Tyson down for the count

Originally Published: July 30, 2004
By Tim Graham | Special to ESPN.com

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- If it isn't over, then indeed it should be.

There's no reason to go on like this. No one in his right mind would want to.

Mike Tyson, of course, has never been accused of being fully sane. Calliope music plays in his head, and he might not be able to convince himself it's time to jump off the merry-go-round that has been his boxing career.

Danny Williams, a fighter only the sickest of boxing savants ever would have known about in the U.S. before the match was made, ended Tyson's career Friday night in Louisville, Ky.

A crowd of 17,000 rubberneckers showed up at Freedom Hall to witness a foregone conclusion. What they saw was a too-far-gone illusion.

Mike Tyson
Four of Mike Tyson's past 11 fights have ended with him on the losing side.

Williams survived a first-round onslaught to deposit Pugilistic Enemy No. 1 into the ropes late in the fourth round. Williams landed 19 unanswered punches, most to the head. Tyson finally slumped after Williams' right fist landed on the temple, and referee Dennis Alfred counted Tyson out with nine seconds left until the bell.

The 38-year-old former undisputed champion of the world looked nothing like Kid Dynamite, nothing like the Baddest Man on the Planet, nothing like the most intimidating SOB ever to inflict pain for money.

The talent, the fire and the persona are too far gone. At a time when boxing desperately needs someone to captivate us again, Tyson just doesn't have it anymore. He will never discover it again, and the sport is worse off for it.

Even his trainer realized it, although he wasn't ready to come out and say it.

Freddie Roach was near tears while speaking to reporters after the fight. He was asked, based on what he saw tonight, if Tyson could ever contend for the heavyweight title.

"No," Roach replied, the tone of resignation speaking volumes more than he wanted.

Then why continue? Roach couldn't bring himself to reveal his true feelings, but his answer revealed his opinion.

"It could be over," Roach said, his eyes beginning to redden and his lower lip quivering. "Part of me wants to say it is over.

"Out of fairness to Mike, I think it would be premature for me to make a comment right now. But I care for Mike a lot, and it was hard watching him take those shots. He showed a lot of heart, but he took a lot of shots."

Tyson has gone 5-4 with two no-contests since November 1996, a stretch that started with his first of two losses to Evander Holyfield. Tyson was unavailable to comment after his latest knockout loss because he was taken to a hospital.

Williams, of all people, sent Tyson to the ER. How on earth does that happen?

Roach, the Boxing Writers Association of America's 2003 trainer of the year, insisted that Tyson trained sufficiently for the fight, that Tyson finally gave up smoking marijuana, that Tyson didn't take Williams for granted.

"Mike never looked past Danny Williams," Roach said. "He trained hard for the fight. We had the right gameplan. It just didn't work it."

Tyson, ending a 17-month layoff, couldn't take care of an opponent who earlier this year was beaten by someone named Michael Sprott.

Not only couldn't Tyson finish off a pedestrian opponent who had been dropped repeatedly by middling opposition, but also the artist formerly known as Iron Mike got bludgeoned as though he were the trial horse.

Tyson, however, will have a hard time walking away. He desperately needs money. Boxing's biggest ATM machine filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year after he frittered away some $400 million in career earnings. By some reports he owes creditors more than $40 million.

"Everybody needs to make money," Roach said. "Still, what Mike knows best is fighting. ... But money won't be an issue whatsoever in our decision. What good is all the money in the world if you can't count it."

Roach suggested that if Tyson did choose to continue his career, the trainer might quit the corner as a sign of protest.

Tyson after the bout would have been as valuable to an aspiring medical student as a cadaver.

He twisted his left knee near the end of the first round, and his handlers believed he could have a torn ligament. He received stitches around his right eye. The head trauma he received -- at the hands of a fighter long ago written off even by the fawning British boxing press -- forced him to the hospital for a precautionary brain scan.

The fight went as most everyone expected in the first round. Tyson clearly wanted to end it quickly. He had quick hands, a crisp jab, pounded away at Williams' torso and showed slick head movement.

Tyson staggered Williams about halfway into the opening round. A left hook to the chin trailed by a left uppercut forced Williams to hang on for dear life. Williams survived without hitting the canvas and quickly regrouped to win the second round. Williams was content to back himself into a corner and trade punches with Tyson.

"He gave me a good shot, but the key is giving one back to him," Williams said. "I went toe-to-toe with him. He hurt me for a few seconds in the first round, but I came back and fought."

Said Roach: "He got Mike tired and Mike wasn't able to execute. He just stood in front of the guy and took too many shots."

Williams triumphed over two opponents Friday night. Not only did he starch the bejeezus out of Tyson, but the underestimated Brit also overcame an incompetent referee, who seemed hell-bent on making sure Tyson would win.

Alfred twice deducted a point from Williams without giving him a warning in the third round, once for hitting on the break and once for an alleged low blow that appeared to land on Tyson's right hip.

"The referee was a proper joker," Williams said.

Alfred also proved gracious after Tyson slumped into the ropes late in the fourth round. The hometown referee was so preoccupied with making sure Williams had retreated to a neutral corner that he generously gave Tyson at least three extra seconds to get up.

Tyson didn't have enough time to regroup from the knockdown.

There's not enough time in the world for him to recover his career.

Tim Graham covers boxing for The Buffalo News and is a contributor to ESPN.com.

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