Gullible fans keep wasting money by fishing for washed-up Tyson

June 13, 2005|By PETER SCHMUCK

WASHINGTON - Former heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman was in a surprisingly good mood after Saturday night's Tyson Train Wreck, especially for a guy who had just watched a couple million dollars fly right out the window.

If Mike Tyson had beaten Irish journeyman Kevin McBride at MCI Center (and he was leading the fight when he quit after six rounds), he almost certainly would have shown up on Rahman's dance card at some point.

There are only so many money fights in the strange heavyweight division, so watching Iron Mike go wobbly after six rounds against a guy with a green no-bling championship belt from Ireland (home of, count 'em, no native-born world heavyweight champions since the 19th century) had to leave Rahman feeling like a guy who just discovered a hole in his pocket the size of County Cork.

FOR THE RECORD - In a sports column yesterday, a reference to boxer Junior Jones was incorrect. Jones is a former bantamweight champion. The Sun regrets the error.

"Now, it's not even an option," Rahman said afterward. "Now, it would be unfair for me to get into the ring with Tyson. I mean, if you can't beat a guy like Kevin McBride, where do you go from there? Who are you going to book ... Laila?"

Hey, don't knock Laila Ali, who was the one boxer who really put on a show Saturday night. What Tyson did can only be described as a kind of perverse performance art, which leaves you - oddly enough - feeling both entertained and slightly ripped off. Maybe that's why they call him "Ironic Mike."

I was never fooled. I knew that Tyson was just blowing smoke when he told McBride during Wednesday's news conference that "I'm going to gut you like a fish," but apparently there were a lot of people in the announced crowd of 15,732 - not to mention the oddsmakers who made Tyson a 5-1 favorite - who were not familiar with the well-known poker adage that clearly applies here:

If you've been in the game for 15 minutes and you don't know who the fish is, you're the fish.

When you pay $44.95 for a two-hour Showtime pay-per-view featuring a 38-year-old borderline psychotic, some Irish guy you've never heard of and a women's bout, it's time to look in the mirror and make sure you don't have gills.

"I just don't have this in my gut," Tyson said. "It's not in my heart anymore."

That was pretty obvious when Tyson was sitting on the canvas after the sixth round and referee Joe Cortez was begging him to get up. (Since I don't remember McBride really hurting him.)

So I asked Mike after the fight what was going on in his mind at that point and got an amazingly honest answer. I expected him to say he was dizzy or disoriented or just discouraged. I expected him to at least try to put up some kind of defense, though I'm not quite sure why anyone would think that after watching the fight.

"Man, I was tired," he said. "I didn't want to get up."

Right here, I have to tip my hat to Washington Times columnist Thom Loverro, who not only dispelled the myth of Tyson's rededication to training in a column last week, but told me before the fight exactly how it would go down if McBride could stay on his feet for four rounds.

Tyson had used every tool in his bag of boxing dirty tricks, including a blatant attempt to wrench McBride's elbow out of the socket and, yes, a nip at the Irishman's chest with the same infamous choppers that once took off the top of Evander Holyfield's ear. He nearly ended the fight with a head-butt that left McBride bleeding heavily from the left eye, but once it became apparent that the "Clones Colossus" was not going to quit, Tyson decided - for the good of boxing - that somebody should.

"I'm not interested in fighting anymore," Tyson said. "If I can't beat this guy, I can't beat Junior Jones."

Jones, a generic mediocre boxer who occasionally gets work as a figure of speech, was not available for comment, but if he were a real person, he probably would agree ... and immediately contact promoter Rock Newman to try and set up the fight.

Rahman no longer has that option, but he wasn't ready to concede that we've seen the last of Tyson in the ring.

"I don't put a lot of stock in what fighters say right after fights," he said. "He was a great champion, but if he can't beat Kevin McBride, we don't need to see him in the ring anymore. The problem with Mike is, there have been people willing to throw $5 million or $10 million or $20 million at him, and that makes it hard to walk away.

"If they want to throw him another five or 10 million, I wouldn't be surprised if he comes back again. It's the people's fault."

While Tyson talked past midnight about punting the whole boxing thing to do missionary work in Africa, Rock Newman was talking about a rematch with McBride. I don't think that's such a bad idea, because Newman just might be able to beat him.

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