By TIM DAHLBERG
AP Boxing Writer
Don King had so many heavyweight champions clustered around him early Sunday morning at Madison Square Garden that even he couldn't keep them
straight. They were nameless champions with alphabet titles, unlike the interested spectator sitting only a few feet away. Mike Tyson has no gaudy
green belts to wrap around his waist. He hasn't fought in more than a year, and his skills are deteriorating.
But in a heavyweight division starved for a star, he's the biggest one around. And that had King salivating at the prospect of reuniting with his
"You can change the globe, baby," King told Tyson. "Let's do it again and see if we can reclaim the glory of yesteryear."
Tyson wasn't quite ready to bite, presumably because his lawyers believe he will win far more from King in the $100 million lawsuit he filed against
the promoter for allegedly stealing money than he will ever earn from King in the ring.
That Tyson is being courted so brazenly, though, says a lot about the state of a heavyweight division whose cupboard appears nearly bare after Lennox
Just minutes before King made his latest pitch for Tyson, he watched as IBF champion Chris Byrd and Andrew Golota fought to a draw in an interesting
yet not very satisfying bout. Just before that, John Ruiz and Fres Oquendo engaged in a WBA heavyweight title fight so ugly that Ruiz's sudden ending
of it in the 11th round was greeted mostly by relief, not cheers.
The heavyweight division is fractured, and fighters with crowns wear them uneasily.
There's Byrd, who is slick but undersized and lacking in power. He and Golota had the 15,195 fans at the Garden on their feet, though primarily
because Ruiz-Oquendo was so bad that their fight looked like Ali-Frazier III all over again.
Then there is Ruiz, who might be the most unappealing heavyweight champion ever inside the ring, though he's a nice enough guy outside it. He and
Oquendo clinched, held and posed before Ruiz finally landed a series of punches that prompted the referee to put a merciful end to a terrible
There is still some hope for the division. Next Saturday, Vitali Klitschko can make a claim for a title of his own when he and Corrie Sanders fight in
Los Angeles for the crown vacated by Lewis.
If Klitschko wins convincingly, he can lay claim to being the legitimate heir to Lewis' crown. If he doesn't, there are a lot of mediocre heavyweights
willing to vie for the right to call themselves a champion.
"This is a great time to be a heavyweight," Byrd said.
Indeed it is, though it's not a great time to be a fan of the heavyweights.
Outside of Klitschko and Tyson, King has signed up almost every heavyweight who can throw a punch and stay upright at the same time. That means boxing
fans can look forward to upcoming fights such as 41-year-old Evander Holyfield against Ruiz for a fourth time or a second Byrd-Golota fight.
Tyson's skills might be shot, but he's still a big attraction and could be the wild card in all of this. The last time there was such a big gap in the
division, Tyson came out of prison and won a pair of titles.
Besides, as bad as Tyson might be now, he can still beat most of the current crop of heavyweights. There's no Lewis to put him in his place anymore,
and Tyson is always only one big punch away from beating anyone else.
Tyson has reportedly signed with a Japanese martial arts promoter to handle his latest comeback fight in late July. He's broke, so earning millions to
beat a few stiffs before taking a big money fight appeals to him.
Tyson got the biggest cheers and the most attention when he entered the Garden just before the Ruiz-Oquendo fight. As the crowd booed the lack of
action in that bout, some began chanting Tyson's name.
Tyson's desire to fight is still suspect, though, at 37. That's not the case with Byrd, who wants to fight everyone but can't find many who want to
Byrd and Golota engaged in a classic puncher versus boxer matchup that turned out all right for everyone involved. Golota didn't shame himself with
any low blows or other antics and put himself in the heavyweight picture once again, while Byrd kept his title and probably will make some money in a
"That was fun," Byrd said. "Look at my face, I never get marked like this. Now I look like a fighter, a true fighter."
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.