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MIKE DOWNEY

Tyson Back With Show of Farce : If It Had Been a Fight . . .

August 20, 1995|MIKE DOWNEY

LAS VEGAS — "OK, shake hands, and at the bell, come out fighting."

CLANG.

"And McNeeley is down!"

Well, nice little fight while it lasted.

Mike Tyson has taken worse punishment from prison food. The man who hadn't fought for four years . . . uh, still hasn't.

In a bout so stupefyingly bad that pay-per-view subscribers should have been paid to see it, Massachusetts mashed potato Peter McNeeley answered the bell around 8:56 p.m. Saturday night and thanked everybody for coming at around, oh, 8:58.

"No, this was not a rip-off," promoter Don King said, speaking for promoters everywhere.

Nonstop seconds of excitement marked Tyson's comeback fight. McNeeley posed a serious threat to Tyson all the way to the other side of the ring . . . until he got there, where Tyson knocked him down with, if I'm not mistaken, a hard left glare.

It should be reported here that, for a heavyweight, McNeeley did bounce really well.

"No one can say that Peter McNeeley didn't come to fight!" King exclaimed, confirming for the public that, indeed, McNeeley did not come to Las Vegas to see Siegfried & Roy.

Tyson's hand-picked punching bag put on a great show, all the way up and down the aisle. He climbed onto the turnbuckle, blew kisses, knelt in his corner, made the sign of the cross, listened to the referee's instructions . . . and, well, that's about it.

Right, Hurricane Peter?

"Hey! Look at the film! My knee buckled without even getting hit! I talked the talk! I walked the walk! The man beat me! That's it, and that's that!" McNeeley explained afterward, to everyone who speaks McNeeley-ese. I mean, who can argue with that? Authentic pugilism gibberish.

Not since Sonny Liston went belly-up in a Maine hockey rink, in his rematch with Muhammad Ali, has any heavyweight fight ended with less of a punch. I've seen nuns in Catholic schools hit students with rulers harder than Tyson hit McNeeley.

"This guy, this guy here, he's strong as a freakin' bull!" young McNeeley observed.

Hurricane Peter charged out of his corner like a bull, but turned out to be about as meek as Babe the talking pig. He was all over Tyson like a cheap tattoo, flailing away, until Tyson could get his arms free. Then Tyson touched him--somewhere. McNeeley's legs sagged. He looked beaten. I think this was . . . oh, six seconds into the fight.

Up he got again. Down he went again. Into the MGM Grand ring vaulted Vinny Vecchione, who, as McNeeley's manager, apparently wasn't eager to see his boy bounce all the way into the MGM slot machines. Tyson looked disappointed. In most of his previous fights, he usually got to punch somebody.

Tyson said later, "As soon as the bell rang, he came right at me. He was very awkward. He kept his head down. He was very difficult to hit. Eventually he would have gotten hurt. You know me. I'm a blood man."

That was this fight, all right. A bloody nothing.

"He's a very likable individual," Tyson added, a very sweet thing to add, for a blood man.

The fight can be seen again on Showtime cable television, just as soon as Showtime can get 90 seconds free.

Introductions took much longer. Half the players in Hollywood and half the players in the NBA seemed to be in attendance: Madonna, Eddie Murphy, Shaquille O'Neal, Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Carrey, Tim Allen, Nicolas Cage, Denzel Washington, Christian Slater, Donald Trump (stop me somewhere here), Neil Diamond, Forest Whitaker, Axl Rose, Pamela Anderson, Mickey Rourke, Kelsey Grammer (picking up speed as we go), Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Patrick Ewing, Chuck Norris, Luke Perry, Richard Dreyfuss (running out of breath now), Wil Smith, Don Johnson, Montel Williams, Nick Van Exel and (rarely mentioned in the same sentence) Wolfgang Puck and Snoop Doggy Dogg.

Then the "fight" began.

Tyson took off his muscle shirt. He revealed a washboard tummy. He looked great. McNeeley ran across the ring. McNeeley's manager jumped in. McNeeley hugged his girlfriend and his mother. The end.

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