Tyson: 'I'm trying to be a decent man'
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- There's no entourage anymore, no angry tirades and no bizarre new tattoos. Mike Tyson is coming back once again, but this time he's aging, broke, and seemingly determined to show his gentler side.
On the verge of his fight with Danny Williams, Tyson can't even bring himself to say anything bad about his opponent.
"I'm trying to be a decent man," Tyson said Wednesday.
Some might say it's way too late for that after years of watching Tyson self destruct. In a larger-than-life career, he's become notorious by biting ears, serving a prison term for rape and threatening to eat Lennox Lewis' children.
Tyson returns to the ring Friday night for the first time in 17 months more a freak show than serious heavyweight contender. But, perhaps knowing his time is running out at the age of 38, he seems determined not to blow this chance.
"My future seems so much brighter than my past," Tyson said. "I'm a different person than I was 17 months ago."
So far, at least, Tyson has been just that. Even Kentucky's governor and Louisville's mayor, who didn't want him here, can't complain about his behavior leading up to the first big heavyweight fight here in 37 years.
Before arriving in Muhammad Ali's hometown this week, Tyson trained three months in Phoenix for his latest comeback. He believes he still can fight, and hopes people still care.
Many still do, as evidenced by the crowd of 5,000 or so who showed up to watch Tyson work out Tuesday at a downtown entertainment complex. Some also are buying tickets for the fight, though it's highly unlikely Freedom Hall will be anywhere near sold out despite the addition of Laila Ali to the card.
The fight will be televised on Showtime pay-per-view, and if enough people buy it, Tyson will be able to pay off some of the $38 million he owes to various creditors.
They won't be paying to see a heavyweight contender, though it's likely Tyson could be one in a few fights. They're paying to see the circus and potential train wreck that now surrounds every Tyson fight.
"It's the theater of it, the drama," Showtime executive Jay Larkin said. "He's a very compelling, dramatic individual."
Tyson didn't seem all that compelling at Wednesday's prefight news conference, unless you were the fan who walked around without his shirt on so everyone could see Tyson's face tattooed on his back.
Instead, he was reflective, without trying to make sense of what became of a career during which he once reigned as the baddest man on the planet.
"I let the past die. I can't dwell on the past," Tyson said. "If you dwell in the past you're going to be miserable."
The fight is only the second for Tyson since he was stopped by Lewis in the eighth round in June 2002 for the heavyweight title. But it's in big contrast to his February 2003 fight with Clifford Etienne that was bizarre even by Tyson standards.
Tyson partied his way through training for that fight, then took the week off before the fight to get his face tattooed. He threatened not to fight, but when he did he stopped Etienne in only 48 seconds.
"I don't even know how I made it to the fight," he said.
Williams is hardly a step up from Etienne, in fact he's probably a step down. The British fighter has never fought in America and admitted Wednesday that sometimes he gets so uptight before a fight that he breaks down crying in his dressing room.
Even the British bookies don't think much of the 31-year-old journeyman, perhaps noting that he was knocked out in the fourth round by Julius Francis, the same fighter who went less than two rounds with Tyson. They make Williams a 9-1 underdog.
Still, Williams knows an opportunity when he sees it, and there's no one better to make a name off of than Tyson.
"I've been brought over here as a knockover fighter for Mike Tyson," Williams said. "But they've made a mistake."
Tyson doesn't seem all that concerned. He's been spending time caring for eight pigeons in his hotel room that an admirer gave to him, and seems to be determined not to get too excited about the fight itself.
Assuming he wins, Tyson will be on an ambitious schedule that could mean fights in September and December. It's all part of a plan to make him a serious heavyweight contender again, while at the same time replenishing his bank account and paying off some of his creditors.
"I don't know about any of that, I'm just looking forward to fighting Friday," Tyson said, adding:
"Isn't it cool to be fighting Friday?"
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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