Boxing isn't in corner of Tyson

Fellow fighters, others say former champion got what he deserved

`Extremely disturbed man'

They admit he's draw, but sport `can survive'

February 06, 1999|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

Mike Tyson, who appears headed back to prison after receiving a two-year sentence in Montgomery County Circuit Court yesterday for second-degree assault on two motorists involved in an Aug. 31 fender bender with his wife, Monica, drew little sympathy from professional boxing figures across the country.

The consensus was that the former heavyweight champion, whose tumultuous ring career has been interrupted in the past by serving three years for a rape conviction and, more recently, an 18-month suspension for chomping Evander Holyfield's ears, got what he deserved.

"I don't have any sympathy for a fighter who can earn $30 million in a single night of fighting," said heavyweight contender Hasim Rahman of Baltimore.

"He's created his own problems and should have more control. After the time he spent in jail for rape and the Holyfield incident, he should have been behaving like a Boy Scout. Instead, he walks around like a ticking time bomb, acting and talking crazy, saying he's thought of blowing away his former managers."

Promoter Bob Arum, the principal rival of Don King, who promoted many of Tyson's fights before falling out of favor, preferred spreading the blame to the people who have surrounded the troubled fighter since the death of his surrogate father, Cus D'Amato, and co-manager Jim Jacobs.

"This just showed everybody's greed," Arum said from his Las Vegas office. "People should have realized they were dealing with a dysfunctional human being. But the people around him couldn't wait to make money off him.

"I'm not blaming anybody, but that's just the facts. The Nevada State Athletic Commission made a [poor] excuse for giving him his license back last October after a pool of psychiatrists talked to him for a few hours and said he was fit to fight again. They all prostituted themselves for money -- the doctors, the commissioners, the promoters and managers of Tyson.

"You didn't need doctors to tell you he's an extremely disturbed man who needs an enormous amount of psychiatric help if he is ever going to become a responsible human being."

Asked if he thought professional boxing would suffer a major blow by the repeated absences of Tyson, Arum said, "I don't think it was the hard-core fight fans who were still supporting him. He had become a freak, a curiosity, and people were looking for weird things to happen whenever he fought."

Teddy Atlas, a former Tyson trainer who was serving as a ringside commentator for ESPN2 at the Pikesville Armory last night, was not the least bit surprised by Tyson's latest fall from grace.

"It all catches up with you," Atlas said. "When he was younger, because he was a superstar, all the trouble got swept under the rug. But once you get convicted, the fact that you're a celebrity makes them come after you with the same zeal they used to cover his tracks before. With Tyson, it is what it is, and it's always been so."

Maryland Athletic Commission chairman Karl Milligan said simply, "He got what he deserved. Everybody is responsible for his own conduct.

"I believe he was rushed back into the ring too soon after the Holyfield incident. Frankly, I think this is the end of Mike Tyson, the fighter.

"But boxing can survive without him. Almost all the interest he generated was negative. We have two great heavyweight champions in Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. They just got rid of a big thorn."

Russell Peltz, who promotes weekly television cable boxing shows, said that Tyson had been victimized by the Montgomery County prosecutors.

"From what I understand, they'd made a deal with Tyson's attorney [Paul Kemp]. They should have lived up to it."

According to Kemp, by having his client plead no contest to the assault charges against the two motorists, the prosecutors would not recommend any prison time to presiding Judge Stephen Johnson. But current Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas Gansler denied knowledge of such an agreement.

But Peltz said Tyson still could not be excused for his road rage.

"I don't buy that old argument that you have to consider the terrible environment that spawned him," Peltz said. "A lot of people came from the same circumstances and didn't find trouble the way he did.

"But I still can't believe he's going back to jail. No matter how you feel about him, he is still probably the biggest attraction in boxing. He'll be missed in that regard."

Veteran trainer Adrian Davis, who has tutored champions Sugar Ray Leonard, Simon Brown, William Joppy and Sharmba Mitchell, shared Peltz's feelings.

"Mike Tyson is still a draw," he said. "I like to see all the big attractions -- Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya and Holyfield -- because they create excitement. But Tyson had no guidance outside the ring. He always had a way of finding trouble rather than trouble finding him."

Tyson, who launched his latest comeback in Las Vegas last month with a fifth-round knockout of Francois Botha, had been scheduled to fight again April 24, with Brian Nielsen of Denmark as his likely opponent.

Now his career is on indefinite hold as he spends time in a Montgomery County jail, awaiting a bond hearing and likely appeal.

His dilemma hearkens back to his sentencing for rape in Indiana six years ago.

Before pronouncing her sentence, Judge Patricia J. Gifford asked Tyson, "Do you believe it's necessary to conform your behavior to certain standards and norms if, in fact, you're a role model?"

"Absolutely," replied Tyson.

Pub Date: 2/06/99

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