Out of control
When angered, Tyson brings air of dangerPosted: Tuesday January 22, 2002 7:08 PM
Updated: Wednesday January 23, 2002 10:27 AM
By Evan Kanew, CNNSI.com
NEW YORK -- Like many other members of the jaded boxing press who had gathered from near and far for this press conference, my first reaction was simple, none. A brawl at a boxing news conference? Been there, done that.
There was a big production, with a video and spotlights and ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr., introducing the fighters.
There was Mike Tyson, smirking as he stood on the edge of the square platform at stage right. There was Lennox Lewis, walking onstage from the left. Tyson's ready-to-strike posture seemed cartoonish, WWF-ish.
And I thought: nice photo op. Camera's rolling. No big deal.
Tyson, dressed in all black, looked better than expected, better than he did in the recent photographs from his shirtless shoving match in Havana. No more pot belly. As he lumbered toward Lewis, Tyson took off his hat. He was still smirking as he approached the champ. That's when the shoving began.
Ho-hum. It'll be good TV.
Tyson threw a short left at someone in Lewis' entourage. The melee grew. Lewis launched a right at the pile. Whoops! There went the champ's heels. He's gone flying on national TV. Again.
That'll make the highlight reel.
We've seen this before. With Lewis during the promotion of his last fight against Hasim Rahman. Just last week Oscar De La Hoya and Fernando Vargas traded blows at a news conference.
Thing is, I believe that Tyson didn't have bad intentions when he stepped off that podium. My guess is that he thought he was being clever. Only when things didn't go quite as he figured they should, Tyson didn't know how to handle it. He snapped. And when some idiot in the press section yelled something back at Tyson -- "You belong in a straightjacket" -- Tyson really boiled over.
That's when it got scary.
Security personnel rushed in. Tyson was out of control. Cursing. Making obscene gestures. You've seen the video by now. And that's what should give everyone pause about this man. When he goes off, he brings an air of real danger. That's what I felt in the theater.
Was this a subconscious attempt by Tyson to get out of a fight he doesn't really want? Was it, as his own handlers say, just promotional stuff, like Ali taunting Frazier? I don't know.
About an hour after the chairs stopped flying and the melee subsided, a big question still remained: Is the fight on? It had never been officially announced.
So I asked a couple of people inside the promotion. "Fight's on," said someone on the broadcast team. "But we'll see."