Boxing: 'Sick' Tyson heads into cul-de-sac

Illness puts Iron Mike's fight in doubt as well as Lewis' hopes of a big-money pushover

There are times when even those of us who retain an old-fashioned fondness for the remnants of the noble art feel distinctly queasy when examining our consciences. One such disquieting moment looms in Memphis next Saturday night.

There Mike Tyson is scheduled to re-invent himself at the same Pyramid Arena where, last June, Lennox Lewis inflicted torture and humiliation, brutally exposing him as a shot fighter who should not have been permitted in the ring on medical or moral grounds.

"Scheduled" seems the operative word because last night Tyson, said to have broken training during the week, has now reported sick with flu, bronchitis and a bad back. TV promoters Showtime say they are awaiting medical reports before deciding whether his bout with Clifford "The Black Rhino" Etienne goes ahead.

The contest was designed to convince his TV paymasters that he is worthy of a second chance against Lewis, a match that already has the world heavyweight champion rubbing his hands in anticipation of another painless, profitable pushover. But if Saturday's fight is now scrapped, it also puts this in jeopardy.

He knows there is far less risk in meeting Tyson again than either of the Ukrainian Klitschko brothers, particularly Wladimir, who has the tenacity and the power to cause him serious concern. After 15 high-octane years in the game Lewis may no longer be hungry but he still has the appetite for easy money, and there are bundles in a Tyson rematch, such is the eternal blood-lust of the business.

The fact that he even contemplates fighting Tyson again does Lewis no credit. The score was settled in Memphis when the biter was bit, chewed up and contemptuously spat out. What happens next is simply a gift-wrapped charade. Their first fight may have been one for the fans; the second is strictly for the ghouls.

The last one was already a fight too far. Lewis left Tyson looking as if he was auditioning for a carry-on part in Casualty. They may have patched up his face, he may have licked his wounded pride, but what cannot be repaired is the further damage to his already unhinged psyche. Tyson now claims he wasn't really fit, he had not trained properly and his heart wasn't in it. If so, that was a crazy philosophy, but crazy is a word that is uncomfortably associated with Mad Mike.

Sadly, it is the same old story. The one trotted out whenever a humbled gladiator fancies a shot at redemption. "I'm not making excuses, but..." Next time it will be different.

Tyson is said to have been in pugilistic rehab and planned to return, at 36, with fresh inspiration and another new trainer. He has already had more conditioning Svengalis than David Beckham has had haircuts. Freddie Roach is his umpteenth guru, albeit not a bad one, a disciple of the late, great Eddie Futch. He says his job is to help a slimmer Tyson "get back on the horse again", a horse that is tethered outside the Last Chance Saloon.

Yet despite this new-found redemption Tyson reportedly threw another wobbly last week on learning his purse might be only half the $3.5 million promised (ticket sales have not gone well), allegedly quitting training to indulge in a wild sex and drugs party which, together with the convenient outbreak of illness, apparently puts the bout in danger. Yet cynics may wonder if it is all a Tyson ploy to up the ante. As Showtime's Jay Larkin says: "The rumours usually start about 10 days out from a Tyson fight. And that's when we are hearing this stuff."

Yet Tyson surely needs to fight Etienne come hell-raising or high water, because, sadly, that is all he can do. An artist paints, a soprano sings, and Tyson fights. He cannot afford not to, with debts to his TV creditors Showtime and a multi-million- dollar divorce settlement.

And how about this? A percentage of the Pyramid's proceeds are earmarked for the local police force's sports facilities fund, an appropriate gesture from combatants who are experienced in paying their dues to the law. Iron Mike and The Black Rhino have done so much time between them that maybe instead of "The Star Spangled Banner" they should play "Auld Lags' Syne". Tyson's four years for rape and road-rage are well chronicled. Less so is Etienne's heavy stretch for armed robbery and kidnapping. As a 17-year-old he was sent to the Louisiana State pen for 40 years' hard labour, but won parole after 10 when he found God and boxing.

Since his release Etienne, now 31, has had 24 fights, winning 17 by KO. He is a heavyweight who strikes often but falls easily. In his only losing fight, against the useful Fres Oquendo, he was floored seven times in eight rounds. This, plus a double knockdown when he drew in his last fight with South African François Botha, suggests that if Tyson hits him, he'll go.

Tyson stopped Botha when they met three years ago, but it was a different Tyson then. We suspected against Lewis ­ and it was subsequently confirmed ­ that he was encouraged to take "calming" medication before the fight in order to keep him mentally stable while in the ring. The result was a performance which suggested he could not have been more restrained had he been in a straitjacket. This time, it seems he has already left the tranquillisers on the bathroom shelf, which may account for an apparent recurrence of the irrational behaviour that has so viciously scarred his life.

But as his wayward legs carry him deeper into the final cul-de-sac, it may not only be Tyson who has caught a cold.

Suggested Topics
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all