Tyson may quit after foul farce

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The Independent Online

Mike Tyson's dreams of resurrecting his troubled boxing career were reduced - once again - to acrimony and consternation on Saturday night as his latest comeback fight was closed down after just three minutes because of an illegal punch thrown at his opponent, Orlin Norris.

Mike Tyson's dreams of resurrecting his troubled boxing career were reduced - once again - to acrimony and consternation on Saturday night as his latest comeback fight was closed down after just three minutes because of an illegal punch thrown at his opponent, Orlin Norris.

In a confused sequence of events, that looked to Tyson baiters like a deliberate provocation and to Tyson defenders like yet another piece of horrendous bad luck, the former world champion delivered a vicious right upper cut to Norris's head after the bell ending the first round had sounded. Norris slumped to the floor and subsequently had to be carried out on a stretcher because of a knee injury sustained during the fall.

With the audience screeching in frustration as it became ever clearer that the fight was over, the match referee, Richard Steele, initially declared that Tyson had committed an accidental foul, a minor infraction that would not in itself have brought proceedings to a close.

Then Norris failed to recover in his corner, the ring physician Flip Homansky secured a large ice pack on the side of his right knee, and all hell broke loose. More than a dozen Las Vegas policemen swarmed into the ring behind Marc Ratner, the senior boxing official in Nevada, who officially declared the fight over and deemed it a "no contest".

"Bullshit! Bullshit!" chanted the near-capacity crowd inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena. They had waited nine months for the chance to see Tyson fight again, following his latest spell in prison for an attack of road rage in Maryland, and they had every reason to believe he was back on zinging form. True, many of them expected and half-hoped he would behave badly, but if this really was bad behaviour it also robbed them of their fun before it was barely under way.

Appearing at the post-match news conference, Tyson clearly shared their disappointment and anger. He accused Norris, a former cruiserweight champion, of chickening out of the fight and said the episode had taken away his will to keep boxing. "I'm tired of all this shit, really," he said. "I'm tired of everybody and everything, being caught up in all this bullshit, all this political stuff that has got me obligated... I don't even want to fight no more."

The full implications probably will not become clear for several days. Tyson's supporters were quick to sympathise, to point out how good he had looked in his opening exchanges with Norris, and to accuse Norris of deliberately faking or exaggerating his injury to bring the fight to a close and earn his purse money without enduring further punishment. "Hang in there, Mike; we need you, baby!" someone shouted.

But boxing officials painted a much more sanguine picture of what had happened. Ratner, who is executive director of the Nevada State Athletics Commission, the body that first banned Tyson for life after his ear-biting episode with Evander Holyfield in 1997 and then reinstated him 14 months later, said he was not drawing any hasty conclusions and would re-examine the tape of the fight very closely before passing judgement.

Ratner indicated strongly, however, that it was Tyson whose behaviour would be under the closest scrutiny. The Commission could still decide to overrule the referee and deem his foul deliberate, something that might force the body to consider disqualifying him all over again. Ratner said the payment of Norris's fee for the match, believed to be around $80,000 (£50,000), would go ahead, but that Tyson's purse - as much as $10m (£6m) - had been suspended pending further investigations. "I want to review the film. I'll see it on Monday," Ratner said. "I can't say more now because I haven't seen even a millimetre of the film yet."

The extent of Norris's injury was likely to become clearer once results of an MRI scan of his knee were made public. Dr Homansky confirmed, however, that the knee had stiffened and swollen in the ring and that at least some degree of injury was genuine.

With the debate about what really happened raging, it was clear the outcome of the bout was the worst possible for just about everyone - promoters, boxing officials, the Showtime cable network which had exclusive broadcasting rights to the fight, and the audience. Boxing has not found anyone to generate even a fraction of the excitement of a Mike Tyson, and, even if he is no longer able to call himself the best in the world, he remains the most compellingly watchable fighter around.

Ever since the Holyfield biting episode, boxing officials have been seeking every way possible to bring Tyson back into the sport, giving him maximum leeway for his many indiscretions. Tyson, too, has done his best to behave - give or take the occasional explosion of anger such as his attempt to break the arm of his previous opponent, Francis Botha. Over the past few days he had sounded so serene the ticket touts rushing frenetically through the corridors of the MGM Grand casino had serious difficulty offloading their wares.

The problem with Saturday's fight was that it had to be a spectacle or else it was nothing. The crowd, stuffed with the usual Las Vegas array of zoot-suiters with necks as wide as truck tyres, and slinkily dressed women overpumped with silicone, poured out of the Arena in furious mood. "I need an attorney to get my money back," said one loud joker. "I don't have money like these other guys. This hurt. I might have to miss Christmas this year."

In the melée, a bag of popcorn went flying in the air and loud male chanting indicated trouble. Minutes later, police were handcuffing a young man with a shaved head and an older, portly man with drink stains down his blue silk shirt. "Hey, man," said a passer-by, "that's the best fight I seen all night."