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Madden: Tyson's behavior hurts boxing

Saturday, June 08, 2002

Mike Tyson recently said he was scum, and who are we to argue? When Tyson steps into the ring to fight Lennox Lewis for the heavyweight title tonight, it will mark a new low for the "sport" of professional boxing. Suffice it to say that's pretty darn low. Tyson should be nowhere near a boxing ring. Tyson should be nowhere near decent people. (I realize not many of those frequent boxing rings.) Tyson is scum. He's subhuman. An animal.

The finish to the fight tonight is easy to predict. Tyson doesn't fear Lewis physically, but he does fear losing. Tyson is humiliated by losing; humiliation is his worst nightmare.

Once Lewis establishes himself as the better fighter, and when Tyson can't score a knockout in the first three rounds, Tyson will get himself disqualified through a grandstand cheap shot -- a bite, low blow or gratuitous head-butt (as opposed to Evander Holyfield's accidental-on-purpose head-butts).

Such a finish will once again establish that Tyson shouldn't be boxing, and that despite the obvious financial clout Tyson's presence wields, boxing would be better off without him.

Think about this: Nevada turned down this fight. Nevada doesn't turn down anything. Just go to Las Vegas and ask any hooker.

But it's hard to blame Tyson for what he has become. He has had so many enablers. First and foremost was the late Cus D'Amato, Tyson's original trainer and mentor.

Boxing history paints an affectionate picture of D'Amato's involvement with Tyson. But D'Amato prepared Tyson for nothing besides boxing. When Tyson ran afoul of the law or society's mores as a youth, D'Amato extricated him from such scrapes with minimal punishment.

D'Amato's lessons to Tyson seem clear: Boxing is all that matters. And, if you're good enough at boxing, there's no trouble you can't get out of.

Maybe D'Amato kept Tyson out of jail longer than Tyson would have managed on his own. Maybe D'Amato kept Tyson alive longer than he would have managed on his own. But considering the way Tyson wound up, are those necessarily good things?

After D'Amato passed away, Tyson actually was handled by responsible people for a while. People such as Bill Cayton, Kevin Rooney and the late Jim Jacobs.

But then Don King lured Tyson away by playing the race card, and putting someone who's mentally unstable anywhere near King is like juggling torches while standing in a puddle of gasoline. To top things off, Tyson fell in love with Robin Givens, a woman who rivals Tyson for lack of moral turpitude and who just happens to have a conniving barracuda for a mother.

When you combine all that with Tyson's rough Brooklyn upbringing, it's no wonder he turned out like he did. It's actually amazing that he's not on death row.

But even if Tyson's character was shaped by factors beyond his control, that doesn't give him the right to infect boxing.

Tyson ruins boxing for fighters such as Oscar de la Hoya, who calls Tyson "a circus act." For fighters like Roy Jones Jr., a magnificent ring technician who plays second fiddle to Tyson's animalistic behavior. Tyson is killing what little legitimacy boxing has left.

It's not worth the big payday in the short term. Boxing will find that out the hard way. If there's a God, so will baseball players.

Tyson is a convicted rapist. A barbarian. He talks of eating children, of stomping on testicles. Tyson is a modern-day Genghis Khan, and I don't mean that in a good way.

Luckily, I don't care about boxing. I've always thought it a rather thuggish endeavor, heavy on brutality and lacking in true passion.

But I think Lennox Lewis is a class act, and he's a good fighter. I'll be rooting for him to take Tyson apart, to land a knockout before Tyson can turn the bout into a farce. If you love boxing, you should support Lewis. Boxing cannot tolerate a lunatic as world heavyweight champion. It's hard to believe Tyson has held the same titles as Muhammad Ali, a man who honored his sport.

If, on the other hand, you're rooting for the decline of Western civilization to continue, cheer for Tyson.

Of course, I'll be watching the fight. Wouldn't miss it. And therein lies the problem. So many people -- too many people -- are just like me. We detest Tyson, hate the thought of him being world champion, but we don't dare miss the train wreck.

If you watch tonight's fight, you're one of Mike Tyson's enablers, too. Just like D'Amato, King, Givens and all the vermin in Tyson's entourages past and present.

On second thought, maybe I won't watch.

Mark Madden is the host of a sports talk show from 3 to 7 p.m. weekdays on ESPN Radio (1250).

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