This column appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun in January 2002.
Tyson freak show is a never-ending debacle
Mike Tyson amuses us, fascinates us and disgusts us. Who else in the public eye generates such attention?
He is a washed-up, over-the-hill fighter, a convicted rapist and a dirty, rotten scoundrel. Yet, if someone somewhere could legally guarantee a venue for the Brooklyn brawler to face Lennox Lewis, millions would flock to their homes and to sports bars to watch the over-priced spectacle on TV.
Let’s face it, nothing on TV is as unpredictable and spontaneous as Tyson in the ring, or out of the ring, doing his thing.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission this week wisely voted 4-1 to not issue Tyson a boxing license. Thus, he cannot fight in Nevada unless that decision is overturned. So, the lucrative, billion-dollar injection of dinero into the Las Vegas economy won’t happen.
Instead, Tyson will fight elsewhere.
Remember, high-profile boxing lost any integrity it had when Don King became the head honcho many moons ago. That means boxing’s big wigs will find a way to get another site for the fight.
Michigan and Denmark are two possibilities, since officials in both places have stated that they’d sanction the fight.
The question is: Will it actually be a fight? Who was the last legitimate pugilist Tyson actually fought?
Cheap-shot antics have become the norm, not an isolated incident for “Iron Mike.” Ever since his infamous ear-biting incidents against Evander Holyfield in 1997, Tyson hasn’t attempted to “use” his boxing skills — that’s, of course, assuming he has any left. He’s repeatedly resorted to thuggish tactics that are downright dangerous, such as attempting to break Francois Botha’s arm after the end of Round 1 in a 1999 fight. Later in the fight, Tyson tried to bash Botha in the head with his elbow.
In the fall of 1998, I attended one of Tyson’s training sessions at the Madison Square Garden Boxing Gymnasium in Phoenix. The afternoon event was a chance for the media to observe Tyson interacting with the community.
Eager fans lined up for blocks to get his autograph and get their picture taken with the former champ. He playfully nibbled on the back of a little kid’s shirt and comically made it look like he was going to bite the kid’s ear in a photograph that later graced the inside of Sports Illustrated.
Tyson was both courteous and downright obnoxious in his dealings with the press that day. At first he said no questions would be answered. Then he went into a spontaneous spiel about how he’d fight a lion anytime, anyplace.
Perhaps Tyson relishes being cast as the bad guy. After all, he says things that make people scratch their heads and wonder if it’s being said just for shock value, or if he really means what he’s saying.
Such as… “I’m going to eat your children,” a memorable threat he once made to Lewis.
Last week’s press conference-turned-melee in NYC did nothing to enhance Tyson’s reputation. After that chaos, Lewis said Tyson bit him in the thigh during their non-scripted physical encounter.
It appears as though Tyson has no respect for Lewis.
“I think Lennox is a coward,” he said. “I’m going to fight him any time I see him in the streets.”
Yeah, I’m sure Lewis traverses from town to town looking for Tyson.
“I’m beyond good and evil,” he was quoted as saying in a 1999 Las Vegas Sun article. “I’m beyond right and wrong. I don’t live by anybody’s rules.”
And finally, this gem of a quote from a few days ago.
“I’m no Mother Teresa,” he said at the hearing earlier this week. “I’m not Charles Manson either. Just treat me equal.”
Equal to whom?