Boxing: Tyson entices media circus

Click to follow
Rarely have so many wanted to watch a man sweat. The man, though, was Mike Tyson and the occasion was a coming out of sorts for the post-prison body he has sculpted in preparation for his return to the ring a fortnight tomorrow against Peter McNeeley.

Tyson skipped and hit punch bags in a 47-minute workout that marked the first time those outside Tyson's inner circle had seen the former heavyweight champion in training since his release in March.

More than 100 journalists packed a small room adjoining the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas for the first sight of the new Tyson. They saw what was billed as an improved version of the Tyson of old. "I think he's better now," said Jay Bright, Tyson's trainer. "He was distracted with all the glitz and glamour before. Now his interest is all back to what he's doing."

Tyson appeared sleek and as quick as ever as he went five rounds with the heavy bag and five more on the speed bag before posing for pictures with underprivileged children, who had been brought in for the occasion. The bags, of course, did not hit back, as Tyson's handlers continued with their plan of keeping the fighter's actual ring skills a mystery in the hope of selling more tickets for the McNeeley bout.

With television cameras lining one wall and photographers crammed around a ring inside the crowded room, Tyson put on a businesslike show for those eager for a glimpse of the former world heavyweight champion's conditioning.

Tyson warmed up with five minutes of skipping before putting on his gloves to hit the bags. He was particularly impressive on the heavy bag, landing quick- fire four- and five-punch combinations under the watchful eye of Bright.

Five of Tyson's bodyguards lined the walls, part of a 13-person entourage that wrapped his hands, set up the bags and inserted the proper music into the stereo.

Tyson spent much of his time focusing on moving his head while hitting the bag. He had been criticised following his last few fights before going to prison on a rape conviction for not using the head movement and punch combinations that made him the youngest man ever to win the heavyweight title.

"In Mike's style of boxing, if you're not elusive and you don't move your head, your head is a target," Bright said. "I don't want him to just depend on his power to stun these guys."

Bright said Tyson has been eager to train since his release from prison, something he wasn't always ready to do after becoming such a huge success in the ring.

Tyson now weighs about 15st 10lb, said Bright, who wants his fighter to gain a pound or two before fighting the 25-1 underdog McNeeley. "You saw what he looks like," he said. "He looks very sharp, moving his head very well. And gradually the power is coming back more and more."

Bright said that Tyson, particularly in his last two fights against Donovan "Razor" Ruddock, had become somewhat enamoured with his one-punch power and had forgotten the fight skills which the late Cus D'Amato had instilled in him.

"Before he went away to Indiana, he was a little bored, on a roller-coaster with fame," Bright said. "This time he has great desire and he's a pleasure to work with."