Archive for Monday, June 10, 2002

End could be near for Tyson

June 10, 2002

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— Mike Tyson was flat on his back, blood pouring from his mouth, nose and cuts over his eyes. The man who was once the most feared heavyweight in the world was beaten, battered and finished.

Tyson struggled to try and get up, but it didn't really matter. Lennox Lewis had already done with his fists what two jail terms, a biting and other fighters couldn't end Tyson's reign as the baddest fighter of his time.

Tyson

Tyson

The most explosive and turbulent era in heavyweight history came to a crashing close Saturday night with Tyson taking a beating that will likely finish him as anything other than a heavyweight curiosity.

Sixteen years after he became the youngest heavyweight champion ever at 20, Tyson was exposed for what he now is an aging fighter with limited skills who can't intimidate anyone anymore.

"That was probably one of the most thorough and systematic beatings a heavyweight champion has ever given to a legitimate challenger in the history of boxing," said Lewis' trainer, Emanuel Steward.

It was a crowning moment for Lewis, the often cautious British heavyweight who needed a big win to cement his legacy as a great fighter. He did just that by giving Tyson such a beating that a planned rematch may never happen.

Tyson was left baffled, bewildered and bleeding, so badly beaten that he was even questioning his own skills.

"There's no way I could ever beat him," Tyson said. "He's just too big and too strong."

That admission would have been shocking had it come from the Tyson who terrorized the heavyweight ranks in the 1980s and then returned from a prison term for rape to win the heavyweight title once again.

But that Tyson hasn't been seen in years, and the ease with which Lewis beat him means he has likely seen the last of the $20 million paydays he is so used to getting.

"He hurt me early, and he just kept pressure on me," Tyson said. "I could take a shot from him, but I just couldn't see every punch. He's very big."

At 6-foot-5, Lewis seemed even bigger. He towered over the 5-foot-11 Tyson and seemed to toy with him for several rounds, able to hit him any time he pleased with either his stinging left jab or a combination of right uppercuts and hooks.

In his prime, Tyson might have been able to get inside anyway, using his speed and explosive power to get to Lewis' suspect chin. In the ring in this unlikely fight city, though, he never got close.

"I knew who I was up against. I'm a much superior fighter than him," Lewis said. "This is definitely a defining fight for Lennox Lewis' legacy. You could say this was the icing on the cake."

Lewis cut Tyson over both eyes, bloodied his nose and his mouth and seemed to knock him down in the fourth round, although referee Eddie Cotton called it a slip and even penalized Lewis a point for pushing him down.

In the corner between rounds, Steward pleaded with Lewis to get Tyson out of there, but the WBC and IBF champion seemed to be having a good time giving his opponent a beating instead.

The end finally came in the eighth round when Lewis landed a combination that buckled Tyson's knees and prompted Cotton to give Tyson an 8-count. Lewis then went after Tyson and landed a huge crashing right that sent him sprawling on his back. He tried to get up but could only get to a knee at the count of eight and was counted out.

"Some of the punches he took, I was shocked," Lewis said. "I felt them right through to my hand."

Officials were so afraid that Tyson might do something bizarre as he did when he bit Evander Holyfield's ears and bit Lewis at a January press conference that they put a $3 million penalty clause into the contract and kept the fighters from even touching gloves before the bell.

Indeed, in the weeks leading up to the fight Lewis said he often dreamed that Tyson might do something to him.

"I'm glad that no foul play was in the fight," he said. "Some days I dreamed, he's going to punch me low no, he's going to bite me."

But Tyson was the perfect gentleman both in the ring and later when he kissed Lewis' mother, Violet, then tenderly wiped some blood off of the champion's cheek as they answered postfight questions.

"I respect this man as a brother," Tyson said. "I love him and his mother. I would never do anything disrespectful to him."

The contract Lewis signed mandates a rematch after he fights a mandatory IBF defense against Chris Byrd. But the win was so lopsided and the beating so complete that it seems unlikely there will be much public demand for a rematch. The replay of the fight will be shown Saturday at 8:45 p.m. on HBO.

Besides, Tyson is already on record as saying he can't beat Lewis.

"I don't think there will be any more fights with Mike Tyson," Steward said. "Who are we going to sell it to?"

Lewis, who at the age of 36 seems to be in his prime, said he would make no plans until resting for a few weeks and enjoying the biggest win of his career. He had talked about retiring if he beat Tyson, and there are no heavyweights out there right now who could give him a big fight.

The dominating performance means Lewis can now stake his claim to being one of the great heavyweights, something that was in dispute when he lost a one-punch knockout to Hasim Rahman. He has fought in 13 straight title fights, winning all but the fluke knockout by Rahman and a disputed draw with Evander Holyfield.

Lewis also has come back to defeat the only two men who beat him, meaning he has whipped every man he has faced in the ring.

"What else is there for me to prove?" Lewis asked. "This was my defining fight."

It was for Tyson, too, but not in the way he wanted his career defined.

Tyson hasn't beaten a top heavyweight since Razor Ruddock in 1991, though he managed to make $40 million in 2000 for fighting a series of second-rate boxers.

His days of huge paydays are likely over troubling, because Tyson is broke even after his latest payday. He can still make some money as a freak attraction, but his days of being a heavyweight contender also seem over.

"I don't want money. I want greatness," Tyson said. "Money is like sand to me. I squeeze it real hard, and it gets away. It's just like women. Sometimes I squeeze them too hard, then I turn around, and they're gone."

Tyson's advisers admitted before the fight they were concerned what would happen if he lost.

"I'm scared of some things he does," Tyson adviser Shelly Finkel said. "I worry about him after boxing."

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