Characteristically, neither Tyson nor his promoter Dan Goossen thought anybody other than Norris was to blame. Hitting after the bell was, as Goossen put it, "part of the business." Well, it's not. Then again, the foul by itself doesn't constitute the end of boxing. We've all seen worse.
What is a nail in the coffin is boxing's inability to provide even one exciting, athletic moment for paying customers. Wrestling, anyone?
Prince Far From Regal
In P.G. Wodehouse's Code of the Woosters, blustering British bully Roderick Spode threatens Bertie Wooster with this locution: "I shall immediately beat you to a jelly." At a prefight press conference on Oct. 20, bullying British featherweight champion Prince Naseem Hamed—whose royal title derives from his imagination, not the House of Windsor-threatened opponent Cesar Soto with this locution: "I'm gonna beat you till you're marmalade. I'm gonna spread you out."
Hamed made good on his threat last Friday in a unification bout at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit that was as silly as a Wodehouse novel, though nowhere near as entertaining. Frustrated by his inability to mount an attack, Hamed, the undefeated WBO champ, grabbed and shoved and wrassled his oft-defeated WBC counterpart. When Soto charged in the fifth round, Hamed ducked, hoisted him above his head and body-slammed him to the canvas. With Soto spread out, his trainer, Miguel Diaz, stormed the ring, screaming hysterically. From the opposite corner, Hamed's trainer, Emanuel Steward, did likewise. In the middle of the ring stood Hamed. "Don't stop the fight, ref!" he pleaded, "Don't stop it!" The ref, Dale Grable, didn't.
The last seven rounds featured bear hugs and head butts and tumbling through the ropes, but very little boxing. By Round 10 the initially pro-Prince crowd of 12,500 was booing him loudly. At the final bell the fighters collapsed in one last pratfall and rolled around the apron. Then Hamed stood and raised his arms in victory—and moments later was, in fact, declared the winner by unanimous decision. It was a fitting end to what Soto's promoter, Bob Arum, called "a sick, sick joke." After branding Hamed a dirty fighter and a fraud, Arum said, 'You can criticize Mike Tyson, but at least between bites Tyson threw some decent punches."
Hamed, now 33-0, took the high road. " Bob Arum," he said, "is talking a lot of doo-doo."
Since making his U.S. debut with a sloppy KO of Kevin Kelley in New York City on Dec. 19, 1997, Naz, the handle by which this hip-hop hustler is relentlessly hyped by HBO, has done little to justify his six-fight, $48 million deal with the network. He won a lackluster decision over Wayne McCullough on Halloween night, 1998, and looked tired against unheralded Paul Ingle in April. Before the Soto bout Steward, recently hired to beef up Hamed's defense and stamina, said that until now his 25-year-old charge "has been a little amateur kid who, through God's gifts, has been able to survive." In surviving Soto, Hamed revealed himself to be no more than a Clown Prince.