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Tyson Not Right Man for the Job

September 20, 1998|RANDY HARVEY

LAS VEGAS — Two extraordinary boxing events occurred within 24 hours here this weekend, one that left virtually everyone satisfied and another that left virtually no one satisfied.

Boxing, which customarily serves one disaster after another to its public, should not complain about a draw.

On Friday night, Oscar De La Hoya and Julio Cesar Chavez needed only 32 minutes to provide a reminder to a near-sellout crowd at the Thomas & Mack Center and the largest pay-per-view audience ever for a non-heavyweight bout that the sport can still be great when the boxers in the ring are in command.

On Saturday, the Nevada State Athletic Commission needed 6 1/2 hours to decide that Mike Tyson should see a shrink.

Those of us who have followed his career could have told the commissioners that when the 9 a.m. hearing to determine whether Tyson should be relicensed to fight in the state began, and been out of the Cashman Center in time for a second cup of coffee.

"Too many attorneys," mused Kirk Hendrick, who, as Nevada's Sr. Deputy Attorney General, was one of them.

About the only thing guaranteed at the end of the day was that their meters will continue running until Oct. 3, when Tyson and his lawyers are supposed to reappear here to discuss the results of an upcoming independent psychological evaluation.

That presumably will provide the commission with the remaining information it needs to decide whether Tyson is more mentally fit to fight than he was 14 months ago, when he lost his license for biting instead of boxing Evander Holyfield's ears.

As of Saturday night, odds had not been posted in Las Vegas' sports books concerning Tyson's chances of passing his next Rorschach test, although most of those who observed him solely during the hearing probably would conclude he has made strides in anger management.

He was significantly steadier than in a similar hearing before New Jersey's boxing regulators two months ago, when he became frustrated with the line of questioning, refused to read his closing statement and then momentarily lost his temper when his lawyer tried to apologize for him.

On Saturday, he at one point felt it necessary to point out to the commission, "I'm cool."

He was too, even joking about the two expert witnesses who testified about his mental state, saying, "For some reason, I feel like I'm Norman Bates up here with all these doctors."

As for my opinion on whether Tyson will receive his license, I'll reserve judgment until Oct. 3.

When the hearing concluded, he retreated to the parking lot, couldn't start his motorcycle and slammed his helmet onto the pavement. Then he jumped into a nearby car that also was available to him, peeled out and then stopped suddenly when he realized he hadn't give his companion time to climb into the passenger's side.

With someone as volatile as Tyson, who knows what might happen within the next two weeks?

But I do know one thing. Those who are counting on Tyson's second comeback--or as one commissioner called it, "his third career,"--to save boxing should find a more dependable champion for the cause.

There is no better choice than De La Hoya.

De La Hoya insisted in an interview recently that he is a warrior, although, he added, he hoped he would continue to so outclass his opponents that he would never be forced to prove it.

He proved it Friday night. It didn't seem likely that he would have to because Chavez, 11 years De La Hoya's senior at 36, was considered at least five years past his prime.

But Chavez didn't look it in last week's weigh-in, stepping onto the scales three pounds underweight, and he certainly didn't fight like it. One of De La Hoya's trainers, Gil Clancy, called him "the Chavez of old." The Chavez of five years ago.

De La Hoya literally beat him into submission, but not until after they had engaged in an eighth round that will be remembered along with a couple of rounds from Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler, one from Roberto Duran and Iran Barkley, one from George Foreman and Ron Lyle and maybe a couple of others as the greatest of recent memory.

They threw 173 punches combined, many within the last 30 seconds of furious action. De La Hoya got the best of it, connecting on 45 of 83. But he also took 38 of 90 punches thrown by Chavez.

De La Hoya, who has shied from brawls since having his eye blackened by Miguel Angel Gonzalez six fights ago, ignored advice from his corner and stood toe-to-toe with Chavez.

"I was very careless," De La Hoya said. "But I took it like a man."

He proved more agile after the fight. Wearing sunglasses to a news conference to hide the mouse under his left eye, he declined when asked to take them off for a photograph. "I'm doing a promotion for the sunglasses," he said.

Nothing could mask the beating taken by Chavez, who couldn't answer the bell for the ninth round because of cuts to his mouth and lips. He said later that his corner stopped the fight, but he didn't protest.

He said later that De La Hoya had earned his respect, something he didn't give him when their last fight was halted in the fourth round because of a cut to Chavez.

"He beat me right," Chavez said.

Even with Chavez's blessing, De La Hoya said he realizes he still won't have everyone's respect. For that, maybe he still has to beat Ike Quartey in November and Felix Trinidad sometime next spring. Maybe he will have to beat Fernando Vargas and David Reid later. Maybe he will never get it. But that will be as much boxing's loss as his because he, not Tyson, is the sport's great hope.

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