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January 24, 2002

Tyson's panic attack
By Dan Patrick

Go ahead -- try to understand Mike Tyson. Try to think like him. Try to rationalize what he does. Try to figure out why he initiated a melee at a New York news conference to promote his April fight against Lennox Lewis.

Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson was eyeing a $20 million payday for his fight with Lennox Lewis, but it might be history now.
The problem is, there is no explanation. The rationale could come next week, when Tyson will appear before the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which will decide whether or not to reinstate him.

No one knows what Tyson will say to the commission. He may say Lewis' bodyguard put his hand on him, and he reacted as a fighter. He may apologize, saying a part of him was trying to promote the championship fight, scheduled for April 6 at Las Vegas' MGM Grand.

Teddy Atlas, ESPN's boxing analyst and Tyson's former trainer, thinks he may have sabotaged the fight on purpose. Tyson, Atlas said, is one of the most insecure people he has ever met.

To hide his insecurities, Tyson has this persona as the baddest man on the planet, something he doesn't even believe. Atlas said he is afraid and only says and does outlandish things to cover his fears. While he is living the persona, trying to give the people what they want, he hasn't been Mike Tyson the boxer for the last 10 years.

Whenever Tyson gets into a fight with someone who is equal or better than he is, he panics. For evidence, check out Evander Holyfield's half-bitten ear. Tyson wasn't going to beat Holyfield, so he bit him. With Lewis, he couldn't even get through a news conference, let alone a fight. Maybe that indicates how much trepidation he has about facing Lewis.

Since leaving prison, Tyson has done nothing as a boxer, beating guys like Francois Botha and Brian Nielsen, the "Danish Pastry." He even admitted that he needed a couple of more fights before facing Lewis, and now that prospect is only three months away. There is a delicate balance between both physical and mental readiness to fight. Physically, Tyson could be ready, although he gives up more than half a foot to Lewis.

This has all the makings of panic setting in. Sadly, though, this could be profitable insanity on his part. After the news conference, people may now say, "Man, I want to see what he's going to do to Lewis!"

As he continues to be a walking freak show, Tyson is committing financial suicide. He has jeopardized his biggest payday yet.
Before Tyson's latest antics, Atlas said it was a foregone conclusion that the Nevada commission would reinstate him. Now Atlas thinks Tyson won't regain his license because at least two of the five commission members are reconsidering their votes.

With the downturn in tourism, Atlas believes the commission will be pressured to give Tyson his license back. A Tyson-Lewis fight could generate an estimated $400 million for the Vegas economy. Keep that in mind when the commission votes next week. Rationally, you would hope the commission would act with some kind of decorum. But this is boxing; you have to follow the money.

Lewis wants a huge payday and knows the fight would be one of the most lucrative in pay-per-view history. Finally, this is his chance for a defining moment, to put Tyson away for good, the man who steals all his headlines. Sure, Lewis knocked out Hasim Rahman to regain his heavyweight title. Big deal.

Lewis, whom Tyson allegedly bit on the leg during the brawl, was quoted as saying he was going to have to "re-evaluate my options." Read between the lines: "This guy is crazy! I don't know if I want to get in the ring with him. Not that I'm afraid of him as a boxer, but as a carnivore."

Tyson's actions would be fine for the WWF because fans would at least know they were choreographed. We want to believe boxing is still real, but Tyson has provided several episodes that seem to indicate the contrary. Maybe now he needs to be wheeled into each news conference in the same protective outfit that Hannibal Lecter wore in "The Silence of the Lambs." They can just prop him up at the podium to answer questions.

It was another ugly scene for boxing at Tuesday's news conference.
When I asked Atlas if Tyson would live to be 50, he said he could see three scenarios -- somebody hurting Tyson, Tyson hurting somebody else or Tyson ending up incarcerated again. And as he continues to be a walking freak show, Tyson is committing financial suicide. He has jeopardized his biggest payday yet, around $20 million from the fight, and perhaps a second one in October, when he and Lewis were contracted to fight again. He is going through a divorce. He has lost his fortune. He may get charged this week with sexual assault, which would make the fight a moot point anyway.

Before the press conference, ESPN boxing analyst Max Kellerman said he would have given the fight a 50-50 chance of taking place. Now he thinks there's only a 10-1 shot of the Tyson-Lewis fight happening.

Let's hope the odds are defied. I can't say I wouldn't be interested in seeing the fight. Love him or hate him, Tyson still piques your interest. He remains the biggest draw in boxing, regardless of the one-man circus act.

If Tyson is unable to regain his Nevada boxing license, Atlas thinks the best fight venue would be a barge. The last man standing on the barge would get the WBC and IBF belts. Then again, what would Tyson think about him and Lewis, trading punches while floating in the Atlantic? No one knows, but I'd check the bottom of the barge before leaving the harbor.

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Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis scuffle at the start of the scheduled news conference.
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ESPN's Brian Kenny and Max Kellerman break down the Lewis-Tyson fiasco.
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Mike Tyson's former trainer Teddy Atlas believes Tyson is sabotaging the future of his fight with Lennox Lewis.
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ESPN's Teddy Atlas weighs the factors involved with Mike Tyson getting his license reinstated in Nevada.
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ESPN's Max Kellerman analyzes the fallout from the Lewis-Tyson melée.
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ESPN's Brian Kenny says Mike Tyson's action has Lennox Lewis reconsidering the fight.
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