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Looking back at the Topsy-Turvy Life of Mike Tyson Who Turns 51 This Week

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With the possible exception of the immortal Muhammad Ali, it seems that more words have been written about Mike Tyson than any other boxer.

And that’s saying a mouthful given the thousands upon thousands of young men with colorful stories and pasts that have stepped into the ring.

Tyson, who will celebrate his 51st birthday on June 30, has been on top of the mountain and in the basement during a professional career that spanned two decades.

At his very best, Tyson was one of the most feared and explosive punchers ever, reminiscent of such sluggers as Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano and George Foreman.

And he also reached the very lowest depths a man can face, including inner-doubt and self-loathing.

Tyson’s nadir was being convicted of raping Desiree Washington, an 18-year-old beauty pageant contestant.

For his punishment, Tyson was handed a six-year prison sentence, but spent slightly less than three years incarcerated.

When asked recently on a sports talk radio show publicizing his latest book “Iron Ambition: My Life With Cus D’Amato” co-authored with Larry Sloman, what year stood out with regard to partying, Tyson quipped, “Nineteen eighty-nine was a really good year.”

Everybody laughed. Tyson didn’t explain, but didn’t need to. We knew exactly what he meant. Early on, one could have predicted that Tyson’s future wasn’t going to be trading stocks and bonds on Wall Street.

For Tyson, the Brooklyn native, simply waking up every morning and still in one piece was an accomplishment.

From the very beginning, with little or no guidance from his delinquent father and overwrought mother, Tyson was a wayward kid, walking the tough and nasty streets of Brownsville, acting like a thug, always getting into trouble.

“I never saw my mother happy with me and proud of me for doing something,” Tyson said of his late mother Lorna Mae. “She knew me as being a wild kid running in the streets, coming home with brand new clothes that she knew I didn’t pay for. I never got a chance to talk to her or know her. Professionally, it has no affect, but it’s crushing emotionally and personally.”

Remarkably, before Tyson turned 13 years old, he had been arrested 38 times.

Once while driving around his old haunt in Brooklyn, he told his then wife, the actress, Robin Givens, “see that corner right over there? That’s where I once beat up a guy.”

To which Givens replied: “Mike, stop saying those awful things. Those were in the past. That’s not you.”

Only to have Tyson retort: “But it is me, only now I’m the heavyweight champion of the world.”

Tyson would often brag about being a ruffian and even told stories about helping little “old ladies” carry their groceries to their apartments, only to knock the lady on her fanny and take the goods for himself.

Tyson was simply too much to handle and was sent to the Tryon School For Boys.

It was there that he met Bobby Stewart, a counselor and one-time boxer, who later introduced Tyson to the legendary trainer D’Amato.

D’Amato was at the same time a genius and also paranoid, helping build a shy and introverted Floyd Patterson into at the time the youngest heavyweight champion and turn Jose Torres into the light heavyweight title holder.

“If you don’t learn to control fear, it’ll destroy you and everything around,” D’Amato famously said to Tyson and the others who came before him.

After seeing Tyson, with his powerful punches and perfect head movement, the old man predicted that he would someday be the heavyweight champion.

In time, D’Amato and his lady friend Camille Ewald, would take in Tyson and teach him table manners and instill the importance of getting good grades.

It was in Catskill, New York, that Tyson, in a training camp atmosphere would learn the tricks of the trade from D’Amato, Kevin Rooney and Teddy Atlas.

“Cus would give me confidence,” said Tyson of his first trainer.” I didn’t know what he was talking about. You’re going to be champion of the world. At first I thought he was crazy. But the more I thought about what he was saying, it made sense.”

During Tyson’s salad days, I had friends who were not fight fans per se, but after witnessing him set the heavyweight division on its proverbial ear, became fight fans.

Rather, Tyson fans, if only to see the 5-foot-10 bulldozer knock out whoever was placed in front of him.

