Tyson taps out two-minute warning

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The Independent Online
Bruce Seldon did not attend the theatrical post-fight press conference that followed his inglorious loss of the World Boxing Association championship to Mike Tyson at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas, in the early hours of yesterday morning. "But forget about that - we're moving ahead," said Don King, in full Barnum mode. The lights went down and, perfectly on cue, spotlights picked out a giant poster advertising "finally", a fight between Tyson and Evander Holyfield set for 9 November. And the show went on.

But the indecent haste with which King discarded the Seldon fight as yesterday's news only added to the suspicions of those who saw the defending champion's collapse, after 1min 49sec of the first round, as the beginning of the evening's amateur dramatics. Twice during the short time it took Tyson to reclaim a second portion of the heavyweight title, his King stablemate appeared to throw himself to the canvas with all the aplomb of Jurgen Klinsmann sniffing a penalty. Boos filled the arena when the fight ended, with sections of the crowd of 9,494, the smallest gate of the three Tyson comeback fights to have taken place at the MGM, taking up a chant of "fix".

As controversy goes in the career of Tyson, it was a minor event. Contrary to a common belief fostered by Hollywood, setting up fall guys is almost unheard of in modern boxing. And should we not be accustomed to hardened professionals going weak at the knees at the first sight of Iron Mike coming at them from the opposite corner? Seldon, like 20 other first- round victims of the former undisputed heavyweight champion, was beaten by Tyson's reputation before a punch was thrown.

Having steadfastly avoided eye contact with the WBC champion, whose belt was not on the line, during referee Richard Steele's pre-fight instructions, Seldon attempted to minimise physical encounter once action commenced. As Tyson, 10lb the lighter man at 15st 9lb, cut off Seldon's routes of escape, the WBA champion took on the look of an animal in a trap. On realising that there was no way out, Seldon capitulated. The first right-hander that put him down seemed barely to connect. Seldon took a left-hook to the jaw before going down a second time, but seemed to exaggerate the blow's effects. However, Steele, refereeing his 137th world title fight, had seen enough to realise that things were unlikely to get better and waved the fight off to cries of derision from the crowd.

"I came to fight, I came to win," Seldon protested. "I didn't realise how hard the guy could hit or how fast he was. He's a destroyer and I'm a witness to that.

"I definitely did not take a dive. That belt meant a lot to me. I didn't train for 12 weeks to take a dive. I feel very hurt. I feel very bad. I let a lot of people down. I tried my best and I hope that's all people were asking of me."

What is expected of Seldon, who received $5m (pounds 3.3m) for his pains, and any other Tyson opponent, may well be impossible to deliver at the moment. Tyson, in his fourth fight since being released from prison in Indiana last year, is starting to look as invincible as he did in his heyday, before the stunning loss to Buster Douglas in February 1990. The timing that was missing during his earliest comeback fights now seems to have returned. His physical condition, ravaged by three years of imprisonment for rape, improves by the fight, and his punching power is as awesome as it ever was.

"I'm punching pretty hard these days, I hit harder than when I was younger," said the 30-year-old who received $15m for his 39th victory by knock-out in 46 fights.

Certainly Holyfield, for all his proven bravery, can be expected to fare little better than Seldon, especially as Tyson has long harboured a grudge against the faded, former two-time heavyweight champion, who once decided it was a good idea to refer to Tyson as "a girl" on American national television.

"I look forward to it - Holyfield's in for a lot of trouble," said Tyson, his brooding animosity there for all to see. "I'm gonna have a good time in that fight."

After Holyfield will come the winner of the IBF title fight between champion Michael Moorer and Francois Botha, which will take place on the November undercard, giving Tyson the opportunity to unify the heavyweight title for a history-making second time. Then, around the middle of 1997, Lennox Lewis, the No 1 contender for the WBC title that Tyson tore from Frank Bruno in March, might finally get his chance. But on Tyson's performance against Seldon, Lewis's best chance of regaining a world championship would appear to be for Tyson to be forced to vacate the WBC title and for Lewis to fight someone - anyone - else for it. Tyson, once more, appears to be in a league of his own.