Tyson is happy to stick with King

BOXING: Former world heavyweight champion's first public statement since his release from jail lasts just 76 seconds
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The Independent Online
A humble and subdued Mike Tyson, the former world heavyweight champion, read out a statement yesterday announcing that he would return to the ring, become a better person and retain his fellow ex-convict Don King as his fight promoter.

"I will fight again," he declared in his first statement since his release from prison on Saturday. "Don King will continue to promote my fights".

He also announced that John Horne and Rory Calhoun, two long-standing friends, would continue as his managers; his fights would be broadcast on the Showtime cable network; and that he had signed an agreement with the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, presumably to host his fights

Tyson, 28, was speaking before a battery of cameras at the Gund sporting arena in Cleveland at noon local time yesterday. At 6am on Saturday, confronted by a media army, he had ducked and weaved his wordless way from prison gate to limousine in seven seconds flat.

Yesterday, he rewarded reporters' persistence by delivering an address that lasted a full 76 seconds. While he refused to answer questions, a number of points of interest arose.

First, proof was provided of reports from prison that Tyson has taught himself to read - or rather that he has improved his performance from fourth grade to 12th grade school standard. He stumbled a couple of times; he read incoherently fast at times; and, the moment he finished reading his statement, he abruptly turned and walked off the podium, as if mightily relieved the ordeal was over. But, yes, it seemed plausible that he might indeed have read the collected works of Machiavelli and Voltaire.

Secondly, Tyson did not appear in Islamic garb, as he had done on his release on Saturday. He arrived at the Gund arena wearing a straw hat - not a skull-cap - and a dark suit and red tie. He had converted to Islam in prison. Had he reconverted back to Christianity already? The final line of his statement revealed that, no, he remained firm in his new faith. "May Allah bless you all", the most murderous heavyweight in boxing history told surprised reporters.

Third, we can perhaps deduce that - for the moment at least - Tyson attaches as much importance to spiritual as to physical growth. The opening words of his statement touched not on boxing but on his soul. "In the last three years I have had a chance to reflect on my life, to develop my mind and continue my journey to make myself a better person," he said.

Fourth, Tyson has not fallen out with Don King, as some had speculated. "Don King is the greatest promoter in the world, as you know," he said. Not everybody may know that but what we do know is that King, who has spent four years in jail on a manslaughter conviction, may be back behind bars again soon.

Known as one of the most reptilian personalities in boxing, he is currently facing charges of fraud. King having visited Tyson often in jail during the last three years, Tyson may find he is in a position to repay the favour in kind.

King himself was not in Cleveland yesterday but was believed to be at his home in Florida because of his wife Henrietta's illness.

There were, however, a trio of prominent promoters in attendance - Harold Rossfields Smith, Bilal Muhammad and Akbar Muhammad.

Before the statement, Smith, who served prison time for embezzling $24m from the Wells Fargo bank, said, "Tyson won't be free until his probation is over because of all the restrictions." Tyson's probation lasts four years.

It was the second time in two days Tyson had left his estate in Southington, Ohio. On Wednesday, he made a 30-minute trip to Youngstown and had a meeting with his probation officer, Dennis Almasi.

Almasi said he was forbidden by law to talk about Tyson's case or to have any relationship with him beyond professional. But he said Tyson will get no special treatment.

Tyson did not mention exactly when he hopes to return to the ring but whenever he does, and whoever his opponent might be, it is likely to be one of the richest fights of all time.

The titles that Tyson once held as undisputed world heavyweight champion now belong to Riddick Bowe (WBO), Oliver McCall (WBA and WBC) and George Forman (IBF).

Now that King's continued involvement with "Iron Mike" has been confirmed it seems most likely that Tyson's first fight will be against McCall - another King fighter - who defends his titles against another former world champion, Larry Holmes, in Las Vegas a week tomorrow.