Tyson could be done

Posted: Sunday, August 01, 2004

So this is how it all ends for Mike Tyson. Broke and bloodied, fighting in the same arena where Muhammad Ali made his pro debut 44 years ago, Tyson is knocked silly by the kind of British heavyweight he used to frighten into near paralysis merely by stepping into the ring.

The entourage already left when the money ran out. Now, the fans will leave because the mystique is finally gone, too.

It disappeared in the fourth round when the baddest man on the planet was knocked down with a savage flurry. It disappeared when Tyson looked around, blood streaming down his face, and decided he didn't want to get up.

This was the baddest man on the planet? On Friday night he wasn't even the baddest man in Louisville.

Tyson was planning to fight his way out of $38 million in debt, but the comeback lasted only 11 minutes and 51 seconds. It's hard to imagine anyone paying much to see him fight again, and even harder to imagine Tyson wanting to take this kind of punishment again.

''What good is all the money in the world if you can't count it?'' asked Tyson's trainer, Freddie Roach.

For once, someone in Tyson's camp was making sense.

The excuse from the others is Tyson tore a ligament in his left knee late in the first round and couldn't throw his right hand because of it. At the age of 38, though, the truth is Tyson no longer has the speed or stamina to go more than a round or two with anyone who can punch back.

He hasn't really beaten a top fighter since Razor Ruddock 13 years ago, or Michael Spinks two years before that. He's made tens of millions from memories, the kind fans can't bear to give up until the reality finally becomes so evident they can't avoid seeing it.

Taking a beating from Lennox Lewis was excusable. Getting beaten up by Danny Williams, who sometimes cries in his dressing room before fights, wasn't.

''People forget this isn't a peak Mike Tyson. This was a Mike Tyson who was 38 years old,'' Williams said.

People did forget because they wanted desperately to believe that this was somehow the Iron Mike of old. They wanted to believe this was the Tyson from so many years ago who was so devastating before a rape conviction sent him to prison for three years.

Some 17,000 of them believed so much they spent hundreds, even thousands, of dollars on tickets to see him fight Friday night at Freedom Hall.

They got their money's worth, but not in the way any of them would have imagined.

Tyson went all out in the opening round, trying from his first punch to knock Williams out. For a few minutes, it looked as if he would do just that, landing some big left hooks and uppercuts that hurt his opponent.

But Williams showed something Tyson's handlers didn't think he had when they hand-picked him as an opponent a chin. Maybe they shouldn't have been so cheap and picked Williams because he worked for half the $500,000 that their first choice as an opponent demanded.

Late in the second round, Williams did something else Tyson's handlers didn't bank on he began fighting back. Williams fought back so well he cut Tyson in the third round, then began battering the tiring former champion in the fourth.

The end came with a flurry of punches and a big right hand that sent Tyson sprawling into the ropes. The referee gave Tyson extra time to get up, and it seemed like he could.

But it was clear by the look on his face that Tyson had already decided he wouldn't be fighting on.

''I knew he would tire and he did,'' Williams said. ''Once I hurt him I just let go. I just kept punching and punching.''

Tyson left without making any excuses. He left without talking at all.

That's too bad because it would have been interesting to hear Tyson's take on a future which seems as cloudy as ever. The attorneys handling his bankruptcy case would also be interested in finding out how Tyson will ever be able to fight six more fights as envisioned to earn nearly enough to pay off his sizable debts.

The public, of course, has always been fascinated with Tyson, and he's still a celebrity in a bizarre kind of way. But he can't make money if he doesn't fight, and the options are limited for a fighter who has been knocked out twice in his last three fights and doesn't seem to have the heart for it anymore.

Promoter Bob Arum was planning to offer Tyson a three fight deal worth up to $100 million. Now, he'll have to fight for a fraction of that something Tyson will likely decline to do.

''Can he be rehabilitated and made into a contender?'' asked Arum. ''Probably, yes. Will he? Probably, no. He's got to fight C and D fighters and build up his confidence. You can't put him in with legitimate heavyweights.''

Indeed, about the only fight remaining that could bring Tyson some money is a third fight with Evander Holyfield, who may be even more shot than Tyson. That would be nothing more than a freak show, though, better held in a circus tent than a real arena.

In a way, it was almost sad to see Tyson bleeding on the canvas, unwilling to go on. His kind of fighting style was never designed for longevity, however, and it's hard to imagine he's still fighting 18 years since he first won the heavyweight title.

As Tyson himself likes to say, ''Boxing is a hurt business.''

It is, and the one hurting most right now is Iron Mike himself.

Tim Dahlberg is the boxing writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg@ap.org.



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