Down and Out
Mike Tyson's latest fiasco was one more nail in the fight game's coffin
Anybody looking to abolish boxing just needs to sit tight. The sport is about to the on its own, of self-inflicted wounds—namely, its repeated failure to entertain. Boxing has become so irrelevant that it can no longer stand comparison even to professional wrestling, which is at least a reliable kind of bunkum. The fact that a grappling show held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Sunday outsold a Mike Tyson show there the night before is, finally, testament to the consumers' wisdom: They knew the wrestling was going to be fun, the boxing wasn't.
Tyson's latest disaster, last Saturday's bout with Orlin Norris, was just one more in a string of disappointing fights that have turned boxing into low-grade farce. Controversy over behavior, matchmaking or scoring has undermined public confidence in this sport. Not even a well-meaning Tyson, on his fourth comeback and apparently eager to fight, can do anything but drag the game down a little farther. In this instance, Tyson knocked Norris down with a punch thrown after the bell ending the first round, and Norris, claiming he twisted his knee when he fell, chose not to continue, rendering the bout a no-contest.
Tyson, 33, has long since abandoned any claim to boxing greatness, having squandered his promise in two jail sentences, a suspension and several gory defeats. But coming back from his latest prison term (3� months for exaggerated road rage), Tyson, it seemed, was the guy to focus some attention on the sport's concussive potential. Unlike the dance performed last March by rival champions Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield, Tyson would come to punch.
Well, he did come to punch. But after the bell? Just one round and Tyson, who had bitten off part of Holyfield's ear in this same ring, was back in familiar territory, subject to the referee's admonishment and the commission's ruling on whether or not to release his $8.7 million purse. Yet all he'd done was drop Norris with a short left hand, a little after the bell.
For Tyson it wasn't much of a foul and it would have been unremarkable (a two-point deduction, but unremarkable) had the 34-year-old Norris (50-5), a light-punching cutie who'd been brought in to grease Tyson's comeback, gotten up and continued. But Norris, apparently at the behest of his corner, stayed down. After ambling back to his stool, Norris sat there until the ring physician came in and agreed that his right knee was too swollen for him to continue.
The fans in the half-filled arena set off a howl as soon as security began ringing the apron. The public had paid for this scene before, but this time the crowd wasn't sure that Tyson was entirely at fault. There was reason for suspicion. Norris, because of managerial and tax entanglements, was going to take home some $200,000 from his $800,000 purse. His only hope for solvency was to somehow survive Tyson and gain a rematch, which, presumably, he will now get. (More immediately, Norris went to the hospital to have his knee examined.)
Tyson, who hadn't had the chance to demonstrate much beyond his continued lack of regard for boxing's rules, was self-pitying, saying, "I don't even want to fight any more. I'm tired, really tired."
He added, "I take my beatings like a man," and said Norris should feel disgraced. "You've got to have heart to get into the ring with me. He felt my heat and just didn't want to continue."
What if Norris's knee really was hurt? Observing that Norris was perfectly ambulatory going back to his stool and only later turned into Matt Dillon's sidekick Chester, Tyson said, "Maybe he hurt it when he sat down on the stool."