Tyson stays in the shadows

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The Independent Online
The last punch Mike Tyson threw in official combat 50 months ago landed so low that Donovan "Razor" Ruddock imagined speaking for the rest of his life in falsetto. "The thought of it still makes me blink," Ruddock said recently.

A popular conclusion about Iron Mike's comeback at the MGM Grand here on Saturday is that anyone who blinks when the bell rings will probably miss most of the action. Reporters are advised not to reach down if they drop a pencil.

Peter McNeeley, the "Irish hurricane" no less, is not an opponent, he is a sacrifice, his role defined clearly by a purse of $700,000 without training expenses. He is 22-1 and drifting in the betting emporiums. If he survives a round it will be sensational. You could have bet on the Light Brigade with more confidence.

McNeeley's rise to eminence was impossible to foresee despite 30 victories inside the distance. As for pedigree his father, Tom, was floored 13 times in a contest against Floyd Patterson. "Mike's no certainty," McNeeley said. "And I'm not going in there to surrender. Mike will have to beat me real good to get his reputation back. Either he knocks me out or ends up embarrassed."

You could say that this short circuiting of the publicity machine is exactly what the promoters had in mind when McNeeley was selected to provide Tyson with a means of rehabilitation. So why has the former undisputed champion remained in seclusion? "Maybe Mike isn't shaping up as well as his people make out," somebody said.

Refusing all requests to observe his sparring sessions, Tyson remains reclusive, insisting that he is now a model fighting man. A sense of puzzlement is widely felt among the hundreds of reporters here. When will Tyson show up, is he in shape, how can he take McNeeley seriously?

A frightening truth for McNeeley is that Tyson's trainers have not had to think about shielding him from temptation in all its forms, or nagging him into what they consider to a suitable frame of mind for legalised violence.