavyweight title to Michael Sprott. Tyson tore ligaments in
his left knee during the first round of his loss to Williams and
underwent surgery shortly after the fight.

“He didn’t beat me,” Tyson said. “I broke my leg.”

Fenech,
41, who earned the moniker “Marrickville Mauler” during his 12-year pro
boxing career, has spent as much time restoring Tyson’s confidence as
improving the fighter’s conditioning and footwork.

“My
first goal was to make Mike happy and make Mike enjoy coming back
here,” Fenech said. “I wanted to make Mike want to come to the gym with
us. Once I did that, everything fell into place. He has worked hard.
Mike’s enjoying what he’s doing. He has lost nothing physically. He
just lost a little bit of the invincibility and confidence factor.”

More quotes available in the extended section of this post (click ‘Read More‘ below).

Fenech
is the latest in a long line of Tyson’s trainers. Freddie Roach, who
trained Tyson for his previous two bouts, said he often struggled to
communicate with his fighter. After Tyson was bruised and battered by
Williams during much of the four rounds in his last fight, Roach
reluctantly said he didn’t believe Tyson could compete for a
heavyweight championship again. “What good is all the money in the
world if you can’t count it?” Roach said after that fight.

But
Fenech said Tyson can still compete in a heavyweight division that
lacks firepower and star power. Four of the top heavyweights —
Americans Chris Byrd, John Ruiz and James Toney and Ukrainian Vitali
Klitschko — are at least 33 years old.

“I don’t
think Mike realizes how fit he could get if he did the work,” Fenech
said. “He hasn’t done the work for a long time. I think he’s surprised
himself with what he’s doing. I’ve been really happy with him.”

Fenech
wants Tyson to fight again this year, if his comeback plans aren’t
again derailed by a journeyman fighter. McBride (32-4-1, 27 knockouts)
has knocked out his last seven opponents, but the Irishman hasn’t faced
a fighter as menacing as Tyson. McBride, 6 feet 6, is seven inches
taller than Tyson and has an 11-inch advantage in reach. He weighed 264
pounds in his last fight, a fifth-round technical knockout of Kevin
Montiy on March 18; Tyson weighed 233 when he was knocked out by
Williams last year.

Tyson spent much of the two
months in Phoenix sparring against Shane Cameron, a former shepherd and
boxer sponsored by an Australian rugby club, and Sanders, a former
football player at Theodore Roosevelt High School in the District.
Sanders, 30, is as tall as McBride, although he is probably closer to
320 pounds. Sanders, who also sparred with Riddick Bowe, has lost his
last four fights and 10 of his 33 pro bouts.

“I
think the biggest difference with Mike now when I watch him box is that
he’s a little more patient,” Fenech said. “He’s thorough, and he thinks
about what he has to do. He’s not rushing it, not trying to catch, kill
and destroy straight away. If it takes him three or four rounds, he can
do it now. He’s not 21 anymore and there’s a method to the madness now.
I think you’ll see a much more patient Mike.”