Unsavoury meal ticket for Tyson

Alan Hubbard reminds both fighters that eating people is wrong

No title is at stake, but boxing's reputation, or what's left of it, most certainly is. When Mike Tyson and Andrew Golota collide at Auburn Hills, Michigan, on Friday night, they could label the heavyweight encounter Glove at First Bite. Both are fully paid-up members of the fight game's Diners Club, Tyson having snacked on Evander Holyfield's ear and Golota leaving his teethmarks imprinted on the shoulder of one Samson Pou'ha in 1995.

No title is at stake, but boxing's reputation, or what's left of it, most certainly is. When Mike Tyson and Andrew Golota collide at Auburn Hills, Michigan, on Friday night, they could label the heavyweight encounter Glove at First Bite. Both are fully paid-up members of the fight game's Diners Club, Tyson having snacked on Evander Holyfield's ear and Golota leaving his teethmarks imprinted on the shoulder of one Samson Pou'ha in 1995.

Moreover, both subscribe to a philosophy that has more to do with the Marquis de Sade than the Marquess of Queensberry. Tyson's various misdemeanours have caused him to become unwelcome in Nevada, where his licence was suspended following his cannibalistic tendency, and Britain, where he has been relieved of £125,000 by the British Boxing Board of Control for failing to stop after causing a ring pile-up in Glasgow.

The Polish-born Golota was twice disqualified for low blows against the former world champion Riddick Bowe and his trainer, Al Certo, admits that in preparing for this bout his sparring partners have been primed to twist his arm, stamp on his toes, thump him after the bell and practise choke-holds. "Andrew has responded very well," he says. "If Tyson steps out of line he'll just hit him in the balls."

Clearly it is not a match made in pugilistic heaven. But it is one which threatensto bring huge pay-per-viewfigures.

After the various ring atrocities it is hardly surprising that the Michigan Athletic Board of Control have issued storm warnings, making it plain that both men are under threat of expulsion, and the wrath of federal law, if they seriously misbehave. "In the event that such acts occur, the board will assess appropriate penalties that will be upheld nationally and could result in those disciplined individuals not participating in boxing in the United States for a very, very long time," says the chairman, David Sebastian. "We will not tolerate any circus acts of unsportsmanlike activity."

Whether the stricture will be heeded is questionable. The notoriety of both fighters is such that the only way to properly restrain them would be to have straitjackets at the ringside in readiness, while a couple of psychiatrists in the corner would not be amiss.

The portents are clearly not good. At a recent news conference an apparently heavily medicated Tyson suggested that the upcoming affair was "a freak show between two of the dirtiest fighters in the business". An edifying thought for those who will be subscribing to the BSkyB telecast.

As part of yet another distastefully bizarre performance Tyson cursed, stripped off his shirt and offered to put a bullet through the head of Lennox Lewis, whose heart and non-existent children he has already vowed to add to his personal menu. These days the 34-year-old Tyson seems to revel in his own madness while he awaits the pleasure of Lewis. He is reported to be picking up $12m for Friday's threatened misadventure, which promises to be both brutal and brief.

"Everyone wants to see something really bad happen because that's the attraction," says Certo. "Personally, I just hope it is a clean fight.

"Andrew will play by the rules as long as Tyson allows. But if it comes to the rough stuff he is well prepared. He wrote the book on it. People think he's a dumb Polak, but that's not true. He's a bright guy. OK, so he hits low now and again, but that's because he has a bad aim. But if Tyson tries to body-slam him, Andrew is likely to throw him out of the ring."

"Whatever he starts, I'll finish," vows the 32-year-old Golota. His record suggests otherwise. He was dumped in a round by Lewis and has a reputation for fading under fire. He was well ahead against Michael Grant before being stopped, and the odds are that Tyson will out-blast and out-bully him. Even better odds are on a disqualification or a no-contest. Just what the game needs at its lowest ebb.

However, less than 24 hours later dignity, if not sanity, should be restored when Britain's brightest young prospect, Ricky Hatton, the one-time Manchester City triallist, meets Norwich's Jon Thaxton for the vacant British light-welterweight title at Wembley, a fight which promises credibility not just crudeness.

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