Tyson is driven on road back

Phil Jackman

November 28, 1990|By Phil Jackman

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- First thing you hear upon entering the Trump Plaza is the voice of George Foreman wafting over the hotel intercom: "Hi, this is George Foreman. I like Evander Holyfield; he's a good kid. That's why I plan on knocking him out early, so he can go home and watch some television before saying his prayers and going to bed. Plan on being at the fight next April 19."

Meanwhile, just 11 days hence, in the same arena where champion Holyfield and Big George will do battle, Convention Hall, Mike Tyson gets back in harness. The Mike Tyson, apparently.

It's OK with him that the Trump publicity machine isn't overdoing the hype for his bout against Alex Stewart Saturday a week (HBO). "I don't let crap like that get me down anymore," said the ex-champ as he showed up just a couple of minutes late for his afternoon sparring session.

He's focused. Time was when Mike's tardiness was measured in hours, sometimes days.

Monday, in his first full working day here, Tyson put a body attack on one of his paid punching bags and the guy complained he was so sore he couldn't touch his ribs. He was replaced and, 10 minutes later, the new guy kissed Mike's right hand, then the canvas.

Yesterday, reportedly, Tyson hammered away for six more rounds. Through a slight opening in a door, one could see that piston-like left hook peppering away. See, Tyson's training sessions are closed to one and all save for his trio of trainers, a camp coordinator, an assistant manager and assorted hangers-on.

After the workout, Mike appeared happy in a morose kind of way. "Yeah, I'm moody," he admitted, "but I've got that drive again. I feel a lot better now, a little nervous, a little jittery."

Most wouldn't welcome such feelings. For Tyson, they mean he's back doing what he does best. "I want to keep fighting and get back on top," he said.

Adding to his apparent comfort is being back working in the East. Forget places like Las Vegas and Tokyo, Mike favors dingy Atlantic City "because Trump Plaza is where I fought the best fights of my career."

It was mentioned a judge up the road in Paterson, N.J., had ruled Holyfield could not be stripped of his heavyweight title by the World Boxing Council for scheduling the Foreman bout and not defending against Tyson. The fighter gave the news his best bored look.

Being a "titles are won and lost in the ring" kind of guy, Tyson indicated he can wait until he gets Holyfield, Foreman or whomever in the ring just so long as he remains active. Without reservation, he states, "I'm still the greatest fighter in the world. Absolutely."

He said the same thing right up until that fateful night 10 months ago in Tokyo when Buster Douglas scored one of the greatest upsets in boxing history. "But I'm no less a fighter now than I was before," he said. "I just didn't prepare properly. I was OK physically, but not emotionally. I didn't want to fight that night."

Then Tyson repeated an admission one rarely hears from a fighter: "I'm not angry I lost the title to Douglas. What can I say? I made the choice to screw up and put myself in this position [of being a challenger, not champ]. I didn't respect the championship at that particular time."

These days, it seems, Mike's resolve is back to the days when he'd dispose of a challenger in about a minute and a half (Michael Spinks and Carl Williams) and say, wryly, "Nobody can come close to me in the ring. Whoever fights me is going to get his --- kicked."

The fight against Stewart was supposed to go Sept. 22, but was postponed when Tyson suffered a gash over his left eye during a sparring session. Alex, nicknamed "The Destroyer," figures as a worthy opponent, not only off his record, 26-1 (all knockouts), but off his performance in that one setback.

It came against Holyfield a year ago. Before the brawl was halted because of a cut over Stewart's right eye, the Englishman had Evander reeling and one good shove away from being down for the first time in his career.

Contrary to the way Don King usually does business, the co-promoter of this production has a strong supporting bout to the heavies: Julio Cesar Chavez, 71-0 with 58 knockouts, putting his junior welterweight belt on the line against Kyung-Duk Ahn. The Korean challenger has lost just one of 30 fights, but doesn't hit very hard (12 KOs).

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