Sunday, August 1, 2004

KO could be final blow to Tyson's comeback

He showed he's mere shell of former menacing self

By Tim Dahlberg
The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - So this is how it all ends for Mike Tyson.

Broke and bloodied, Tyson was knocked silly Friday night 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, too, because the mystique is finally gone.

It disappeared Friday in the fourth round when Tyson was knocked down. It disappeared when Tyson looked around, blood streaming down his face, and decided he didn't want to get up.

Tyson was planning to fight his way out of a $38 million 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.

The excuse 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 really hasn't beaten a top fighter since Razor Ruddock 13 years ago, or Michael Spinks two years before that.

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

"People forget this isn't a peak Mike Tyson," Williams said.

Tyson went all out in the opening round, trying from his first punch to knock out Williams. 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.

Late in the second round, Williams did something else Tyson's handlers didn't bank on - he began fighting back. Williams cut Tyson in the third round, then began battering him in the fourth.

The end came with a flurry of punches and a big right hand that sent Tyson into the ropes.

The referee gave Tyson extra time to get up, and it seemed he could. But it was clear by the look on his face that Tyson already had 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 talking; that's too bad, because it would have been interesting to hear Tyson's take on a future that seems as cloudy as ever. The attorneys handling his bankruptcy case also would be interested in finding out how Tyson will be able to fight six more fights as envisioned, to earn enough to pay off his sizable debts.

The public always has been fascinated with Tyson, and he's still a celebrity in a bizarre kind of way. But the options are limited for a fighter who has been knocked out twice in his last three fights and no longer seems to have the heart for it.

Promoter Bob Arum was planning to offer Tyson a three-fight deal worth up to $100 million. Now, Tyson willl have to fight for a fraction of that - something he probably will 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."

About the only fight remaining that could bring him some money is a third fight with Evander Holyfield, who might be even more shot than Tyson.

It was almost sad to see Tyson bleeding on the canvas, unwilling to go on. But his kind of fighting style was never designed for longevity, so it's hard to believe he's still fighting 18 years after 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.

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