‘Turned Into a Circus’ – An Assessment of Mike Tyson in ‘05

12.04.05 - By Tony Fondacaro: Apparently the boxing gods have chosen Kevin McBride to be the next “warm-up” for Mike Tyson. This would be the Kevin McBride whose last three opponents have a collective record of 58-59-5, all unranked fighters, and one of them who hasn’t won a match since December of 1995. McBride is ranked 148th in the world, which in boxing is the equivalent of not being ranked at all. Kevin McBride? Who the hell cares?

At this point we have more than one indicator that Tyson is fighting simply to get out of debt, but there are some, maybe including Tyson himself, who believe that it is still about more than money. Since convalescing from his shattering upset to Danny Williams, Tyson has done a lot of things to indicate both intentions. First; he’s said on occasion that he’s not sure why he’s still in the game. That he’s taken all he wants to take. That he wakes up and has those moments where he goes, “What’s it all for now?” This kind of uncertainty is horrible news for anyone who still believes Tyson can win back a title, and has to sound like a death-knell to any potential trainer. He’s also managed to amass an enormous debt. Any match in the future, with this outlook, would have to be for dollars only..

On the flip side; he’s done a lot of good things lately. He’s moved back to Phoenix, which for all intents and purposes is Tyson’s home base. He’s expressed relief at being home. He’s hooked up with Aussie trainer Jeff Fenech, someone who says he won’t tolerate outside influences, and says if the whole thing collapses, he’s headed for home. Perfect for Tyson, who is infamous for both his triumphs and collapses. This is a smart thing for Fenech to say on more than one level. To begin with, it will show other trainers that training Tyson is beginning to not be the wonderful prospect it once was. There was a time when any trainer would have loved to try and harness that power, but as of late, it doesn’t seem as though there’s any incentive. Fenech has created an incentive for Tyson, which is: If Tyson wants to keep fighting, and making money, he needs to do more than show up for the fight. It gets Tyson’s mind, hopefully, into a place that isn’t focused on how he’s feeling now, but how he’ll feel after this year with a few fights behind him. Fenech, I believe, is trying to show Tyson how to win fights mentally again.

The formula for Tyson’s comeback is simple, according to him: Three easy fights to get back the confidence, the money, and then on to bigger and better things. I take issue with this plan from the get-go. Let’s go back to last year in July, when Tyson lined up Williams to be the next comeback win after a first-round KO of Clifford Etienne. Williams was supposed to be another piece of meat for Tyson to bite off, and for the first round, it seemed as if Williams was ready to become hamburger. Somehow the guy managed to stay on his feet (by grabbing on for dear life), and pulled off a stunning upset. Sorry did I say upset? I meant farce. That was the dumbest thing I have ever witnessed. Tyson losing to Danny Williams? Since when did it become about Danny Williams? No one I’ve talked to has thought that Williams’ win over Tyson last year had anything to do with what Williams did; it was because of what Tyson didn’t do. It was literally a case of being a fight for Tyson to lose, and lose he did. Williams didn’t beat Tyson; Tyson beat Tyson. Tyson has always beaten Tyson, with the exception of Lennox Lewis. Looking back, Tyson could have gotten up and mauled Williams, even with a potentially screwed up knee. Want proof? Watch Danny Williams vs. Vitali Klitschko.

Snap back to 2005. Danny Williams is now an afterthought after being turned into a punching bag by Klitschko. Any thoughts of Williams’ being a good fighter were quickly dashed, as Klitschko proved just how overmatched and out of place Williams was in the upper ranks after throttling him to an eighth round TKO. That was only five months after Tyson, but I’m sure it felt like 15 minutes to Williams.

And now Tyson and McBride camps are converging to announce a match this summer, while Danny Williams has been on mute, aside from a letter he may or may not have written challenging Tyson to a rematch. The problem I have with that letter is that there has been no reiteration from the Williams’ camp, as if his handlers said to him, “Are you nuts? A letter? He’d kill you in a rematch!” Not inspiring stuff.

Notice, there’s no talk about a rematch with Klitschko, and nobody at this point would expect that fight anytime soon.

What about a rematch with Tyson? Why aren’t there more people who think this fight is a necessary step for Tyson to get back into stride? It could be that the only time Tyson tried to rematch someone, it turned into a circus, but Danny Williams in ’05 is not Evander Holyfield of ’97. Nor is Tyson the same he was eight years ago. If it is confidence we’re talking about, wouldn’t a convincing win over Williams be just what the doctor ordered? Tyson/Williams II would certainly be more lucrative than Tyson/McBride I, so monetarily speaking a rematch makes more sense. The banners are already going up: Don’t you dare put Tyson/McBride on pay-per-view, as neither Tyson nor McBride deserves to be esteemed that way. There’s also the rematch factor, which is like refining gold. See what happened to Lewis when he rematched Rahman? Everyone forgot about that first match, and now it’s only mentioned as a quirk, an oddball occurrence. Tyson, with a rehabbed-knee, a new trainer, and a new beginning, even at age 38, still does Williams inside three rounds. This kind of win for Tyson can silence critics who have been spitting hot fire about him ever since July ‘04.

McBride, on the other hand, is someone Tyson should never lose to, and I don’t care if they’re 80 years old and McBride is sporting a lead pipe. Should Tyson lose, it would truly be over; at that point, even the hardest of hard-core Tyson fans would leave camp. McBride is a slow, plodding, untalented heavyweight who has fought absolutely no one, and if all that weight went down, I doubt McBride would have the strength to pick himself up. Tyson still has some of that old speed left, and if used smartly against him, it should end McBride inside of two rounds. Make no mistake, if Tyson doesn’t make short work of McBride, all those doubts will rise back to the surface, and will ultimately infect Tyson to the point of not being able to win again. McBride is the threshold, as insignificant as this match may seem, but if Tyson can’t move to the inside on McBride, he won’t be able to move to the inside on anyone.

We do not live in an age when we can look at any Tyson match in the future and go, “It’s a lock.” The fact of the matter is that Tyson has been breaking down mentally in the last decade, ever since being out of jail, and on the near-anniversary of his comeback win against Peter McNeeley, Tyson will attempt to knock out another McNeeley. Watch for Tyson to blitz McBride early, but then, maybe not.

Aw what the heck… Tyson by second-round KO.

Article posted on 12.04.2005

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