A tentative Tyson is boon for Bruno

A boxer who has faced the challenger tells Ken Jones in Las Vegas why he expects the Briton to win on Saturday
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The Independent Online
In attempting to predict the outcome of prize-fights a personal rule is that no opinion formed on the basis of knowledge and practical experience should be dismissed lightly.

For example, the former light-heavyweight champion, Glenn McCrory, who sparred around 100 rounds with Mike Tyson before joining Sky television as a boxing analyst, is convinced that Frank Bruno will defeat him here on Saturday when defending the World Boxing Council heavyweight title.

McCrory's logic proves unshakeable. "I don't bet on fights," he said, "but I don't see any reason to discourage friends who have asked me to put money on for them."

The impressive thing is that McCrory endured the power Tyson applied wickedly to become the most intimidating force boxing had seen since Joe Louis ruled the heavyweight division. "To go in with Mike then was terrifying," he said. "It's impossible to describe how vicious Mike was in sparring sessions, breaking every rule of the ring, driving in punch after punch, showing no compassion. I was convinced that nobody could live with him."

What McCrory sees now is diminishment. "The power and speed is still there but Mike simply isn't the same fighter," he said, "no longer the guy who took such terrible advantage of his sparring partners that we all felt it was crazy to face up to him. I remember laying on my bed afterwards, aching all over. But in the two fights Mike has had since coming out of prison, he looked a lot less impressive than I remember."

A big difference in McCrory's mind is that Tyson no longer employs a jab that used to arrive with the force of a wrecking ball. "It was the basis of all Mike's attacks and impossible to avoid," he said. "It rattled your jaw and in the blink of an eye he was on the outside, swarming in with those terrible hooks and uppercuts."

No firm conclusions could be drawn from the first of two contests Tyson has undertaken since returning to the ring, but the second, against Buster Mathis Jnr in Philadelphia three months ago, persuaded McCrory that Bruno has the beating of him.

"Against the old Tyson, the Tyson who blasted everyone away, scaring even Larry Holmes and Michael Spinks who had big reputations, Mathis wouldn't have lasted much more than a minute never mind almost four rounds," McCrory added.

That is when McCrory first got around to thinking that Tyson was making a big mistake in challenging Bruno. "I think it is a bad fight for Mike," he said this week while watching his compatriot prepare for Saturday's contest at the MGM Grand Gardens here.

"You get the impression that Mike and his people, Don King, all of them, are hiding from the truth," he said. "I don't see Mike in there anymore. It seems to be all about making money as quickly as possible, before the public wise up to the fact that he is a shell of his old self."

An important consideration McCrory thinks is the relaxed air Bruno conveys in preparation. "Winning a title does a lot for your confidence," he added, "and I see plenty of that in the way Frank is conducting himself. In fact I think Tyson is the more worried man. When he looks at Frank he sees a big guy with the power to hurt him. And it isn't in Mike to fight carefully.

"The only thing in his mind is to pile in and get people out of there in the shortest time possible. If that doesn't work he gets confused and he no longer has anyone in his corner to sort things out: no Kevin Rooney, who was very important. Kevin would call out the numbers that formed the basis of Mike's attacks. When you heard "seven-seven" it was time to cover up, because you knew that the pulverising double jab was coming."

When Bruno challenged unsuccessfully for Tyson's undisputed title seven years ago he was afflicted with an inferiority complex. "No reason for him to feel that now," McCrory said. "I really believe that Frank has one hell of a chance - that he can take Mike out."

I do not think it is the way to bet, but just lately logic has not amounted to very much in boxing.

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