Baltimore sheriff Lou Benson, who moonlights as a professional cruiserweight and battles Jason Waller of Stafford, Va., in the main event at the Pikesville Armory tonight, has bigger things on his mind.
"You can call it a fixation," Benson said, "but I want to go to jail and fight [Mike] Tyson, and I won't take any prisoners.
"Getting a chance to fight Tyson keeps me motivated. In my mind, he's still the heavyweight champion, not [Evander]
Holyfield. Being behind bars doesn't change my opinion of him.
"They [Indiana Department of Corrections officials] can find a way to allow him to fight. There was a precedent set with [light heavyweight] James Scott in the '70s , when they let him fight in Rahway [N.J.] prison. Exceptions can be made."
For Benson, challenging Tyson, who is serving time for a rape conviction, is not a sudden impulse. It has been on his mind since 1986, when the teen-aged Tyson was fighting twice a month on his way to becoming the youngest heavyweight champion in history.
"One of Tyson's managers contacted me about fighting Mike, and I agreed," Benson recalled. "But before they got back to me, Mike got hurt in training, and then I never heard from his people again."
Benson then lost interest in fighting, leading to a six-year absence from the ring before mounting a comeback last year and scoring victories over Ric Lainhart, Lenny Edwards and Baltimore rival Butch Kelly.
"I quit fighting because I had a bad manager -- me," Benson, 35, said with a laugh. "I thought I was tough, invincible and knew everything. I'd fight anybody on a moment's notice. And I lost to some real tough guys."
With more guts than guile, Benson, a beefed-up 205-pounder, matched himself against ranking heavyweights James Broad, Carl "The Truth" Williams and Jeff Sims. He was either stopped or barely survived bad beatings.
"You go out of town," he said, "and you're fighting the hometown hero, the referee and the fans. The odds are stacked against you."
His biggest chance in Baltimore came when he was matched with George Chaplin, a Mack Lewis protege, at the Baltimore Arena (then the Civic Center) in 1983. Chaplin gave Benson a boxing lesson before stopping him in the ninth round.
"You've heard all the excuses before," Benson said, "but I had the flu the week of the Chaplin fight. I should have postponed it. But I was headstrong, and, besides, I'd sold tickets to 800 of my friends. I couldn't walk out on them."
Benson said he is older and wiser, even if he still calls his own shots.
"I don't need a manager or trainer to tell me the difference between a left hook and a right cross," he said. "I've been fighting since I was 16.
His 11 years in the sheriff's department, Benson said, have taught him self-discipline.
"I got the fighting bug again in 1989," he said. "I watched a lot of fights on cable TV and saw guys making good purses who I knew couldn't fight as good as me.
"But I wanted to do it right this time. I stayed in the gym 18 months and got my weight down to 185. And I've got this strange feeling that someone is pushing me to do big things in boxing. And, ultimately, I see myself in that ring with Tyson."
First, Benson (17-9, eight knockouts) must survive his 10-round test with Waller (11-4-1, 8 KOs), a 21-year-old slugger who owns the Virginia 185-pound title.
PD In the co-feature, Baltimore welterweight Eddie Van Kirk (26-11)