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Bloody Good
Richard Hoffer
February 07, 2000
Treated to a royal reception in England, Mike Tyson proved that he's still a contender with a brutally efficient second-round knockout of Julius Francis
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February 07, 2000

Bloody Good

Treated to a royal reception in England, Mike Tyson proved that he's still a contender with a brutally efficient second-round knockout of Julius Francis

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Wherever Tyson goes there will be the odd bump in the road, and no city can insure itself against the kind of disappointment Tyson is capable of generating. For as much as he shifted the international trade balance on this trip, he very nearly made Manchester a laughingstock. On the day before the bout Tyson fled the still-besieged hotel for the airport with the clear intention of bolting the promotion (though he later said, incredibly, that he went to pick up his children). He was supposedly upset that because of security concerns, his family was not joining him. Once at the airport, however, he calmed down, visited a prayer room, bought some periodicals (including a copy of the venerable British humor magazine Punch, whose title may have misled him) and returned for the delayed weighin, during which he twirled one of his mini-dreads with his watch hand, smiling as if he were the happiest guy in the world.

This unpredictability is part of Tyson's marketing power, and it is intriguing right up to the point at which he destroys everyone's night out. In fact, his volatility is something he advertises. In an interview with Sky TV he said, "Michael and Tyson are two different people. To my children and to my wife I am Mike and Daddy, but I'm Tyson here." Going on, he explained, "Tyson is nothing, Tyson is a freak. Tyson is just someone who generates a ton of money.... I'm the guy who makes the freak show happen."

This is not so much a claim to bipolar disorder as it is a business model, one that has earned him and his promoters well in excess of $200 million. It is why, despite having boxed just 21 full—and largely unsatisfying—rounds in the past eight years before last Saturday, he still commands top dollar. However unlikely it may be, a bout with heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, says Showtime's Jay Larkin, who has Tyson under broadcast contract, would dwarf all others, drawing more than $100 million—even though Tyson may be far from ready for such a challenge.

But Tyson has long since traded his boxing potential for a life as a doomsday entertainer, well-paid but no longer well-intentioned. His bouts now represent shopping opportunities, not the chance to achieve the greatness that was at hand 14 years ago when he was first heavyweight champion. Julius Francis? Wasn't that the fight in England, where he bought that shiny doodad and examined new autos at the Rolls-Royce factory? Only an American cynic would suggest it wasn't, in fact, the beginning of a brilliant comeback.

He can't live his life abroad, though, and Tyson knows it. He was good-natured when he said that, the glittering watch back on his wrist immediately after the fight, but he was sadly correct when he predicted the Stateside reception: "Now I go home to be treated like a monster."

Well, not as a monster, let's hope, but, for whatever it's worth, as somebody who's beaten Julius Francis. That would be a start, right?

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