Cautious Tyson takes command

Ken Jones reports from Las Vegas on the former champion's new public image
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The Independent Online
There was a great deal of consternation here some years ago when it was announced that Muhammad Ali would not be holding his customary pre-fight seminars.

Displaying symptoms of shell-shock, sports writers went around muttering their despair, and eventually a protest was delivered to the great one's quarters. "Sorry, fellas," Ali's trainer, Angelo Dundee, piped, "but my guy won't budge. He's not talking."

News that Ali was about to break his silence caused a stampede. "Now you know what it's like without me," he smiled.

Mike Tyson is employing a similar policy but in contrast to Ali there is no mischief involved. The reason for Tyson's reluctance to make public utterances, other than in meeting obligations to television, appears to be paranoia. It would explain why no outsider apart from Marc Ratner, of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, has been permitted to observe him in sparring.

At the only press conference Tyson agreed to attend prior to a comeback against Peter McNeeley at the MGM Grand here, he spoke bitterly about some of the things written since his release from prison. "There are assassins in the world," he said, adding mysteriously, "people who hide behind buses when you jump out into the snow. Then there are character killers."

Tyson seems most troubled by implications drawn from a renewal of his relationship with Don King. Turning on a writer who has been harshly consistent in this, he said: "The best thing you'll ever know is me talking to you."

The connection with King has clearly been modified. "I don't want you giving away my business," he snapped when the promoter announced Tyson is receiving a purse of $25m with $500,000 in training expenses. Turning on King again, Tyson instructed him not to interrupt. It was considered significant when King complied meekly with this instruction.

From things Tyson said later when interviewed on television, King is no longer in a position to influence him. "Sometimes Don is like a kid, sometimes like a father," Tyson said. "He's the best promoter in the world and I love him, but it's a partnership."

If Tyson is a changed man, it will be clear tomorrow that he is technically the same boxer. The style will be that which once spread terror throughout the heavyweight division. "I can't fight any other way," he said. "I will knock out McNeeley. When? Wait and see. I never did make predictions."

As for remorse, he does not feel any. "I got myself into a bad situation," he said revealingly. It sounded almost like a confession. "I black out the bad things that bother me. You've got to write your own book and the main objective now is money."

Claiming to have a different outlook on life, Tyson added: "I know how hard it is to accomplish anything." It was the most encouraging thing McNeeley had heard all week.