posted on Apr, 24 2003 @ 10:53 AM
Associated Press - April 23, 2003
Unless Mike Tyson becomes ill, or needs an emergency facial tattoo, it appears he and Lennox Lewis will get together once again June 21 in Los
They won't be fighting each other, because Tyson wants no part of that. He'd prefer to wait until Lewis is too old and stiff from inactivity before he
gets back in the ring with a fighter who beat him up so badly the last time they met.
Instead, Tyson will become the highest paid undercard fighter ever, bringing his traveling freak show to town to prop up a heavyweight champion who
can't carry the card on his own.
That is, everyone hopes he will. Tyson was still balking at terms late Wednesday, even though a press conference was already scheduled for Thursday in
Los Angeles. Promoter Gary Shaw said Wednesday night he was "cautiously optimistic" about Tyson appearing on the card.
Maybe it's Tyson's way of paying Lewis back for saving him from another whipping by not insisting that he follow the terms of their original contract
and fight him in a rematch.
Or maybe these two flawed heavyweights simply need each other to finish their careers.
Without Lewis on the card, Tyson's fight with Oleg Maskaev is just another chance to make millions while fighting a guy who goes down more often than
Clifford Etienne. Boxing fans saw that 49-second act in February, and it's already wearing thin for all but the most die-hard Tyson admirers.
Lewis needs even more help. In hibernation since knocking Tyson out last June, he'll fight Kirk Johnson in what promises to be a yawner of a
heavyweight title defense if there ever was one.
Johnson, you might remember, is the guy who looked so awful before finally being disqualified last year when he got his first big chance against John
Ruiz. Lewis is only fighting him because, depending on whom you believe:
- He wants no part of No. 1-ranked Vitali Klitschko.
- Klitschko's promoters want too much money to fight Lewis.
On its own, a Lewis-Johnson fight sells a few thousand tickets and fills an hour or so on HBO's Saturday prime-time schedule. By itself, a
Tyson-Maskaev fight is sold to some gullible town (Memphis, anyone?) where residents are so star-struck they'll dig in their pockets just to see Tyson
Put the two fighters together, though, and the fight will sell on pay-per-view for $49.95 or so, and the Hollywood types will line up to try and get
free ringside seats.
Still, there's a reason Las Vegas casinos balked at paying the $6.5 million fee promoters wanted to host the fight.
Better than anyone, they know Lewis doesn't sell many tickets unless he's fighting someone like Tyson or Evander Holyfield. More importantly, though,
they know the unpredictability of Tyson.
Imagine Tyson pulling out of this card the way he tried in Memphis. Would fans demand refunds even if Lewis is still topping the bill?
Tyson, after all, is merely an undercard fighter here - which says something about the state of his career. In Memphis, the top undercard fight to
Tyson-Etienne featured Tonya Harding.
In Los Angeles, they'll get an even bigger curiosity
It's the first time since June 9, 1986 - when Tyson fought Alfonso Ratliff on the undercard of the Michael Spinks-Steffen Tangstad heavyweight title
fight - that Tyson has not been the headliner.
He'll be paid some $7 million to fight Maskaev, who has been knocked out in three of his last six fights and whose last fight was against a guy with a
listed record of 4-10. Nobody keeps these kinds of records, but there's little doubt he'll be the best-paid undercard fighter ever.
Lewis won't do badly himself in what will likely be billed as the first fight between Canadians for the heavyweight title. That might come as a
surprise to the British, who claim Lewis as their own, but he spent his formative years in Canada and won an Olympic gold medal for Canada.
At the age of 37, though, Lewis seems to be a reluctant warrior. He wanted to be a heavyweight champion badly, but lately he's been a bad heavyweight
Lewis comes off as arrogant to all but his most ardent fans, disappears for long stretches between fights and takes no chances in the ring.
His biggest win came against Tyson, but he squandered the opportunity to capitalize on it. By the time Lewis gets in the ring in Los Angeles, it will
have been more than a year since he last fought.
Is it any wonder Lewis and Tyson need each other more than ever before?