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SPORTS WEEKEND | BOXING

Tyson's Big One Is Certainly Not This

September 06, 1996|TIM KAWAKAMI

LAS VEGAS — From the forced news conference chorus of shrieks and bellows to the gilded, nervous smile on the face of the opponent, this has all the numbing signs of a fistic fait accompli.

A walk-through. A gimme.

You can see it in Mike Tyson's eyes: He knows this one isn't anything near the Big One. This is merely the next one.

Except for a grimace or brief flash of quickly extinguished anger, Tyson has been on his best behavior (relatively speaking) during the lead-up to Saturday's bout at the MGM Grand against World Boxing Assn. champion Bruce Seldon.

He sat down for a long, amiable chat with reporters on Tuesday evening, then yakked the night away with a handful of friends after the reporters left--hardly the traditional Tyson pre-fight temperament.

"This is as relaxed as I've ever seen Mike this close to a fight," said Showtime executive Jay Larkin.

And Seldon? He's a nice man with a shaky chin and an inspirational story who frankly amazed himself by coming back from a four-year prison term (for armed robbery) to win the WBA title.

Even those in the Tyson camp acknowledge that it's time to step up the pace, for business reasons and to keep Tyson, who has been burbling about a possible retirement recently, motivated.

"I love a game that doesn't love me," Tyson said Tuesday, leaving the interpretation of that fascinating statement up to the listener.

Thursday, at the news conference, Tyson tossed out another blurry bon mot: "I went through some ordeals, and I'm still dealing with some situations that I may just go back."

Obviously, there are interesting thoughts bouncing around in his head these days, not many of them relating to boxing.

The fight that really gets his motor going? The Holyfield Grail--a projected Nov. 9 showdown with two-time former champion Evander Holyfield, five years after their matchup was originally set to go and probably two years too late for Holyfield's sake.

Holyfield has said in the past that he feels it's his destiny to finish his career by finally fighting Tyson, and Tyson apparently has similar feelings. What better way to measure Tyson against his past than to bring in the one guy he wanted to fight most before he was incarcerated?

"Holyfield is the ultimate test," said Tyson co-manager John Horne. "Regardless of what anybody says, Holyfield is a cocky, arrogant fighter who cannot leave this game until he's knocked out or defeats Mike Tyson. . . .

"There's no doubt in my mind that if Mike knocks [out] Seldon like I hope he does Saturday night, he's going straight to Holyfield with some type of attitude.

"I know him well enough that that's how he feels about that fight. Holyfield needs to be knocked out cold."

Recently, the rapidly aging Holyfield struggled, but eventually knocked out Bobby Czyz, following his gasping performance in a knockout loss to Riddick Bowe.

"He did not finish Bobby Czyz quickly the way he should've," Horne said. "But I guarantee you Bobby Czyz did not put the fire in Holyfield the way Mike Tyson will. He will not be the same fighter."

Don Turner, Holyfield's trainer, did not disagree. Though the fight has not yet been announced--it will be late Saturday--Holyfield already has started training in Houston.

"He really wants this fight," Turner said. "I can sense a difference in him. You know, he's fighting a fight that he's always wanted to fight. And he thinks the Tyson fight will bring out the best."

*

The last hurdle to make Tyson-Holyfield, though, could be a tough one: Earlier this week, at the request of the Nevada Athletic Commission because of concerns over his last few performances, Holyfield underwent a rigorous battery of tests at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

The commission expects to receive the results in a few days, review them with its medical advisory committee, then make a decision on Holyfield's status at the next commission meeting Sept. 13.

*

If the two sides can lock up a deal, International Boxing Federation welterweight champion Felix Trinidad and WBC and IBF junior-middleweight champion Terry Norris, who are fighting in separate, non-challenging bouts on the Tyson-Seldon card, should make an incredible fight.

Both are quick power punchers with not-so-solid chins, and the winner of such a bout would loom as a hugely lucrative opponent for the winner of the projected May, 1997 matchup of Oscar De La Hoya and Pernell Whitaker.

Boxing Notes

After the stunning loss of gold-medalist David Reid to the new Amerika Presents operation, promoter Bob Arum is expected to announce the signing of bronze-medal-winning featherweight Floyd Mayweather Jr., who probably was the most talented member of the U.S. Olympic team. Mayweather is slated to make his debut on the undercard of the Oct. 12 De La Hoya-Miguel Angel Gonzalez fight at Caesars Palace.

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