As long as Tyson in lights, sick man will stay in dark

Boxing

March 14, 2002|By Mike Preston

WHEN THE D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commission voted unanimously Tuesday night to award Mike Tyson a license to fight in the city, it did nothing more than deny the two-time former champion the help he desperately needs.

Tyson is the most controversial figure in sports, but he may also be the most confused. It's an irony to watch some of the citizens, politicians and powerbrokers in Washington become split over whether Tyson should have gotten the license.

They, like most of us, have become part of Tyson's problem.

Nobody really cares about the fight, not even Tyson. People tune in to see Tyson's bizarre and often crude behavior. One day he is chewing on Evander Holyfield's ear, the next day it's Lennox Lewis' thigh.

It's sick entertainment, but highly marketable.

Congratulations, Washington.

"It's not forthcoming yet," said Ferdie Pacheco, a physician in Muhammad Ali's camp for 17 years, about Tyson getting help.

"It's never going to be as long as people like you and we make him a star. We make him continue to fight. If we dropped him like a hot potato, he couldn't get these fights. He'd have to say I'd have to get myself straight."

There have been voices, pro and con, about allowing Tyson to stage his June 8 heavyweight title fight in Washington against Lewis, the WBC and IBF champion. Some of the arguments against the fight were allegedly heard Tuesday night by the D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commission, but they fell on deaf ears.

The fix was in.

Washington Mayor Anthony Williams had already endorsed the fight. MCI Center and sports owner Abe Pollin had also given his blessing, as well as several prominent politicians. Cab drivers wanted this fight, as well as hotel and restaurant owners.

Professional wrestling promoter Vince McMahon couldn't have written a better script than the unanimous decision awarded to a Tyson fight, a bout that could bring in more than $150 million in gross revenues, and mean $10 million to Washington, whose tourist industry was hit hard by Sept. 11.

It was a facade erected to appease the opposition, another part of the theatrics. Another part of it was when commission vice-chairman Michael Brown recently said psychological examinations of Tyson were favorable.

Huh?

Pacheco has a different opinion. While Tyson was serving three years as a convicted rapist in Indiana, Pacheco encouraged him through letters. He likes Mike, but considers him a danger to himself, as well as to others.

"The logical conclusion for a person of a confused state like Mike Tyson, who can't find his way out, is that it eventually becomes too much for him," said Pacheco, also a longtime TV boxing analyst. "He either takes the solution into his own hands and kills himself, or puts himself in a position to be killed by somebody.

"One day or another, what's waiting for him is not nice," he said. "One way or another, it's not going to be good. He has to learn to seek an end and so far he hasn't found it, and neither has anyone else."

Pacheco's message is also falling on deaf ears. The boxing world needs Tyson because he commands a big payday. There are some civil rights activists who say Tyson deserves a right to make a living, and that he might become a changed man one day.

But why does he deserve to make a living when others are at risk? And that change probably won't happen until he leaves boxing.

Besides serving three years in an Indiana prison, Tyson has spent time in a Montgomery County correctional facility for assault. In 1999, he nearly caused a riot by trying to break Frans Botha's arm after he had locked it up after the first round.

After stopping Lou Savarese in June of 2000, Tyson repeatedly tried to hit Savarese, even as the referee stepped in to stop the fight, and he hit the referee in the process.

Tyson originally had been scheduled to meet Lewis on April 6 at the MGM in Las Vegas, but those plans fell apart when he rushed and fought Lewis during a New York news conference.

Nothing has changed.

Just about every one of his fights over the past five years has resulted in behavior problems. Georgia, Texas and Colorado won't allow a Tyson fight. Memphis, Detroit and such countries as South Korea, the Bahamas, Morroco and Mexico are believed interested in hosting the bout.

It has been interesting to watch some of the media slants coming out of Washington, criticizing the "moralists" for not wanting this fight to take place. That says something not just about Washington, but our society.

As long as we allow Tyson to fight, he'll never get help.

"Being manic-depressive, he has a crippling, psychiatric disorder and he needs professional care," said Pacheco. "All the boxing in the world, all the championships aren't going to help him one damn bit.

"So he builds a big house, with 20 beds, but he doesn't invite anyone to come over. So he's got 22 Rolls-Royces, but doesn't invite anyone to drive around with him. Does that make sense? It's not about material things; it's about what going on in his head."

This might be Tyson's last fight. He hasn't had a good one in a decade, and Lewis should be able to take care of him.

"Hopefully, he'll take his money, pay the goverment and everybody else he owes, and then he seeks some care," said Pacheco. "He needs professional help to sort it out, or with intensive psychotherapy where he just sits down and says, `OK, Mike, I need to straighten out or I'm going to die pretty soon, or I'm going to kill somebody pretty soon.'

"Watch the fight and let's you and I pray a little bit for Mike Tyson."

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