|Saturday, February 22
Updated: February 23, 1:04 PM ET
Etienne's night ends 49 seconds into first round
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- There's still some badness left in Iron Mike after all.
Mike Tyson showed Saturday night he could still punch with devastating effect, flattening Clifford Etienne just 49 seconds into the fight with a savage right hand reminiscent of Tyson in his prime.
Etienne turned out to be easy. Tyson's problems outside the ring remain a riddle he can't solve.
"I've got issues I've got to deal with," Tyson said. "I'm in pain and I've got some serious demons I am fighting."
Tyson returned to the only place he knows solace -- a boxing ring -- to knock Etienne out in a win he desperately needed to keep hope of future big fights with Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield alive.
Etienne was knocked flat on his back in the middle of the ring and he lay there as referee Bill Clancy counted him out and a fight that seemed destined never to happen came to a sudden end.
"I canceled too many fights in my career," Tyson said. "I wasn't afraid. He needed the money. I always need money."
Tyson then leaned over and helped Etienne to his feet as the crowd of 15,171 at the Pyramid arena erupted in glee.
"Maybe I'm just a domesticated animal," Tyson said.
Fighting in the same ring where Lewis gave him a beating last June, Tyson went right after Etienne, who cooperated by standing in front of him and punching back.
It proved a mistake when Tyson threw a right hand that landed flush on Etienne's jaw and sent him sprawling to the canvas.
It was the sixth-quickest knockout for Tyson and the 16th in the first 1:33 of the first round or less. He needed it badly.
"To be honest I'm not ready to fight him (Lewis) at this time," Tyson said. "I need more fights. I don't want to get beat up again."
While Etienne was on his back, Tyson was complaining about his.
"I broke my back. I don't even know how I'm standing. It's a miracle," Tyson said, adding that it was an injury from an old motorcycle accident. "The doctor took me to the pain center and I wasn't supposed to fight, but what am I supposed to do? I'm going to take care of my family."
A doctor later said Tyson's back was a chronic problem, but nothing that would keep him from fighting.
His problems outside the ring, might, though, just as they almost ruined this comeback fight.
"I like doing other things," Tyson said in a rambling post-fight press conference. "I like getting high, hanging out with my kids, I like drinking. I like doing other things."
Etienne, "The Black Rhino," was picked as an opponent because he figured to give Tyson an easy target. He didn't disappoint.
"That's what rhinos do. Rhinos don't dance," Tyson said.
More animated before the introductions than usual, Tyson entered the ring and stood bouncing in front of Etienne before ripping off the towel over his chest.
When the fight began, Tyson came out slugging, landing a few punches before Etienne grabbed him and pushed him into the ropes. The two wrestled and Tyson fell to a knee.
The action resumed and Tyson missed with a left hook before connecting with the punch that ended the fight.
"I can't say it was an exciting performance. It didn't last too long," Etienne said. "But it was two warriors in the ring."
Etienne has a tendency to go down -- seven times in one fight alone -- and was selected as an opponent because of his weak chin and lack of elusiveness.
"This was the way I had to fight him," Etienne said. "How else could I fight him? I'm OK. He caught me with a good punch."
A circus-like atmosphere enveloped the fight. Tyson, claiming to be suffering from the flu, canceled the fight on Monday only to wake up feeling better on Tuesday and deciding to fight.
Things got even weirder when Etienne staged a mini-boycott of his own before deciding that getting nearly $1 million to fight Tyson was too lucrative to pass up.
By fight time, though, the absurdity had given way to a curiosity over how much Tyson had left at the age of 36 after taking a beating from Lewis in his last fight.
Though the public hasn't lost its fascination with the youngest fighter to win the heavyweight title 17 years ago, even Tyson admitted the fight was crucial.
He got $5 million for Etienne, money he needs not only to pay bills but to pay his ex-wife, Monica, a $6.5 million divorce settlement.
Tyson's new tattoo was prominent on the left side of his face, but Etienne never got a chance to hit it. Tyson had earlier called it a warrior tattoo and he seemed to want to go out and show he was just that.
Tyson missed a week of training, and was forced to spar both Wednesday and Thursday to get his timing back -- something unheard of before a major heavyweight fight. He came into the fight at 225 3/4, while Etienne weighed 222 3/4.
His trainer, Freddie Roach, worried that Tyson would not be in shape if the fight went into the later rounds. It proved not to be a concern.
After the fight, Etienne whispered some advice into Tyson's ear.
"I just told Mike to stick to business. Stop screwing around and fight," Etienne said. "I said if he kept working hard, he could be champion again."
Tyson was a 4-1 favorite, but in his prime there wouldn't have even been odds against a fighter who learned to box while serving 10 years in prison and had never been in such a big fight.
Still, Tyson said the fight was too short and he was not ready to fight Lewis, as both Lewis and Tyson's promoters wanted him to do on June 21.
"I need more rounds. People are excited to see me knock guys out because that's how I made my reputation. But I need more rounds," Tyson said. "After a fight like this, 49 seconds, I can't go in there against Lewis, a confident fighter who's accurate. I need to go back to the gym."
Said Roach: "I'd like to see him fight a couple more fights, just to stay busy. I'd hate to see him take time off and lose the sharpness that he has."
Tyson, who had never lost a non-title fight, won for the 50th time in a career that began 18 years ago. It was the 43rd knockout for Tyson, who has lost four fights and has two no contests.
Etienne, who dropped to 24-2-1, had an altercation with a woman as he left the ring, and was agitated.
If the fight card needed any more goofiness, it came just before Tyson and Etienne entered the ring. That's when Tonya Harding made her pro debut against another novice fighter, Samantha Browning, of Mantachie, Miss.
The two women spent four rounds flailing at each other in a comical display before Browning was given a split decision over the banned former Olympic skater.