Pay Per View TV sunk to new depths when it broadcast Mike Tyson’s four-round exhibition match against Corey “T-Rex” Sanders, live from the Chevrolet Centre in Youngstown, Ohio. Not a misprint: Youngstown! Which is a long, long way from the Vegas Strip. What other modern athlete has experienced such highs and lows in a single career? And the tragic Tyson knows just how low he is now; the embarrassed, sheepish expression he wore before, during, and after “the fight” said it all—his skipping out on the post-fight press conference spoke volumes, too.
Say what you will about Tyson, but the man knows his boxing history. He used to predict his fate would mirror that of Sonny Liston—an unsolved murder, or perhaps suicide, ending a tumultuous, tortured life. Tyson felt a kinship with him, an understanding of sorts, and has been known to pay his respects at Sonny’s unadorned Las Vegas gravestone. But now Tyson understands well that he’s gone the route of another heavyweight legend, Joe Louis. The “Brown Bomber” had spectacular highs and lows to rival Tyson’s. And when his money was gone, he too was forced to go this undignified route, doing exhibition bouts in unglamorous settings like Youngstown. Pretty soon Tyson might be shaking hands for cash at one of the casinos, just as Joe did.
Tyson says that he likes himself now, much more than when he was made of iron, and is trying to face up to his responsibilities—i.e. debt that isn’t much better than the one George W. Bush has created for us. Well, I need to take responsibility for why I was one of the suckers who laid out $30 to watch this dreck. My excuse: Boxing News has promised to pay me back. And, also, I take a perverse pleasure in telling my wife that we can’t TiVo Dancing with the Stars because I have a fight that I need to cover instead.
Tyson’s “opponent” was a faded sparring partner who is half-blind in one eye and whose last win came six fights ago in 2002. At the time of this writing, PPV buys haven’t been tabulated, but only 4,000 spectators showed up to watch the man who was once one of the biggest draws on the planet. It might’ve been 15 years since Tyson was Tyson in the ring, but it’s only been four since he participated in the biggest grossing fight ($100 million) in the history of the sport, when he fought Lennox Lewis at the Pyramid in Memphis, TN.
So how bad a fight was it? Let’s put it this way. If I walked into my gym and, to my great surprise, saw these two doing that in the ring, I might watch for a round or two…only because it’s Mike Tyson and all. But then I’d go back to lacing up my shoes and not look up again. Tyson and Sterling McPherson, the promoter of the 12-city, worldwide tour, have repeatedly said that he is done fighting. OK, so why not go on the lecture circuit to make some money? Or write a tell-all? And what is he doing standing in a 20-by-20 ring wearing gloves?
Although he’s done fighting, Tyson tagged Sanders early in the first with something—a right hand, I think—that sent the sorry-looking, 6’6’’ 300-pounder to the canvas. Just as Mike has fallen proverbial sense, so too has Sanders. The first time I saw him was on ESPN2 in 1998 in a bloodbath-slugfest against a still-formidable Andrew Golota; he showed great heart in a losing effort. Then, in 2002, he scored an eighth-round TKO over the current WBC champ, Oleg Maskaev.
In the ensuing rounds, Tyson would occasionally catch Sanders with more shots, and the huge man’s legs would buckle. Tyson would literally hold him up. Fans booed. I nodded off.
Larry Merchant and Jim Lampley weren’t there to fill the dead spots with engaging chatter. This PPV featured Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and Bob “The Colonel” Sheriden. We like Sheriden and wish he wasn’t relegated to C/D-level stuff like this—but even he couldn’t carry Mancini past the first few minutes. Mancini was born and bred in Youngstown and seems like a nice guy, but listening to his commentary is a form of torture even Donald Rumsfeld wouldn’t wish upon Ayman Al-Zawahiri.
It’s not clear which city The Tyson Show will hit next. Supposedly, he will be duking it out with celebrities, such as the hip-thrusting senior citizen crooner Tom Jones. I learned my lesson. This was the last leg of the tour, as far as I’m concerned.
Lou “Honey Boy” Del Valle, once a solid light heavy whose claim to fame was downing a prime Roy Jones. Now he’s a cruiser who has been absent from the ring for 18 months. He still had enough to win a UD over Zack Page.
Jnr. welter Ray Narh scored a TKO 6 over Justo Sanchez.
Super middle Stephan Pryor, son of the great 140-pounder Aaron Pryor, won a six-round SD over Tyrone Watson.
Middleweight Chris Archer scored a TKO 6 over Vance Garvey.
Middleweight Juan McPherson won a UD 4 over Damon Antoine.
Heavyweight Roy Anthony Bechtord eearned a TKO 2 over Octavius Smith.
Jr. middleweight Frank Gill won a TKO 3 over Ken-Yon Kellum.