‘That’s what his whole life is based on’
One way to look at this is that Mike Tyson’s punishment began
the moment he fled the arena Saturday night as a national joke.
There is nothing a bully hates more than the ringing sound of
laughter – when everybody is laughing at him.
That doesn’t let Nevada’s boxing regulators off the hook. Or
make their task to restore some integrity to the game any easier.
But having a week to think about the disciplinary hearing is a good
The commissioners know Tyson will suffer plenty in the meantime.
They also know that rash decisions are what got him and his sport
into this mess in the first place. And make no mistake: Tyson owns
boxing the way no one has owned the sport since Muhammad Ali.
He is still the most compelling – maybe the only compelling –
fighter out there. The sorry truth is that Tyson could go into a
bar and be welcomed on the “Toughman” circuit and go to Japan and
announce a fight against a sumo wrestler and then buy an island to
live on with the proceeds.
Most people wouldn’t lift the window shades to see Evander
Holyfield fight at once all four of the stiffs Tyson fought, even
if it took place in their own back yards. But the pay-per-view
audience for Tyson-Holyfield II, 1.8 million households at $50
each, was worth $90 million. Foreign television rights and
closed-circuit telecasts kicked in another $25 million. The live
gate at the MGM Grand Garden produced $14 million. Casinos in Las
Vegas rake in as much as $50 million more on a mega-fight weekend.
Add those numbers up – about $180 million – and suddenly it
becomes easy to understand why the commissioners will spend a week
crafting a plan that allows boxing and Tyson to pick up the pieces
That also explains why, despite his very public act of
contrition Monday, Tyson could send his lawyer before the
commission Tuesday with a bottom-line demand of his own: No
“We’re obviously going to ask for some reason and judgment,”
attorney Marty Keach said. “He also wants to fight again. That’s
what he does for a living. That’s what his whole life is based
That’s also the reason the commission will have to draw a
second, equally precise line in the sand.
Hooking up with the same cronies Tyson used to hang out with –
promoter Don King and his co-managers, John Horne and Rory
Holloway, come to mind – and returning to the ring so soon after
prison were acts of desperation that brought him to that precarious
place where he is now.
For months before Tyson fought and lost to Buster Douglas in
1990, the boxing community buzzed over how much his skills had
eroded. He was always a forward-gear-only fighter, but for the
early part of his career, he more than compensated with very fast
hands, a constantly weaving head, and a devastating punch. When he
cut down on his jabs and his head movement and became easier to
hit, most astute observers predicted Tyson would have to change or
The three-year sentence he served after a rape conviction made
that a moot point. Serving up Peter McNeeley, Buster Mathis Jr.,
Frank Bruno and Bruce Seldon in quick succession provided no clues,
either. The first Holyfield match was a miscalculation. Holyfield
was 4-3 in his seven previous fights and had King or Tyson or
anyone else in their camp guessed at how stout his heart and his
work ethic was, they would have gone after somebody else.
The rematch, of course, was made because of greed. And when
Tyson figured out midway through the third round that money was all
he would take away from the fight, he quit rather than take a
What remains now for the commission to do is strike a balance.
It has to suspend Tyson long enough so that any comeback would
demand a real commitment and the sponges who have lived off him let
go. But it can’t be so long that he becomes desperate enough to
take his act – and much of what interest the sport still holds –
out beyond the territorial waters. That would only demean him and
boxing both; besides, that’s what wrestling is for.
A two-year suspension would be just about right, with the
proviso that he doesn’t fight anywhere in the world – except with
the inner demons that made him impossible to ignore in the first