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I went to Mike Tyson’s last fight, the one before his exhibition draw Saturday night against Roy Jones Jr. I’m thinking about what I would have thought that night, 15 years ago, about Tyson getting to where he is today.
McBride was a complete nobody and the fight was in Washington, DC. Tyson’s career was definitely winding down, and all-but played out. He was no longer a feared boxer so much as the guy who bit part of Evander Holyfield’s ear off.
What I remember best about that Tyson-McBride fight was Tyson just sitting down in the ring right in front of me, giving up. Tyson wanted a quick knockout to make a splash, but McBride, who was enormous, just kept absorbing punches and leaning on Tyson. Tyson got so frustrated that he tried to grab and break McBride’s arm at one point.
I just now watched the replay of that fight on YouTube, and when Tyson sat down, the announcers said at the time that they didn’t think he could get up. It was as if they thought he had been knocked down. He had not. It wasn’t a knock down. It was a sit down. The ropes were right behind him and he didn’t have anywhere to go and didn’t want any more. It was his “No mas’’ moment.
The question wasn’t whether he could get up, but whether he wanted to. He finally did stand up and then didn’t answer the bell for the next round.
Afterward, he sat his press conference next to McBride and said he was going to have to do something else, that he was showing disrespect to the sport by losing to guys like McBride.
I went on ESPN a day or two later and with USA Today’s boxing writer, Jon Saraceno. Saraceno, if I remember right, was saying that Tyson wouldn’t fight again and I was saying that he would, that he would be like a carnival act, fighting at state fairs and things. He didn’t have anything else to sell or any way to make money. He didn’t have anything he could do.
I’m not sure either one of us had it right, actually. What Tyson did was rebuild his image with his appearances in The Hangover movies. It’s amazing what they did for Tyson’s image and brought him back. He was funny. He made fun of himself. He can’t sing at all, but even trying to do it was funny because who was going to tell him how awful he was?
I didn’t follow McBride’s career after that, though I see now that he won two fights and lost six after Tyson, including a loss to a cruiserweight with a losing record.
I’m having a hard time buying into a new Tyson. He still was a guy convicted of rape and really just goes down as a sad story in American sports history.
“In a perfect world, I’m a missionary,’’ he said in media settings surrounding his fight Saturday night. He said he was fighting now for charity. “In a perfect world . . . Before it was all about me and the hot chick, and the nice car and the planes and the boats. It doesn’t do it for me anymore.’’
Whatever. It’s hard to forget him just sitting there in the ring, as if the whole thing, his whole ride, was over. But now, after selling pay-per-view for $50, Tyson will surely keep up his missionary work — sarcasm — and offer Holyfield a fight. I hope Holyfield will turn that down.
Maybe Tyson-McBride II?