Knock, Knock, Who's There? Tarver - Tyson
By Chris Ackerman (November 26, 2005)
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Has it really come to this? At first I thought it was a joke…a stupid one…and just like every knock, knock joke aside from ‘interrupting cow’ it made me groan rather than laugh. For any legitimate fan of the sport and the science of boxing, this is too ridiculous for words. But words is what we do around here, so let’s discuss why we should be appalled by the possibility of this fight happening, and boycott it as a PPV if it does.

Article after article gets written by boxing analysts, decrying the miserable state boxing is in. There are very few epic battles, the heavyweight division has imploded, Congress votes down the proposed national commission and champions seem unwilling to face each other. The sport is turning into a joke because the only media coverage is negative and the only mainstream media attention focuses on the continuing antics of Mike Tyson.

How long is this adulation/ voyeurism going to go on? Why can’t the world look the other way? Why can’t we simply turn the page? Because the boxing community keeps allowing him, or even inviting him, into the spotlight.

In spite of the old adage, not all publicity is good publicity. In fact, it’s embarrassing for fans, the athletes and the sport as a whole, that Mike Tyson continues to be the poster boy for boxing. No wonder public opinion toward the sport is either in the toilet or non-existent because no one cares. It’s a disgrace that Antonio Tarver is actively seeking this fight. That’s right, I said it. It’s a disgrace. Tarver should be ashamed of himself, especially after all the jawing about the struggle to the top, wanting respect, being the man and the people’s champion.

There has been speculation that Tarver’s pursuing a fight with Tyson has its roots in his never-ending rivalry with Roy Jones Jr. Several years ago, Jones was looking to make this same fight happen but for several reasons it didn’t come off. Whether it was an issue of extra insurance in case of permanent injury, splitting of the purse, timing or what have you, the two sides never came to an agreement. That would have been an interesting match-up because, while no real threat on the heavyweight landscape, Tyson was still formidable for a smaller opponent like Jones. Since those discussions, however, he has lost by knockout to Danny Williams and Kevin McBride. He has also stated on the record that the only reason he was in the ring still was to pay off some of his insurmountable debt. Not exactly the elements of ferocity that would render him a fearsome opponent that Tarver had the stones to face, while Jones did not.

The funny thing about this is that Tarver probably thinks he would be the fan favorite going into this one. He’s wrong. Even after everything Mike Tyson has done or failed to do, he would still get all the cheers, all the jeers and all the attention, period. People watch him because they love a good train wreck or are simply overly nostalgic for the past. Stunts like this will not win crowds over to the Tarver camp…picking a fight with Jeff Lacy instead would have been the right move and Lacy could easily handle the weight. How about a step into the Cruiserweight division and a showdown with Jean-Marc Mormeck or Wayne Braithwaite? There are plenty of options available that true fans of the sport would prefer to see.

Obviously money is a motivating factor and that is not necessarily a bad thing. It makes sense to chase the big paydays while you are on top, and while a Jeff Lacy bout would bring in the cake, it would not be on par with a battle with the big boys. That being said, one cannot blame Tarver for looking to move into heavyweight territory (aside from the fact that he is no Roy Jones and lacks the tools to make any big statements). But why Tyson? How about a little outcry from the boxing community about Tarver not fighting Sam Peter or James Toney or Wladimir Klitschko or any other legitimate guy. RJ had to face that criticism when he chose Ruiz over others…and Ruiz was on a winning streak, with recent wins over Holyfield and Kirk Johnson. Why shouldn’t The Magic Man hear it for choosing the fighter formerly known as king? And not formerly like last week…formerly as in 15 years ago.

We as fans and media have to work hard to shake of this Mike Tyson adulation. He is less than a shadow of his former self; he is less than the shadow of the specter of his former self. I was in love with Farrah Fawcett as a lad, then Christy Brinkley…I turned the page once they no longer ranked in the top ten. No one still prints posters of Lauren Hutton, no one puts Raquel Welch on the cover of swimsuit magazines and no one offers modeling contracts to Cheryl Tiegs anymore. Why? Because they are past their prime, at a different stage in life and no longer have the abilities and gifts they once did.

These women had their time, and were beautiful to watch, just as Mike Tyson was but it’s over now. Let him be for the love of God. Let him put us, and the sport, in the past and let us do the same for him. This isn’t about who would win this fight, we shouldn’t care because it doesn’t prove anything. Antonio Tarver split two fights with Glen Johnson and won two of three versus a wilted Roy Jones. Fighting next against a has-been heavyweight is not the way to win fans or respect. This isn’t a circus sideshow, this is the greatest sport in the world and it shouldn’t be sullied by nonsense such as this.

What’s next, Tarver-Frazier? Tarver-Holmes. Why not clean out the division of all the greats from the past, starting at cruiser against Qawi. In fact, maybe this could be a new trend: Winky Wright versus Evander Holyfield, Floyd Mayweather versus Marvin Hagler, Oscar versus Ray Leonard.

Then it would spread to other sporting events and we’d have Smarty Jones vs. Secretariat, Michael Phelps vs. Mark Spitz, Lebron James one-on-one vs. Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods vs. Arnold Palmer, Asafa Powell or Maurice Green racing Ben Johnson or Carl Lewis. See my point? It’s as preposterous as if Sylvester Stallone decided to make another Rocky movie…oh wait…this is just too stupid for words.

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