Tyson puts fury back into punch Foes may be few after Bruno TKO

March 18, 1996|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

LAS VEGAS - The morning after Mike Tyson stopped Frank Bruno in less than seven minutes to claim the World Boxing Council heavyweight crown on Saturday night, the real question was not "Who's next?" but "Why would anyone want to test Tyson?" The usual suspects are World Boxing Association champion Bruce Seldon; Francois Botha, who holds the International Boxing Federation belt and is even less mobile than Bruno; and ex-WBC king Lennox Lewis of Canada, who had been knocked out in short order by journeyman Oliver McCall.

Even Buster Douglas, the 40-1 underdog who dethroned Tyson in 1990 but is now a bloated 275 pounds, suggested he was ready to prove his earlier upset was no fluke.

In recent weeks, they all have made threatening noises in Tyson's direction, but now may seek less dangerous opponents after witnessing Bruno's fate. They needed only to have observed the Brit's nervous approach to the ring Saturday night. One British boxing writer observed Bruno crossing himself 13 times before climbing through the ropes and twice more before the opening bell.

But Bruno did not have a prayer. He had been bombed out by Tyson in five rounds here seven years ago, when Tyson was the undisputed heavyweight champion and calling himself "the baddest dude on this planet."

Now, at 34, Bruno apparently knew that his chances of winning were even more remote.

The invasion of some 4,000 chanting British fanatics in the sellout crowd of 16,783, many draped in the Union Jack and making the MGM Grand Garden vibrate like a revival meeting, quickly dropped the odds against Bruno from 10-1 to 6-1.

But Bruno was hardly deserving of such loyalty, putting up only token resistance against Tyson. By the second round, Bruno, who had a 27-pound weight advantage, already was locked into his survival mode. Referee Mills Lane penalized him a point for holding. "I knew he couldn't stand up to my power," said Tyson, who dispatched Bruno at 50 seconds of the third round with a barrage of 11 unanswered punches, hardly working up a sweat while pocketing $30 million.

It was a far more impressive and disciplined performance than his brief tuneups against Peter McNeeley and Buster Mathis last year, when he was overzealous and seemingly missed as often as he connected.

"Mike Tyson is the best heavyweight in the world," said trainer Jay Bright. "There certainly was nothing flat about Mike tonight."

Seldon, who may face Tyson as early as July 13, agreed.

"That was vintage Tyson," he said. "All the power and fury was back. He made Bruno look like a novice."

In the next breath, Seldon added: "I'm in no rush to fight Tyson. Right now, I'm happy being champion and what it brings.

"I know fighting Tyson will mean a great deal of money, and beating him would give me superstardom. But financially, I'm all right now. If Tyson isn't next, I'll fight somebody else. All I want is a piece of the pie."

Tyson could turn to Botha, but he tested positive for anabolic steroids after winning the vacant IBF title by out-pointing Axel Schulz. The IBF has ordered a rematch, but ex-champion Michael Moorer insists he is Botha's mandatory challenger.

Tyson's future is clouded by Lewis, who last week won a legal battle in New Jersey's Superior Court, where Judge Amos Saunders ruled that the WBC could not sanction another championship match unless Lewis was involved.

"All of our legal experts will now have to interpret what that New Jersey ruling means," said Jay Larkin, executive vice president of programming for Showtime, the cable company that signed a multi-fight agreement with promoter Don King and Tyson.

"Liberally translated, it could mean that Tyson could fight Seldon for his WBA crown or Botha for his IBF title without putting his WBC belt on the line."

Tyson and King have said title reunification is their primary goal, and, with the aid of longtime King ally Jose Sulaiman, the WBC president, Tyson's first piece of the puzzle likely could be placed in escrow.

"We hope Tyson doesn't turn chicken," said Lewis, who wants this showdown no later than September, after a May nontitle bout with Ray Mercer in Madison Square Garden.

Lewis said: "I want to fight in the ring, not the courts. I'm not worried about money. I'm worried about my place in boxing history."

Frank Maloney, Lewis' manager, said he anticipates the WBC and King will contest the New Jersey ruling.

Pub Date: 3/18/96

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