Tyson confident as ever, but static level is down King is keeper of 'Fury,' Holyfield picture of calm

February 04, 1997|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- Leave it to loquacious promoter Don King to borrow from Shakespeare and William Faulkner in dubbing the Evander Holyfield-Mike Tyson heavyweight championship rematch "The Sound and the Fury."

But the sound level at the news conference yesterday to promote the May 3 bout in Las Vegas was significantly lower than before their first encounter last fall. At that time, Team Tyson did everything in its power to intimidate Holyfield.

Tyson's co-manager, John Horne, disparaged Holyfield for purportedly saying he would never fight a convicted rapist, a quote the challenger denied making while Tyson was serving a three-year jail sentence in Indiana.

"Tyson never raped anyone," Horne said. "The only rape he will have committed will be [on Holyfield] Nov. 9."

To which a menacing Tyson added: "He knows what he's got coming."

All the threats failed to diminish Holyfield's supreme faith in the Lord and in himself as he pulled off one of the most stunning upsets in ring history, stopping the heavily favored Tyson in the 11th round.

And so it was not surprising to find Tyson and his handlers subdued and contrite yesterday. And the new pecking order was clear, with Holyfield's name appearing first on all promotional materials.

Conspicuously missing from Tyson's entourage was Jay Bright, who has been replaced by longtime King associate Richie Giachetti as the principal trainer.

Also absent was "Crocodile," the screeching agitator who would attend these events dressed in combat fatigues.

Only King displayed his usual bombast in selling the pay-per-view bout that promises to break every financial record. Ringside tickets at the MGM Grand are priced at $1,500, with seats in the peanut gallery priced at $200.

Holyfield, the first three-time heavyweight king since Muhammad Ali, reportedly has been guaranteed $35 million, and Tyson $20 million.

"This is a great challenge for me," said Tyson, who did not get a chance to redeem his first loss, to Buster Douglas in Tokyo, seven years ago. "I don't talk a lot of bull. I just fight.

"Holyfield was the better man that particular night. I just had a bad night. But I'm still the best heavyweight in the world. My theory in life is destroy or be destroyed, and I will knock him out."

Typically, Holyfield remained unruffled.

Described by King as the personification of the principal figure in "Dead Man Walking" after defying the odds and medical theories that he was physically unsound to continue his career at the age of 34, the stoic Georgian reiterated his faith.

"People thought I was crazy for saying I'd be heavyweight champion again," he said. "But regardless of what people say or predict, the Lord will determine how things will be. And I believe, with the Lord's help, I can overcome any situation."

Asked why he would risk his heavyweight crown in a rematch with Tyson, who has been established as a 4-1 favorite by the Las Vegas oddsmakers, Holyfield said: "My whole life has been about hope and opportunity. Tyson gave me the opportunity to win the title back. I felt it was right giving him the same opportunity."

Tyson was asked what changes might result from choosing Giachetti, who helped mold former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, to replace Bright, whose training credentials had been under media scrutiny.

"If you come to the fight May 3, you'll see the difference," he said. "I know I will be in the best shape of my life this time."

Pub Date: 2/04/97

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