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Mark's Madness: Mike Tyson, boxer for the ages, and wholesome family entertainer, too

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Mike Tyson might not have a title belt. But is there any doubting that he's the people's champion?

Roy Jones Jr. might be, pound-for-pound, the best fighter in the world. He might prove himself to be even more than that if he can win the World Boxing Association heavyweight championship Saturday. Lennox Lewis, who has all the other important heavyweight titles, is a gentleman as well as a great fighter.

But we don't want gentlemen, and we certainly don't want technicians playing patty-cake (or Spaddy-cake) for 12 boring rounds. Who has time for that? We want Tyson, a train wreck of a human being who knocks people senseless with a single blow. Tyson is the only boxer anyone talks about.

In addition, there's the distinct chance that Tyson will kill Jim Gray during a postfight interview. It's a shame that can't be guaranteed. The pay-per-view numbers would go through the roof.

When it comes to memorable moments in boxing, I can't decide between Ali-Frazier I and Tyson's response this past Saturday when Gray asked him to define the exact nature of his back injury. Tyson practically bit Gray's head off with a one-word tirade: "Spinal!" These go to 11.

This is the age of reality TV. Our society has eschewed creativity in favor of unpredictability. That defines Tyson's popularity. We want instant gratification. Nothing could be more instant -- or more gratifying -- than Tyson's 49-second knockout of Clifford Etienne.

Tyson felled Etienne with such force that Etienne's leg almost snapped under him. Frankly, the leg breaking would have been a nice touch.

There is still plenty of money out there to be made if you're Mike Tyson ... and you're careful not to schedule any serious fights. (Mark Humphtrey, Associated Press)

After the fight, Iron Mike claimed that, at $5 million for 49 seconds of work, he was underpaid. I agree, although it's worth noting that "Etienne" sounds an awful lot like "ATM."

So, now what?

Tyson says he's not ready for a rematch with Lewis. He needs more rounds, more time in the gym.

But the truth is, Tyson will never be ready to fight Lewis again. Even though Lewis is getting a mite creaky, Tyson is, too, and his psyche is too fragile -- no, really -- to handle a legitimately good foe.

For the sake of Tyson -- and Mike is obviously all I'm concerned about here -- the remainder of his career should be paced to give him as many paydays as possible while shielding him from any humiliating losses that might rob him of his drawing power. Then again, if Lewis making Tyson look like a chump in their first meeting didn't kill Tyson as a draw, maybe nothing will.

I don't care about Tyson reclaiming the heavyweight title(s). They're all just alphabet soup mumbo-jumbo at this point, anyway. I don't care about Tyson waging any more classic battles.

I just want wholesome family entertainment that features somebody getting quickly and decisively socked in the melon. Tyson-Lewis II? I'd rather see Tyson-Springsteen I.

Getting semiserious for a moment, Tyson would be a heck of a pay-per-view moneymaker in the Ultimate Fighting Championship's almost-anything-goes octagon.

If street brawler Tank Abbott survives his Ultimate Fighting comeback Friday, thus reclaiming his unofficial title as the most popular Ultimate Fighter, Tyson-Tank would produce scads of cash, maybe more than Tyson-Lewis II could.

Abbott would pulverize Tyson, by the way. Tank would take him down and torture him. A grappler almost always beats a striker, and Tyson has nothing on Tank as far as being floridly psychotic is concerned. But everybody loses sometime in UFC, so Tyson would maintain his, uh, credibility.

I would also like to see Tyson fight an actual black rhino. The rhino couldn't do worse than Etienne did. Instead of getting a facial tattoo, maybe Tyson could have brain surgery a few days before his next fight.

At this point, I would like to offer some sympathy to another people's champion, Dwayne Johnson, a k a The Rock of WWE and "Scorpion King" movie fame.

Finally, The Rock has come to his senses and has decided to make starring in action flicks his primary occupation, forsaking wrestling for all but a few special occasions -- like probably never -- once his WWE contract expires.

For deciding to further himself financially by involving himself in an alternate profession which is less physically demanding as well as much more mainstream and respectable, The Rock has been branded a sellout by wrestling devotees and has been mercilessly booed at WWE events. The harangue by the great unwashed has been so great that WWE was basically forced to make The Rock a bad guy.

Wrestling fans have never been known for their intelligence, and their actions in this instance certainly won't gain them admission to Harvard. Or Point Park. They should be proud that The Rock's hard work has paid off in such spectacular fashion. The Rock has been entirely professional throughout his wrestling career. He has always given maximum effort and never refused to do what's right for business.

Ironically, one catalyst for the fans turning on The Rock is the immoral Hulk Hogan, his opponent at WWE's most recent pay-per-view. Hogan is a textbook prima donna who takes his ball and goes home every time he's asked to do something that puts him in a bad light, like, say, lose a match. It's just fake wrestling, Hulk. You may be pushing 70, but it's never too late to get over yourself.

The ticket buyers love Hogan, but hate The Rock. The Rock seems legitimately hurt by this and is venting his frustration with the spectators in some classic interviews on WWE TV. The fighting might be staged but, in the case of The Rock, the talking is real.

Hogan gets his at next month's WrestleMania, though, as he faces WWE owner Vincent K. McMahon in a match McMahon has waited 20 years for.

The boss will win. Boy, talk about reality TV.

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

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