An hour after he
won the gold and green WBC heavyweight championship belt Saturday night, Mike
Tyson was struggling to keep it up around his 34-inch waist. Six belt holes had
been punched into it, but the belt broadens so quickly to accommodate the
dinner-plate-sized championship medallion that Tyson was able to secure it only
at the fourth hole. He laughed as the too-big belt slipped down around his
hips. "There," said the youngest heavyweight champion ever, as though
chiding those folks who are trying to turn him into a legend at the age of 20.
"I am just a kid. I can't even keep the belt around my waist."
standing in the living room of the 29th-floor Las Vegas Hilton Hotel suite of
Bill Cayton, one of his comanagers. The suite was an unplanned but warm haven
for Tyson after a misdirected exit from the postfight press conference had left
him standing shirtless in the 50� chill outside the hotel.
Throwing the belt
over one broad shoulder, Tyson shifted position so that he could better see
himself in a floor-to-ceiling mirror. Smiling, he said, "I'm champion of
the world." He repeated the words. This was his moment, but he tried to
keep it in perspective. One fight had won him a piece of a title that is shared
by two other men, not a place among the Joe Louises or John L. Sullivans.
With a cannonade
of patient but unrelenting aggressiveness, Tyson had overwhelmed Trevor
Berbick, twice dropping the defending WBC champion and leaving him, at 2:35 of
the second round, standing but unstable, albeit secure in the embrace of
referee Mills Lane. "If I had let the fight continue," said Lane, a
Reno district attorney, "if I let him get hit with more of those terrible
punches, it would have been criminal."
At the age of 20
years, four months and 22 days, Tyson thus eclipsed the record of Floyd
Patterson, who had won his championship on Nov. 30, 1956, five weeks short of
his 22nd birthday.
For his night's
work, Tyson was paid $1.5 million. Berbick received $2.1 million in losing his
first defense of the title he had won from Pinklon Thomas last March 22. But
even before the fight had started, it had not been one of Berbick's better
weeks. He had spent Tuesday in court contesting a suit brought by Thomas A.
Prendergast, a Texas promoter who claimed Berbick had breached a contract by
pulling out of a fight in 1982. On Wednesday, after experiencing breathing
problems, Berbick had visited four doctors before he could get respiratory
medication that would be approved by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. And
on Thursday, District Court Judge Del Guy had granted Prendergast a writ of
attachment for $495,124.36 against Berbick's purse, contingent on a hearing
tentatively scheduled for next February.
"I'm just a
little embarrassed," said the champ. "Prendergast claims Tex Cobb
pulled out of the same fight card, and he's suing him for $1.1
Life in Las Vegas
was far less complicated for Tyson, who for the five weeks before the fight had
lived in a home in the private enclave of Spanish Oaks, a mile west of, and a
world apart from, the Strip. And there he stayed, except for daily trips to
Johnny Tocco's gym, which was secured during his workouts, and forays to a
video rental store. But mostly Tyson stayed in his room, sleeping, playing
video tapes (mostly of karate movies) or watching cartoons on TV (which is why
Tyson's trainer, Kevin Rooney, is now nicknamed Barney Rubble).
"We tried to
do our training at home in Catskill, N.Y.," says Rooney. "But I'm kind
of a soft guy and I couldn't close the gym to Mike's fans. I had to get him out
of there, away from all the distractions. Tocco is meaner than I am; I knew
he'd lock the gym when Mike worked out."
Berbick was less
reclusive while training. He didn't ask Tocco to lock the gym during his
workouts; he just had him nail a bed sheet over the door to discourage casual
onlookers. But then, Berbick always goes his own way.