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Friday, January 25, 2002
Brooks always held out hope for Iron Mike

By Adrian Wojnarowski
Special to ESPN.com

Beyond the promise of a series of solid paydays for training Mike Tyson, Tommy Brooks always had a fleeting belief that if he just could reach Tyson, just get him to listen, get him to work, Tyson could still be the best heavyweight fighter in the world.

Mike Tyson
According to Mike Tyson's recently fired trainer, Iron Mike just doesn't want to work hard anymore.
After all the years, all the disgrace, Brooks was certain Tyson could still do it. Beyond the wild nights, the disgusting, criminal acts, Tommy Brooks believed he could turn the raw rage and punching power into that long-gone 20-year-old machine.

"He's got more talent in his little finger than most all the rest of them," Brooks said. "Even now."

This is the tease of Tyson. This is what keeps everyone coming back again and again.

"(Tyson's) been cutting corners for so long, I'm not sure he knows another way now," Brooks said. "I'm regretful that a guy with so much talent and ability just went down the tubes. That's why I left Evander Holyfield. But if I had any indication that my watch with him would be like this, I would've stayed with Evander."

Looking back, Brooks should've had every indication: There are no happy endings with this man. In the end, there's just disappointment, disillusionment and disgust. On the eve of Tyson playing his part as America's carnival act at a New York news conference Tuesday, there came a call to Brooks' New Jersey office. Tyson fired him. Actually, Tyson's people fired him.

Brooks wasn't surprised. Tyson and the trainer hadn't talked for several months. The fighter is struggling to meet his payroll. After handling Tyson for the six fights since the end of his year-long suspension for flipping out on Holyfield, guess who was going? Do you think it was going to be Tyson's Yes-men enablers, or the trainer unafraid to tell the fighter the painful truth?

"I'm disappointed that I didn't see the guy back to the title," Brooks said. "But I'm relieved that I don't have to deal with the idiots around him anymore. You've got guys backstabbing you, undermining what you're trying to accomplish in the gym. A majority of them didn't see the big picture. They were just living paycheck to paycheck from him."

Which is what most of boxing does with Tyson, feed off him payday to payday. Everybody gets rich on his bad act. With Brooks, Tyson had little chance to beat Lewis. Without him, he has none. Even so, there's a good chance that Tyson never makes it to Vegas on April 6. It's ridiculous to think the melee in Manhattan could be the foundation for the Nevada Boxing Commission refusing to license Tyson.

What, now Tyson's nuts? All of a sudden that proves it? Come on. If they were going to let him fight before Tuesday, they should let him fight now.

"He's crazy like a fox," Brooks said. What people ought to be outraged about with Tyson isn't the staged lunacy of a news conference, but the revelation that charges could be brought against him for an alleged rape in Nevada. Again. This should inspire the rage of the moralists. The press conference? That's what people want out of Tyson, what they come to see, what they expect.

For that alleged victim visiting Tyson's Las Vegas home months ago there are no tidy clips for the nightly news, no x-rated sound bites for the boom mikes. She's an alleged part of Tyson's act, part of his twisted persona, and that didn't seem so important to his Vegas licensing hearing until his WWF moment in New York.

"Every time he's done something, he's come back," Brooks said. "He's like a bus wreck waiting to happen, but he always skirts (trouble). I told him many times, 'We live in a society. They've got rules and ethics, and if you don't conform, they've got a place for you.' They'll only put up with it so long. I hope to God that Mike doesn't get put in that place, because this time, he won't last there."

Perhaps Tyson belongs back in prison. Once more, the criminal justice system will decide. Even without the looming charges, there's this question on the sheer merits of his fight record: Does he deserve a title shot, never mind this ridiculous two-fight series? More than that, does Tyson truly want the fight?

"At times he does and at times, he doesn't," Brooks said. "If he could go fight Lewis and not train, he'd do it. He'd just show up and take his best shot on sheer ability. Mike only trained for two weeks, and he made it 11 rounds with Holyfield."

This is the lure of Tyson. This is the tease. People still think there's one more great fight in him, one final flash of a long ago glory. But there isn't. He's done. Trouble is, it's hard to stop watching him.

Tommy Brooks understands. It's hard resisting the possibilities, harder to truly believe they're gone now. All gone.

Adrian Wojnarowski is a sports columnist for The Record (Northern N.J.) and a regular contributor to ESPN.com.