Like old times: Tyson needs just 243 seconds

Francis knocked down five times before bout is stopped at 1: 03 of 2nd


January 30, 2000|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

MANCHESTER, England -- Call it a farce. Label it a mismatch. But there is no disputing that when it comes to target practice, Mike Tyson can still deliver.

Last night, Tyson pummeled British heavyweight champion Julius Francis. He knocked him down five times in two rounds. He floored him with a body shot. He crumpled him with combinations. And he finally unloaded one last right uppercut to the head that left the crowd roaring for more and Francis propped on one knee.

Officially, the fight was called 1: 03 into the second round.

But unofficially, the bout that was scheduled for 10 rounds marked a return to form for Tyson, 33.

So what if the flat-footed, flabby opponent was tailor-made for Tyson in a made-for-television spectacle designed to rekindle interest in the former champion in Europe and America.

Tyson, who ran his record to 47-3 with 41 knockouts and one no-decision, showed that he can still keep his head in the ring and win.

He didn't bite anyone. He didn't throw any punches after the bell.

And he appeared to put aside all the tabloid interest that accompanied him on his two-week British stay.

"After being treated so good here I have to go home and be treated like a monster," said Tyson, who still professes his innocence to a rape conviction.

Forget the shopping trips, the tumultuous tour of a London neighborhood and the furor that surrounded the British government's decision to let Tyson enter the country despite his felony record.

Forget, too, the long, long delay at Friday's weigh-in as Tyson made a bee line to the local airport that had the local media speculating he might pull out of the fight. Tyson said he went to the airport to pick up family members but they didn't arrive because his children were sick.

This was about the bottom line: a big fight that brought big business to Manchester, with the MEN Arena filled to the rafters.

And Tyson played his part. Dressed in black, he arrived in the ring to the hail of air raid sirens.

Then he closed the show in 243 seconds with the kind of ferocious performance that used to be his trademark.

"I've got a ways to go," said Tyson, who fought only nine rounds in the last three years before this bout.

For local consumption, he even said all the right things, thanking British Home Secretary Jack Straw for making the decision to let him in the country, praising Francis as a fighter with heart, and lauding Manchester's raucous fans.

"I love Europe and I'd like to fight my next couple of fights over here," Tyson said. "But I'm an American. I will continue my European tour, but I am from Brownsville, Brooklyn."

For Tyson, it looked a little like the old days, when he was the world's most feared fighter.

Francis, a 35-year-old journeyman (21-8), chose the direct route to defeat. He barreled into Tyson and tried to win on the inside.

Big mistake.

That's where Tyson lives. He rapped Francis with body shots. He dropped him twice in the first round, once for a count of nine, and a second time, just before the bell, with a straight left that left Francis wobbling to his feet at the count of six.

The fight could have been called.

But it wasn't.

So the knockdowns continued in the second round. After the fifth knockdown, the referee, Roy Francis (no relation) waved the fight finished.

"He was very powerful," Julius Francis said. "What surprised me were those short punches inside. All his punches hurt me.

"Going in, I thought I had it right, but you don't always get it right. Losing is not acceptable, but few can say they stood up to Mike Tyson and went toe-to-toe for two rounds."

How did the punches feel?

"Painful," said Francis, who earned $560,000 for the fight.

For once, Tyson -- who earned $8 million to $11 million for the short work -- was dishing out boxing punishment in a traditional way.

"I just started using jabs, punching to the body," Tyson said. "I planned on him to move. Everyone told me it was a big ring. When I came in, it was a small ring."

As he spoke in the ring an hour after the fight, Tyson was peppered by questions from fans. Many wanted to know when he'll meet heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis.

"One day," Tyson said with a smile.

Tentatively scheduled for Tyson is a March 25 fight against Lou Savarese at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. But the Tyson world tour could be diverted to Paris, Amsterdam or Copenhagen, according to a key official with Showtime television.

Still, the next fight seemed far from Tyson's mind, as he shouted to the fans: "Manchester rocks. We've got to party tonight guys."

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