Boxing can do without a rusty Iron Mike
Mike Tyson does not need Lennox Lewis," claims a Showtime exec. "[ Lewis] needs Mike Tyson." Somebody should bite that guy's lip off. Lewis is the undisputed heavyweight champ, while Tyson is a 33-year-old convicted rapist who hasn't beaten a good fighter since 1991. Yet even after Lewis's win over Evander Holyfield on Nov. 13, many fight folks still consider Tyson the alpha heavyweight, the one boxer millions of fans will pay to view.
Here's the party line: Lewis and Michael Grant are boring, Holyfield is ancient and everybody else is a nobody. That's why boxing needs Tyson, even though he chewed Holyfield's ear rather than take a beating in their '97 rematch and got $8.7 million for a no-contest with Orlin (Glass Knee) Norris last month when he hit Norris after the bell and Norris fell on his patella.
But there are younger, better heavyweights to root for—and against. Start with Grant, who withstood two first-round knockdowns and KO'd Andrew Golota in the 10th round two weeks ago to run his pro record to 31-0. The 6'7", 255-pound Grant, boxing's Big Unit, would make a hell of a match for the 6'5" Lewis. Call that bout The Harder They Fall.
Want a Tysonic scary guy? Get to know Ike Ibeabuchi, who's 20-0 with 15 knockouts and may be the hardest-hitting, meanest fighter around. In 1997 he allegedly kidnapped his former girlfriend's 15-year-old son and drove himself and the boy into a freeway overpass at 55 mph. The charges were dropped, but then last summer Ibeabuchi was charged with assaulting a woman in his suite at the Mirage hotel in Las Vegas. After he locked himself in the bathroom, cops subdued him by shooting pepper spray under the door. Ibeabuchi pleaded not guilty to sexual assault.
Then there's soft-spoken David Tua, the punch-throwin' Samoan whose only pro setback was a '97 loss to Ibeabuchi. Keep an eye on Oleg Maskaev too. He boxed in the Russian Army, emigrated to Staten Island, N.Y., and on Nov. 6 hit Hasim (the Rock) Rahman with a haymaker that sent Rahman flying out of an Atlantic City ring.
A punch like that might make Tyson look like what he is: the best fighter of 1989. "I can sell out Madison Square Garden masturbating," Tyson once said. But Grant, Ibeabuchi, Tua and even Maskaev might sell out the Garden with a better show—quality heavyweight boxing—if more fans knew how good they are. Here's hoping that happens before the last American fight fan throws in the towel.
All Fouled Up
In early-season basketball tournaments the NCAA has experimented with a rule that gives a team the option of shooting foul shots or taking the ball out of bounds after its opponent's 10th foul of a half. The rule, which was designed to keep basketball's endgame from turning into a tedious march to the free throw line, instead produced some bizarre—and tedious—finishes.
In Xavier's 81-79 win over Louisville last Thursday at the Great Alaska Shootout, the Cardinals were behind 80-79 with 26 seconds left when they started fouling. They fouled 10 times in the next 23 seconds before Musketeers coach Skip Prosser finally allowed star guard Darnell Williams to go to the foul line with :03 on the clock. Williams made the first free throw but missed the second, and a desperation 20-footer by Louisville's Reece Gaines clanked off the rim. "Well, that was an interesting finish," said Cardinals coach Denny Crum. "In all honesty, I'm probably not a big fan of it," Xavier's Prosser said of the rule.