The black T-shirt, with the picture of Joe Louis, was so sopping wet it began to look like a rubber shirt. It was a cool day for Phoenix, maybe it reached 99 degrees, but Mike Tyson was bent over in the ring at the Central Boxing Club, receiving another between- rounds shower from his latest trainer, Jeff Fenech.
"I’ve been training so hard," said Tyson, "I didn’t realize the fight was so close."
Tyson, like the fight, seems to sneak up on people these days. "Fight" might not be the operative word, but as Tyson got ready to leave for Washington, D.C. and his June 11 date with the extraordinarily mediocre Kevin McBride, it does not seem to matter whether this is a two-sided debate set for pay-per-view.
Here is Tyson, a year removed from his embarrassing knockout by Danny Williams, facing a guy knocked out by another guy who was knocked out by Butterbean in the first round. And there is already talk of title challenges. He turns 39 on June 30, but Bob Arum has had his chief expert, matchmaker Bruce Trampler, in Phoenix carefully observing Tyson. Unless Don King or someone beats him to it, Arum seems ready to grab his most promising heavyweight since the assorted comebacks of George Foreman, Larry Holmes and Buster Douglas.
Tyson has not been Iron Mike since, well, maybe 1988, when he dispatched the frightened Michael Spinks in 91 seconds to leave no doubt that he was "the baddest man on the planet." Yes, he won a couple of titles after his prison term, but beating a Frank Bruno who crossed himself 113 times from the dressing room to the ring and a Bruce Seldon who went down from a punch that was barely in the same zip code, hardly qualifies Tyson for immortality.
What does, however, is the fact that he can earn $6 million to fight a Kevin McBride and, following the expected victory, demand more than any heavyweight in the world, including all 789 with so-called titles. Tyson, of course, is not a boxer or a fighter, but a celebrity. And the strange thing is that when a guy like Fenech, who was a three-division world champion from Australia, says "give us another two weeks and he can beat John Ruiz or James Toney," the tendency is to take it seriously.
The "memory" of Mike Tyson obliterates the heavyweight division.
Betting on a Tyson-McBride match, of course, would be like wagering on the outcome of "The Cinderella Man" or "Citizen Kane." We know the ending, but luckily for us players, there’s "another" card on June 11 with a couple of interesting bouts.
Cotto meets past
HBO subscribers don’t have to pay extra for what should be a terrific card. In the main event, Miguel Cotto — even more the Puerto Rican counted on to replace Felix Trinidad Jr. as the island’s next ring superstar — faces the last man to beat him, Muhammad Abdullaev.
That was back in the 2000 Olympics, where Abdullaev went on to win the gold medal. As a pro, he had trouble picking up the count in English and has suffered a knockout loss in a fight that he should have won if he ever learns what comes after eight and nine. He is a wily veteran of the amateur game and says he has already shown the world how to beat the talented Cotto.
Cotto’s rep took a hit when the WBO junior welterweight champion was turned to jelly by a Chop Chop Corley punch to the chops in his last fight. However, he quickly recovered, scored the expected knockout, and should get past Abdullaev and move on to the really big fights at 140 and 147 pounds.
Cotto is the main reason Arum won’t be present ringside for Tyson. But the promoter has another big interest on the HBO card from Madison Square Garden. He has Almazbek Raiymkulov — whom Arum has thankfully dubbed the easier-to-spell Kid Diamond — in his first major test.
Diamond, who will enter the ring to "Diamonds Are Forever," could find out they can’t scratch the surface of 1992 Olympic champion and former world junior lightweight king Joel Casamayor. The Cuban, remember, gave fits to both contestants, Diego (Chico) Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo, in the greatest fight of all time. He is not someone to be toyed with.
It is an act of supreme faith, or stupidity, for Arum to put his hard-punching star in with Casamayor. I would never bet against Casamayor. Remember, he has stood up to the punching power of not only Corrales and Castillo, but also Acelino Freitas. And he just doesn’t get outboxed, but the southpaw has a sneaky left hand.
If I were Bob Arum, and we both are thankful I’m not, I would convince Kid Diamond to contract at least a 72-hour virus or something.