Tyson vs. Bruno is a no-fun fight Rap kept under wraps with title up for grabs

March 16, 1996|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

LAS VEGAS - The major difference between the contestants in tonight's heavyweight title match at the MGM Grand, a pundit noted, is that World Boxing Council champion Frank Bruno of England fights for the Queen and challenger Mike Tyson fights for the King.

Promoter Don King, that is.

A clever line, indeed, but if the truth be known, Tyson, in his ring incarnation, fights only for himself.

In the final days leading up to his rematch with Bruno and the first shot at reunifying the undisputed title he owned before his shocking knockout by Buster Douglas in 1990, Tyson clearly has shown he is not beholden to King or the television moguls trying to hype pay-per-view sales in the United States and England.

He skipped a scheduled news conference in Los Angeles last week. On Tuesday, Tyson, who will earn $30 million for tonight's appearance, canceled a public workout for an international media force of 800. The press is heavily covering his first major bout since his release a year ago from an Indiana prison, where he served a three-year term for rape.

Noting Tyson's reticence, the usually affable Bruno begin curtailing his interviews, forcing reporters to rely on long soliloquies by King to serve as hard news.

The two fighters continued this gamesmanship, both arriving an hour late for the last news conference here Wednesday. It proved so dull that Jay Larkin, Showtime vice president of programming, said, "I've seen more levity at a funeral. There's so much money here, if I was getting this money, I'd have a grin from ear to year. We've got so much money invested in these Tyson fights [an estimated $20 million], things will have to change."

But Larkin won't hold his breath.

Tyson feels no need to explain his behavior, nor does his managerial team of Rory Holloway and John Horne believe it is necessary.

Still, there are occasions when Tyson begs to be understood, quoting liberally from the Koran and Chairman Mao, Dickens and Nietzche, authors whose philosophies he studied during his internment. But in interviews, he prefers to limit questions to boxing.

"I don't want to share my personal life with anybody," Tyson said. "Most people who don't know me are apprehensive because of ominous things I've said in the past.

"The majority of interviews I've done never did me justice. I'm just not hung up on the stardom. I'm not hung up on people patting me on the back. I've been doing this since I was 14. I just don't want to deal with people. But it's never that extreme that I'll be a recluse.

"I don't have an outlet besides boxing, except reading the Koran and my daughters," he told Ring magazine. "I'm having a hang-up dealing with my life. I just don't believe anybody. Sometimes my girlfriend [Monica Turner of Washington] says, 'I love you.' I say, 'Thank you, I love you.' But it's not really in my heart."

Only fighting and his two daughters from different alliances tend to arouse his passion. Speaking of Rayna, born on Valentine's Day to Turner, Tyson said: "Her mother is extremely beautiful, but Rayna is so gorgeous she makes Monica look like a junkyard dog."

Holloway, who oversees Tyson's training regimen, said the birth of Rayna has softened the ex-champion.

"Mike is really ecstatic about the baby," he said. "This is a pivotal time in his life. He has a new sense of family values."

But Tyson is not ready to use that issue as a political platform. He is more at ease discussing his brutal profession.

Harking back to his first fight with Bruno here in 1989 when he was still champion and flattened the Brit in five rounds, Tyson said: "I was an immature person and burned out back then, without being aware of the strains and pressure I was under. I lost interest in fighting."

Now, Tyson said: "The human being you see before you is a grown man who loves fighting and can't wait to prove himself the best in the world again. Boxing was fun when I was in my early 20s and wanted to take on the whole world the same night. It came so easy. Now it's more important to me."

Asked to explain the apparent dichotomy of being a practicing Muslim and a professional boxer, Tyson said simply, "It's my job. I'm in the hurt business."

But the young warrior, who once said he relished the prospect of pushing a rival's nose into his brain, has not engaged in "dissing" matches with Bruno, who openly questioned whether Tyson has changed his ways after his prison release.

"As a Muslim, I've learned to conduct myself with respect toward my human beings," Tyson said. "Life is not necessarily about making money, but to conduct yourself in a way that God appreciates. Basically, I think Frank Bruno is a nice man and I haven't said anything horrible about him."

Has Tyson really mellowed? There have been rumors that he has looked less than overpowering in recent sparring sessions. In fact, his principal trainer, Jay Bright, reported after a workout last Friday that "he looked flat and lifeless."

For such forthrightness, Bright reportedly was told to keep his opinions to himself.

Lewis gets next shot

A New Jersey judge yesterday refused to issue an injunction against tonight's fight, but did order that the winner face Lennox Lewis in his next defense.

Lewis, a former champion, had filed a motion asking for an injunction.

Judge Amos Saunders refused to order the sanctioning removed but did issue an order prohibiting the winner from defending against anyone but Lewis in his next fight.

Saunders also issued an injunction against the WBC from staging any heavyweight title fight that does not include Lewis.

Fight facts

Who: Frank Bruno (40-4, 38 KOs) vs. Mike Tyson (43-1, 37 KOs).

What: For Bruno's World Boxing Council heavyweight title, 12 rounds.

Where: MGM Grand Garden, Las Vegas.

When: Tonight.

TV: Pay-per-view show begins 9 p.m., with four other title bouts. Main event is expected to begin between 11: 15 and midnight.

Pub Date: 3/16/96

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