Tyson makes a comeback as the Evil Umpire

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The Independent Online
MIKE TYSON has been going hungry since his unfortunate deviation from the Marquess of Queensberry's rules the last time he fought in the ring. The US boxing authorities frowned upon the cannibalistic impulse that led him to chew off a chunk of Evander Holyfield's ear last summer and slapped him with a one-year suspension, drying up his main source of income.

But a man has to eat. Desperate straits require desperate measures. A week today, the man who was once the youngest world heavyweight champion in boxing history and the richest sportsman in the world will be playing the clown at a pay-per-view wrestling extravaganza in Boston.

Tyson will be what is formally known as the second referee. The World Wrestling Federation have dubbed him "the Special Enforcer". One newspaper report nicknamed him "the Evil Umpire".

He has reportedly signed a $3m (pounds 1.8m) contract, peanuts by the standards of a man who would earn $30m a fight, but a fine investment for the WWF, which saw its TV ratings rocket when he "refereed" at Wrestlemania on 2 March. The convicted rapist engaged in some animated chimpanzee theatrics with the alpha-male wrestler on the card and the crowd went away happy.

It was suggested a couple of weeks back to Vince McMahon, the owner of WWF, that a man with a past as chequered as Tyson's ought not to be involved in a family sport. Mr McMahon replied: "When you pay your debt to society, isn't it paid? From my standpoint, Mike Tyson is an entertainer. He does have an edge. He's the baddest man on the planet. And that's the way we're using Mike Tyson."

For "the serial buttocks fondler", as he was once known, old habits seem to die hard. Twice in recent weeks he is reported to have engaged in violent encounters with women. One was at a restaurant called the Pig's Foot in New York, another at an all-night diner in Washington.

In the Washington incident, as reported by the Washington Post, he had a cup of coffee thrown in his face by a woman at whom he had been shouting obscenities. The time was 5.30am. He stood up, sending plates flying, and sped out to his awaiting limo.

He may not be able to keep the limo for long, though. According to various reports he owes the taxman about $7m, having been ripped off to the tune of millions more, he claims, by his handlers. He is suing the fight promoter Don King for $100m and his two co-managers for another $100m.

Meanwhile he is doing what he can in the ring.

In next Sunday's event he will not be the only celebrity on the ticket. Gennifer Flowers, one of the women with whom President Clinton had an affair, will be playing the part of "guest time-keeper". Maybe the two will perform a pantomime rape.