McBride bringing 'whole of Ireland' to Tyson

WASHINGTON – Kevin McBride is the other guy, perhaps the most invisible 6-foot-6, 265-pound man who ever lived.

But when Mike Tyson launches his latest comeback at the MCI Center Saturday night (Showtime PPV, 9 ET), McBride will be the man standing across the ring from him.

After all, it takes two to make a fight, however long it lasts.

While Tyson's every move is chronicled, his every word dissected, McBride has been left alone by reporters and fans this week except for an appearance Wednesday at the final news conference.

Even then, he was upstaged by adviser Rich Cappiello, who boldly said McBride would knock out Tyson.

That only served to rile Tyson up, perhaps not Cappiello's smartest move. Tyson has been serene throughout the promotion, joking with reporters and handling his media obligations with little fuss.

But when Cappiello opened his mouth, claiming Tyson's time had passed and that McBride was going to put him to sleep, Tyson shot right back.

"You're gonna get Kevin killed," Tyson shouted at him. "Go sit down. I'm gonna gut him like a fish. He's a tomato can."

Perhaps it is unfair to call McBride (32-4-1, 27 KOs) a tomato can – he did represent Ireland in the 1992 Olympics – but he does appear made to order for Tyson. Despite seven consecutive knockout wins, McBride is a slow plodder with no notable victories. Think of him as a slightly better version of Peter McNeeley, the Peter McNeeley, Tyson routed in his return from a stint in prison.

Few give McBride a chance to beat Tyson. Many don't give him a chance to make it out of the first round.

"I hope Tyson feels that way, too, because he has a big shock coming," said McBride trainer Goody Petronelli, best known for training Hall of Famer Marvelous Marvin Hagler. "Kevin is here to win the fight, and I wouldn't be here with him if I didn't think he could beat the guy. He's in tip-top shape."

McBride said he doesn't care what people think. He said he is here to win. He's even taken the unusual measure of employing a hypnotherapist to help him with his mental preparation for the fight.

"I come here to fight 110 percent, focused and ready," McBride said in a thick Irish accent. "I am the stronger man than Mike Tyson. When I hit him on the chin, he will feel like he was hit by the whole of Ireland. I'll be victorious. I will shock the world. I'm a contender, not a pretender."

However, he is ostensibly here for one reason: To be a sacrificial lamb, the guy Tyson (50-5, 44 KOs) is expected to obliterate with a massive knockout that will make the public recall his wrecking ball days and make them anxious to see more; make them believe he can again be heavyweight champion, even a few weeks shy of his 39th birthday.

Danny Williams, of course, was supposed to play that same role last summer when he met Tyson in Louisville, Ky. Four rounds later, it was Tyson sitting on the mat dazed, blood trickling from a cut over his eye, as he was counted out.

"In boxing, anybody over 200 pounds can hit and I see myself as a bigger, stronger man than Danny Williams," said McBride, who is dedicating the fight to his late father, Kevin Sr., who died six years ago. "I come to fight. I train hard. I'm bench pressing 265 pounds."

Ironically, McBride, 32, was the first choice to be Tyson's opponent instead of Williams. But his handlers haggled over the purse and when Williams agreed to take less money, he got the fight.

When Tyson adviser Shelly Finkel needed an opponent for Tyson this summer, he returned to McBride, who accepted $150,000 – about half of what was offered last time. Tyson will earn a minimum of $5 million, but much of it will go toward his bankruptcy reorganization.

"When the Tyson fight came up this time I grabbed it with both hands because this is a dream fight," McBride said. "I idolized Mike Tyson growing up. My dream was to fight Mike Tyson and to beat Mike Tyson. My father always told me if you believe, if you dream hard enough, if you train hard enough, it will happen."

McBride, who has a daughter, Grainne, with his longtime girlfriend, Danielle, began boxing at age 9. Besides Tyson, he idolized Irish stars Steve Collins, Barry McGuigan and Wayne McCullough.

"I was playing Gaelic football, and I was probably hitting the guys hard and one of the lads asked me if I wanted to go boxing," McBride said of his introduction to the sport. "I said sure and I enjoyed it."

McBride comes off as a likeable guy who is enjoying his 15 minutes of fame, but there is good reason to think he has little chance against Tyson.

Two of his four losses have come when he's stepped up his level of opposition – a fifth-round TKO loss to DaVarryl Williamson in 2002 and a ninth-round TKO loss to Axel Schulz of Germany in 1997.

The other two have come against fighters with losing records – Michael Murray (1998) and Louis Monaco (1997). McBride's third-round TKO loss to Murray stands out far more than the others. From 1996 through 2001, Murray went 1-17. The lone victory? Against McBride.

"I've lost a few fights when I stepped up, fair enough. I was young," McBride said. "But I am here to win. I will shock the world. I'm 32 years old and just coming into my own. Mike Tyson is a legend but he's coming to the end of his career. I am coming to start my era. I lost to Axel Schulz but he said to me that I hit as hard as [George] Foreman."

Schulz, however, didn't mention anything about McBride's being able to take a punch like Foreman could.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.