Another Mike Tyson Obituary
By Sean Newman (June 14, 2005)
By now, you probably find it tiresome to read yet another chronicle of the rise and fall of Mike Tyson. Countless words have been written in the past few days describing Tyson’s demise, some of it negative, but mostly positive in appreciation for all that the man has done, both for, and to the sport. Well add another to the list. I would be remiss if I did not pay homage to the man who originally got me excited about the sport of boxing.
Tyson was a child prodigy, and a tornado of a man in the ring who would become one of the most feared fighters in the history of the sport. The old man, Cus D’Amato, would no doubt have been very proud of what Tyson would accomplish in the late 1980’s. The story between D’Amato and Tyson is what first attracted us all. Then came D’Amato’s death and that of close friend and co-manager Jim Jacobs, the tabloid fodder and ill-fated marriage to Robin Givens, and Tyson’s association with Don King. These, and other dramas, in the life of Michael Gerard Tyson, made us sit up and pay attention to what he did inside the ring in those glorious years.
He had two sledgehammers for fists, and speed that could catch the fastest of heavyweights. Not a very tall fighter, he turned this disadvantage into an advantage by fighting out of a crouch and employing perpetual head movement. From the mediocre champions and former champions of the heavyweight division like Berbick, Tubbs, and Thomas, to great relics like Holmes, to contenders like Spinks and Williams, they all fell. This was partially a result of Tyson’s relentless fistic assault, and not in small part due to the intimidation factor.
Many boxers who fought Tyson in those days were beaten before they even stepped into the ring, such was Tyson’s aura of invincibility. The only hint of a weakness and come when Tony Tucker and Frank Bruno had Tyson shaken, but only momentarily. Otherwise, bodies dropped in front of Tyson as if he were wielding an axe in the ring, instead of gloves.
That image of Tyson the Destroyer died on February 11, 1990 in front of an eerily silent Tokyo audience. Perhaps the Tokyo crowd realized that what they were witnessing was the end of an era, the murdering of a memory. That would explain the hush that existed in the arena. Though it took fifteen years following Douglas’ monumental upset, the Tyson Express appears to, sadly, have made its last stop. Tyson’s fall from grace has seemingly been gradual, from his 1992 rape conviction, to all the infamous misadventures in the years since. But even after falling to Lennox Lewis in 2002, and coming back to whack out Clifford Etienne with one punch, could anyone have predicted that Mike Tyson’s complete freefall would be as rapid as his extraordinary rise to the top of the division? Could anyone realistically have expected that Tyson would become fodder for the inept, a journeyman for journeymen?
Of course, we never really wanted to believe it. Now, with 20/20 hindsight, there are those who say they have known Tyson was finished for many years. Well, we all did, to some extent. We knew that Tyson would never be the fighter he once was. We knew we could never relive the sensation of watching Tyson in his prime. But somewhere in the backs of our mind, we hoped. We hoped because Tyson is the last great mainstream star of boxing. Forget George Foreman, or Oscar De La Hoya. Foreman’s popularity, though justified based on regaining the title, had more to do with a gimmick and product pushing, not what he did in the ring. And De La Hoya, well, just doesn’t measure up, and it’s not even close. We hoped also because, whether we liked Tyson or not, we knew that his name still meant something to those that don’t regularly follow boxing, and that having him atop a weak division once again was better for the health of boxing.
We hoped, further and against our better sense, that Tyson could somehow resurrect the magic. If only, we told ourselves, he could train hard and be focused and resolute enough, and get back to basics, he could be the baddest man on the planet again. The favorite had become the underdog, in a sense, especially after the contrition and humility he exhibited following the Lewis defeat and since. He seems to have made a genuine effort to become a better person, his infractions against McBride notwithstanding, at least for the time being. Fans who used to watch him in the hopes that he would be mercilessly beaten were now cheering for him.
Kevin McBride, a mediocre fighter at best, drove the final nail in the coffin of those foolish hopes, forcing Tyson to quit both the fight and boxing altogether. Maybe it’s for the best. Tyson hasn’t seemed to want to fight in a very long time.
Tyson says he doesn’t want our applause, and he doesn’t want our pity. Fair enough. Whatever you ask for, champ. He also says he’s done fighting. I hope he’s serious. I fear, however, that this is yet another foolish hope.
Insert Boxing Cliché Here
It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these “round ‘em up” type blurbs at the end of the column, so here goes. Some of you have asked me why I call it “Insert Boxing Cliché Here”. It’s simple. I like to let you, the reader, decide what boxing metaphor goes there. Hell, call it the Spit Bucket if you want….Several fans are already calling this the “Year of the Quitter” and I think justifiably so. The year is not even half over and already we have witnessed several high profile quit jobs. What’s next, the ultimate blood and guts warrior, Arturo Gatti, turning away from Floyd Mayweather and begging off because of a bloody lip?...I got a nice e-mail from Harold Lederman in response to the interview I conducted with Barry Tompkins. The substance: “I had the honor and privilege to work and learn from the great Barry Tompkins when I started at HBO in March, 1986. In my mind, Barry's greatest line was ‘and we have a new era in boxing’, which he stated immediately after the referee stopped the Mike Tyson-Trevor Berbick WBC heavyweight title fight. It turned out to be so true, because that moment echoed in the dominance that Tyson would display as heavyweight champion for the next few years. I thought it was a fabulous comment which could only have come from the mouth of someone like Barry who saw that Tyson had just taken control of the entire sport of boxing for years to come.”…In other news, I also heard through the grapevine that Rock Newman, he who shares my last name (though I think we’d all agree that I’m the more famous), was not happy with the comments made in reference to him by ring announcer Henry “Dis-com-bob-u-lating” Jones. Seems Newman was not happy that Jones said Rock promised him the opportunity many years ago to announce some of Riddick Bowe’s fights, an opportunity that never materialized. The issue culminated in Newman confronting Jones at the Tyson-McBride weigh-in and screaming obscenities in Jones’ face. Newman and Jones have since worked out their differences…I didn’t pay to see the Tyson fight, as much as I like to see Tyson fight. I saw it as a mismatch and not worthy of a hard earned 45 bucks. Boy was I wrong. I see Mayweather-Gatti as a mismatch too. Maybe a win is really in the cards for Gatti. Maybe Floyd even quits….
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