‘Inspired’ Mike

Jul 27, 2004 4:44 AM

I’ll be heading for Louisville for the first time since the late great horse trainer Charles Whittingham took one look at my disheveled self and pronounced me a Russian.

Believe me, I’m not rushin’ (ouch) this time to see Mike Tyson against Danny Williams, which is a heck of a prelim to another pay-per-view card the next day back in Las Vegas. Thanks to the magic of airplanes, I should be there.

Anything not to have to buy these pay-per-view shows? Nah, it’s my job, it’s what I do. I certainly couldn’t make a living just handicapping. What is it that Whittingham used to say — something about if we could pick winners we wouldn’t have to mess with this other stuff.

These are a couple of keep-your-money in your pockets kind of deals. Tyson, last I heard, was something like minus $7 and the fragile Brit plus $5. Maybe you can make a case for the dog. Mike is 38 and has fought only 49 seconds in the last two years. Williams does have innate ability, though his lack of confidence usually manages to keep it well hidden.

I heartily advise "no bet" on the July 30 main event. Tyson is a curiosity, of course, and the reports I’m getting from my scouts are quite flattering. He’s jabbing, moving his head and throwing combinations late into sparring sessions, not only in the first round or so.

Maybe it is worth a good look-see to evaluate him his next endeavor. This figures to be a fair-sized step upwards against (rumor has it) someone like Vassiliy Jirov, the former cruiserweight champion who may have ended Joe Mesi’s career. Perhaps Tyson could face Antonio Tarver, who might have done the same to the Roy Jones Jr. story.

It is hoped that the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Williams can take Tyson a few rounds to get a better view of the former, and incredibly, still possibly future heavyweight champion. That is how much I believe in Vitali Klitschko or Lamon Brewster.

Easing off Erik

I have lost some faith in Erik Morales since his struggle with the one-armed Jesus Chavez earlier this year. El Terrible was just plain not so good last February. Maybe he took Chavez lightly or didn’t realize after moving up from 122 and 126 that his punches would not have the same effect on 130-pounders. Maybe, just maybe, all those wars had reduced him.

Whatever, Chavez landed a big overhand right in the opening round and wobbled the hero of Tijuana. Morales regained his composure and dropped Chavez twice in the second, but the Texan emigre did not go gently. He fought back, although it was with one arm. But with left hooks and jabs, Chavez somehow made it a fight. There was no question which fighter deserved the decision, but Morales’s performance was still puzzling.

Carlos Hernandez is in Chavez mold, a 130-pound title-holder who could not beat the old king, Floyd Mayweather Jr., and seems limited. The first El Salvadoran to win a world championship (okay, he never set foot in the Central American country until winning the vacant IBF title against David Santos) is a tough little hombre. Hernandez believes by backing up Morales (his only real strategy against the taller, more elegant fighter), he can pull a major upset. The prices are about +400 to minus —300 the last I looked.

My gut feeling is that this too is a chalky fight, not quite worth the risk like Tyson the night before. What is worth the price is the pay-per-view show. Besides Morales, who is almost impossible to imagine in a dull contest, two of my favorite little guys are on the televised card.

Rafael back in ring

Rafael Marquez, the younger brother of brave featherweight Juan Manuel Marquez, defends his bantamweight crown against a competent fellow Mexican, Heriberto Ruiz, who has upset 2000 Olympian Clarence Vinson and knocked off rugged Ricardo Vargas. Marquez, a far bigger puncher, is coming off more spectacular victories. He knocked out two guys I had in my top 10 pound-for-pound list — Marc (Too Sharp) Johnson and Tim Austin.

Where Marquez is a big puncher for a little guy, the even smaller Ivan Calderon of Puerto Rico could not harm a flyweight. First, he isn’t that big. He’s a straw weight, or 105 pounds. But I love these type of boxers, who go in there knowing they can’t hurt the other guy and still manage to put on an exhibition.

Calderon is one of the best pure boxers out there and, believe me, he’s not dull. He’s in with a former title-holder, Roberto Leyva, who can bang. It’s a good show at the MGM Grand, a hell of a lot better on paper than the one the night before in Louisville. But it doesn’t have a Mike Tyson.

With Mike behaving himself, maybe the MGM, and Nevada, will welcome him back home soon.