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Monday, October 25, 1999
Boxing needs a little Iron in its diet

By Tim Graham
Special to ESPN.com

LAS VEGAS -- Everyone wants to pull the plug on this Frankenstein.

He rapes. He bites. He kicks old men in the groin. Mike Tyson never was one to follow the rules. We knew that. The bolts in his neck aren't tight enough to keep his head on straight.

But now, in the aftermath of his punch-after-the-bell no-contest with Orlin Norris Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden, everyone apparently wants Tyson gone. The media and the fans, torches in hand, are storming the castle.

They're fed up. They repeatedly feel cheated when they watch Tyson. They get pumped up for his fights only to get quickly deflated.

Mike Tyson -- who needs him?

Boxing does.

With all due respect to the fans and media calling for Tyson's ouster, you're way off the mark.

There seems to be only two choices being offered since Saturday night: A) Tyson stays in boxing and continues to drive the sport to new depths; or B) Tyson leaves boxing and we all enjoy the sport a little more.

There is, however, a third option: C) Tyson sticks around, proves himself with a couple of impressive outings, he regains a modicum of professional respect and boxing benefits. The sport could do worse for itself.

"With the Lennox Lewis-Evander Holyfield decision (a controversial draw) and that disappointing Oscar De La Hoya-Felix Trinidad fight," Tyson's co-trainer, Tommy Brooks, said, "Mike is the only one who can capture the crowd again."

Maybe it's a sad commentary on a sport that hasn't done much to ingratiate itself to the public since, well, forever. But Tyson simply is too valuable to bid goodbye.

Tyson, who hinted at retirement after yet another controversial ending, needs boxing as much as it needs him. He is in debt and has obligations to promoter America Presents and cable network Showtime.

"I'm just tired," Tyson said at the post-fight press conference. "I don't even want to fight no more. I just want to go home. I'm really tired of everybody and everything.

Fifty percent of Mike Tyson is better than 100 percent of most any other fighter out there.
Tommy Brooks, Tyson's trainer

"I'm telling the truth. I really don't want to be caught up in the (B.S.), the politics and stuff. They have me under an agreement, but I don't want to do it anymore."

America Presents president Dan Goossen wisely interrupted his top client, and a talk among all involved should help Iron Mike come to his senses -- if he hasn't already.

There is no doubt Tyson is a bad man. It could even be argued he is the "Baddest Man on the Planet," as he once proclaimed himself, although not for the original reasons.

He has been imprisoned twice, once for rape in 1992 and again this year for assaulting two men after a fender-bender. He was suspended and fined $3 million by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for biting Evander Holyfield's ears. He admitted he tried to break Frans Botha's arm during a clinch in their fight last January, and in the days leading up to the Norris fight he said he would bite again if provoked.

None of this was a secret when he climbed into the ring Saturday night.

And now people are saying the world would be a better place without him after he lands a late punch?

Tyson's left uppercut, landing square on Norris' chin and knocking him down, was an obvious foul. The bell clanged five times, routine when fighters are in a clinch or fighting inside, before Tyson threw the punch.

Referee Richard Steele deducted two points from Tyson and the fight eventually was stopped because Norris twisted his previously injured right knee when he crumpled to the canvas. Ringside physician Flip Homansky on Sunday said an MRI indicated Norris had dislocated his kneecap, which popped back into place when he stood up. Norris may need surgery.

But the late shot wasn't intentional. Norris himself said it wasn't. Tyson claimed he didn't catch the bell, and Norris backed the argument by saying the crowd noise made it difficult to hear.

It's a rather common occurrence for a fighter to throw a punch a beat or two after the bell. Yes, it's uncommon for a fighter to get knocked down by such a blow, but when the offering has the power of Tyson behind it, anything can happen.

The NSAC is withholding Tyson's $10 million purse in lieu of a hearing. Some writers have been wondering if the commission will once again revoke Tyson's license for this foul.

Tyson's not going anywhere. And everyone should be thankful.

Tyson is somewhat like boxing's version of Mark Wohlers. The former Atlanta Braves closer extraordinaire used to punch out batters with his crackling fastball. Now he can't find the catcher's mitt and finds himself on a psychiatrist's couch as often as a pitcher's mound.

Tyson just needs to get it together, tighten those bolts. Some doubt he can, but if he eventually does much good will come from it.

The heavyweight division is in a sad state right now. Lewis, in spite of the decision he endured at Madison Square Garden, is widely regarded as the champion, but he has failed to impress the public outside of his native Great Britain. Holyfield is fading fast and there don't appear to be any youngsters on the horizon who can explode on the scene.

But with Tyson around, the division is far more legitimate. A month before his rematch with Holyfield, Lewis stated he wanted to fight Tyson. Holyfield would like a third bout with Tyson, too. George Foreman has said he won't fight again unless it's against Tyson.

Why? Because after all the trouble he has caused, Tyson still is the measuring stick. He is the man everyone feels they must defeat to add that much more credibility to their careers. And Tyson also brings the most money.

And then there are the prospects. Michael Grant, David Tua, Hasim Rahman, Vitaly Klitschko and others of their ilk all benefit by fighting in the Tyson Era, just as Tyson did by fighting in the Larry Holmes Era.

The division's allure is augmented exponentially the more heavyweight stars there are. And Tyson remains among the brightest. "If anyone thinks Mike Tyson is out of this race, he's crazy," said Brooks, who used to train Holyfield. "Mike Tyson is in this race and always will be in the race. Fifty percent of Mike Tyson is better than 100 percent of most any other fighter out there."

So, Frankenstein or not, don't be so quick to dismiss him, because boxing surely would miss him.

Tim Graham covers boxing for ESPN.com and is based in Las Vegas.