Boxing: Revealing insight into Tyson's torture

Bob Mee studies the doctors' report into boxing's greatest enigma
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The Independent Online
ALL THE bluster in the world from Don King and anybody else connected with the proposed Lennox Lewis-Evander Holyfield fight cannot obscure one horrible truth: it should have happened long ago.

Holyfield is 36, Lewis 33. However magnificently conditioned they might become in the next three months, neither can be what they were. As attractive as the contest might be, what we are witnessing now is a salvage operation. It was still a huge fight in the wake of Holyfield's second win over Tyson in June last year, and again after Lewis's 95-second blowout of Andrew Golota 12 months ago. Subsequent appearances by both men, however, have served only to illustrate that timing is everything. Now, instead of the two finest heavyweights in the world unifying the three versions of the title which matter, the image is of two athletes in decline.

King, who promotes Holyfield, knows the WBA and IBF champion cannot hang on much longer. In effect, King is cashing him in. That's also why he has settled for a return clause only, instead of the list of promotional options upon which he would usually insist.

Of course, the news that Holyfield has signed his side of the deal is significant. Lewis, presumably, will follow suit this weekend. King will then, again we must assume, iron out the final details with the American television giant Home Box Office. It should happen on the last weekend of February or the first in March. Once Lewis has signed, the heavyweight emphasis will shift to Las Vegas, where tomorrow Mike Tyson is scheduled to reappear before the five-man panel of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which revoked his licence after last year's ear-chewing disgrace against Holyfield.

Last month, Tyson's legal team, who are attempting to get his licence back, almost blew it by presenting a hopelessly flawed case. The commission gave them a second chance by deferring the matter to allow for full psychiatric reports to be presented. At the original meeting, Tyson said he was happy for those reports to be made public. "Nothing in my life is secret," he said. Later, however, he changed his mind, but his lawyers failed in their attempts to keep the psychiatric findings secret. This week, huge chunks of the report were revealed and were available on the Internet. They provided a fascinating insight into Tyson's mind.

On Tyson's medical history, Dr Ronald Schouten of the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston said: "Mr Tyson gave a history of repeated head injuries as a child, including multiple episodes of loss of consciousness as a result of being struck with objects in fights. He denied any loss of consciousness as an adult, and particularly denies loss of consciousness while boxing. He has no history of serious illness, surgeries or seizures. There is no history of headache or other neurological difficulties. He denied current substance abuse, including steroids."

Current substance abuse... does that mean he has abused substances, including steroids, in the past? We know not. However, later in the report Schouten advises that Tyson be subject to future continued drug screening, including steroids, "in order to ensure that there are no additional factors which might exacerbate his anger control patterns".

Tyson's history of depression was discussed. Schouten said: "He received a diagnosis of manic depressive illness several years ago and was placed on lithium carbonate, a mood stabiliser. He stated that this slowed him down considerably and that he stopped taking the medication after several doses."

He went on to quote Tyson's insistence at their meeting: "I have no self- esteem, but the biggest ego in the world." However, he said the latter was merely a defence of the former.

"Part of his openness and honesty was to express clearly to us his sense of humiliation at being asked to undergo an evaluation by mental health professionals. He reported being deeply embarrassed... at the possibility that people would think he was a 'psycho'."

Crucially, Schouten went so far as to recommend that the best cure for Tyson's depression would be to allow him to box. In effect, he felt that Tyson's decision to bite Holyfield so viciously was a result of "depression, impulse control problems exacerbated by depression, a sense that no one was protecting his interests, and a variety of social and financial pressures".

Boxing people would disagree. They would say it was a far simpler process - that Tyson knew he was about to take a beating; that, in boxing terms, he wasn't man enough to handle defeat. And that was a combination of his own personal history and the siege mentality of the team around him.

The commission, however, asked for psychiatric opinion and are likely to consider it strongly. Tyson, meanwhile, says he expects to be rejected. And in spite of all that he says, maybe deep in the recess of this tortured soul he wants to be.

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