By Skip Bayless
Page 2

He'll be back.

He'll "fight" again, even if it's against a chimpanzee on roller skates.

Mike Tyson
You're never going to be bored when Iron Mike is around.

Mike Tyson will come up with some almost believable sob story about how he was on the wrong depression medication when he quit against Kevin McBride – and the boxing media will begin making a case for the chimp. On those skates, he'll be hard for Tyson to corner, and remember, Tyson won't be the only animal in the ring that can bite. Chimps can be vicious, you know.

Tyson will say of Champ the chimp: "That monkey will hear evil and see evil because I'm going to do evil to him."

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You'll buy it on pay per view, and so will I.

At least I can hide behind an excuse: It's my job.

No, Tyson won't stay retired for long. Like Ricky "Football Isn't Me" Williams, Tyson will realize that finding his out-of-the-spotlight bliss isn't too lucrative. In Tyson's case, when you're something like $20 million in debt, it's sort of hard to find a job that pays $5 million a night.

The desire he expressed late Saturday night to do missionary work in Africa sounded good at the moment. But how will it feel when his pride heals from the beating it took from a guy who's capable of losing to a chimp on skates?

Then again, for all we know, the entire night might have been as choreographed as pro wrestling.

Yet, even if it was, Saturday night's fight will go down as one of Tyson's all-time most entertaining performances. Even though Tyson immediately said he wished there was some way for customers to get their money back, I didn't feel at all ripped off. My $44.95 was good to the last drop of McBride's blood.

OTL: THE TYSON PHENOMENON
Why is the public so fascinated with a boxer who hasn't won a significant fight since 1990? Where does Mike Tyson fit among the all-time greats? Tune in to "Outside The Lines" tonight at 12:40 a.m. ET on ESPN.
Here, once again, was the raw performing genius of Michael Gerard Tyson: I watched the fight with friends who in 10 minutes went from yelling that he should be banned from boxing to feeling sorry for him.

One moment, Tyson was trying to break McBride's arm in a clinch, then blatantly head-butting McBride with a sideways shot that opened a gash over the poor pug's eye. Gutless punk! The next, Tyson refused to answer the bell for the seventh round, then openheartedly apologized in his lisping falsetto to interviewer Jim Gray for no longer having the "fighting guts" to continue. Poor guy.

Irony Mike.

The interview alone was worth $44.95. Tyson was so stunningly and disarmingly honest about the joke he has become as a fighter – "I'm just doing this for the money" – that you couldn't help feeling sorry for the same guy who was admitting he had just conned millions of us out of millions. Innately brilliant!

I was on the edge of my seat. Once again, Tyson proved he's capable of doing and saying things that no other boxer – or athlete – can even imagine. That's entertainment.

At one point in his postfight interview, Tyson admitted as much, saying, "Hey, I'm just an entertainer." Not a boxer. Not even an athlete. Just a guy who's still highly capable of taking us away from our problems for a couple of thrilling hours.

Like an aging singer in concert, Tyson gave his fans what they paid for – golden oldies. From rounds 2 through 6, he resorted to the tactic that made him the world's most feared and recognizable athlete from 1985 to 1990. He used to work himself into a pit-bull rage and try to maul his opponent at the opening bell. His goal was to either beat or scare the other man to death, and the result was often an early knockout.

Mike Tyson
Mike just didn't have anything left on Saturday night.

He was all intimidating offense and very little skilled defense. That's why I can't rank him as an all-time great heavyweight – that, and the fact that he didn't beat a single great heavyweight in that man's prime.

But no, Tyson worshippers, I certainly can't blame Tyson for his lack of competition. He didn't duck anybody – nor did he need to duck much during his first five years of fighting.

But as he readily admitted after Saturday night's fight, his career basically ended with his shocking loss to Buster Douglas. From then on, Tyson slowly turned into more of a boxing spectacle than a boxer.

The prefight and postfight interviews are often at least as captivating as the "boxing." The only night I truly admired Tyson in the ring was against Lennox Lewis, an NBA-sized fighter whose skills are vastly superior to Tyson's. Lewis put on a clinic that sent Tyson to a clinic. Tyson had no chance, but Tyson stood up to an unholy beating before going down in the eighth round.

After that fight, a humbled Tyson said that was enough – it was time to retire and spend time with his kids.

That was four "fights" ago.

Yet on an entertainment scale of 10, I gave the Lewis "fight" a seven and the McBride "fight" a nine.

When Tyson tried to maul Ireland's "finest," it was immediately clear that Tyson's sweeping punches had all the impact of a pillow in a pillow fight. When McBride realized this former lion is now indeed a paper tiger, he began to lean on Tyson and mix it up in close with the much smaller man.

McBride is listed at 6-foot-6, Tyson at 5-11. I'd barely give Tyson 5-10.

So in a sixth-round clinch, Tyson got desperate and went "street" on McBride. After all, as Tyson readily admits, this is what many customers pay to see. When Tyson began trying to twist and snap McBride's arm, it appeared for a moment that Tyson's mouth was approaching McBride's ear.

"He's biting the guy!" I heard from my crowd, who hoped deep down they were witnessing a replay of Tyson going cannibal on Evander Holyfield's ear.

No such luck.

Yet the subsequent savage head butt was almost as shock-value satisfying. Now McBride was in trouble. Or so you thought.

Talk about shock value. Hitchcock had nothing on Tyson.

When you least expected it, Tyson gave way under McBride's 271-pound tonnage and wound up sitting on his butt with his head supported by the bottom rope. No single blow appeared to drop him. He didn't appear hurt, just physically or psychologically weary.

Yet Tyson, 38, looked to be – for an historically lazy Tyson – in great shape. "I can get myself in shape," he said later. "I just can't do the boxing … I felt like I was 120 years old."

Then again, I wondered if Tyson had taken a badly acted dive. An ex-con from New York's meanest streets with a reported $20 million debt …

But for the moment Tyson was saved – or thwarted – by the bell.

He struggled to his feet and made it back to his stool. Trainer Jeff Fenech got in his face and the two had a brief conversation. Later, Tyson and his handlers said it was Fenech's decision to throw in the towel – perhaps so they can blame this "no mas" on the trainer before Tyson's next fight.

Mike Tyson
Who would have put their money on the pride of Ireland?

But one man made the decision to quit – Tyson, who had the amused look of a guy stunned by what he was doing.

The punch line: Not only did McBride have a nasty cut that Tyson could have exploited, but even with his two-point deduction for the head butt, Mike Tyson was still ahead on two of the three judges' scorecards.

It all made for amazing theater.

I have zero respect for Tyson the boxer. But I still have grudging awe for Tyson the entertainer. No attraction in the heavyweight division can begin to compete with him.

I'd pay $44.95 to watch him box the chimp on skates. Admit it: You would, too.

Skip Bayless can be seen Monday through Friday on "Cold Pizza," ESPN2's morning show, and at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN's "1st & 10." His column appears twice weekly on Page 2. You can e-mail Skip here.



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IRONY MIKE