Tyson, who had 58 professional fights, winning 50, losing six with two no contests and 44 knockouts, would indeed fulfill D’Amato’s prophecy and become the youngest heavyweight champion ever.

It happened on November 22, 1986, at the Las Vegas Hilton when Tyson earned a technical knockout win over Trevor Berbick in the second round for the World Boxing Council belt.

Four months later, Tyson would add the World Boxing Association crown by defeating James “Bonecrusher” Smith in a unanimous decision and five months later outpoint Tony Tucker on all three judges’ scorecards for the International Boxing Federation title.

Tyson seemingly had it all. The three heavyweight belts and all the money and fame he would ever need. Or so we thought.

While Tyson finally had something to be truly proud of, D’Amato never saw any of it because he passed away in November 1985.

These were exciting times for boxing and especially the heavyweight division in large part because of Tyson.

When Tyson reigned as the king of the division, he made it a throw-back era in which the gladiator came out of his dressing room as a stark figure, attired in black trunks, sock-less and in black high-top shoes.

There was more in store for Tyson, who reached his high-water mark on the night of June 27, 1988, at the Atlantic City Convention Hall.

It took all of 91 seconds for Tyson to knock out Michael Spinks.

Afterward, Spinks tried to explain what happened. “I’m a fighter. It’s what I do,” he told the assembled media that included the Newark Star-Ledger’s Jerry Izenberg. “I tried to take a shot, but I came up short. Fear was knocking at my door big time.”

Tyson’s road to stardom started innocently after taking out Hector Mercedes in the opening round via TKO in Albany, New York, on March 6, 1985.

Over time, 36 others would also be found on the short end, including 17 whose evening ended in the initial frame.

Without the need to brag, Tyson was indeed, the “baddest man on the planet,” and was feared by everyone in the division, except maybe one.

That was James “Buster” Douglas, who in February 1990, at the Tokyo Dome and a 42-1 underdog, unbelievably decked Tyson in the 10th round.

How could this have happened? To Tyson? The longtime boxing analyst Howard Cosell, who helped make Ali because of television, said Tyson could be beat. “You need to stick and move and keep away from him,” Cosell intoned.

Well that’s what the 6-foot-4 Douglas did. He kept his distance, jabbed when necessary and unleashed stinging rights.

After that debacle, Tyson righted the ship and reeled off eight straight victories before facing Evander Holyfield in November 1996 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena with the WBA, WBC and IBF belts on the line.

In a fierce battle, Holyfield earned a TKO victory in the 11th round. A rematch was needed and took place seven months later at the same venue.

But instead of it being remembered as a classic, it is known as the night Tyson lost his cool and bit a piece of Holyfield’s ear off and was disqualified in the third round by Mills Lane, the referee.

Tyson was no longer feared, but was still extremely dangerous. In a lopsided loss against Lennox Lewis at The Pyramid, in Memphis, Tennessee, in June 2002, “Kid Dynamite,” as Sports Illustrated once dubbed Tyson, was savagely pushed around by the much taller and better boxer that ended with an eighth-round knockout.

After earning a win, Tyson then closed out his time in the ring with consecutive setbacks to journeymen Danny Williams and Kevin McBride.

On one of my sojourns to Las Vegas a few years ago for a Saturday fight card at the MGM, I happened to be sitting ringside next to Harold Lederman for a Friday event at the Tropicana Hotel.

Early in the proceedings, I noticed a boy, probably 12 years old with boxing gloves and pen in hand walking toward Tyson and his wife Lakiha.

In short order, Tyson saw the boy, took the gloves, signed them and wished the youngster a good night. I leaned over and told Lederman that was a nice gesture and he agreed.

When Tyson began his storied career with Rooney in his corner, the Brownsville Bomber was practically unbeatable.

With the passing of D’Amato and Jimmy Jacobs, followed by Rooney and Atlas eventually cutting ties with the former undisputed heavyweight champion, Tyson’s life was in shambles.

Tyson has done some nice projects since retiring in 2005 including a one-man show, had a documentary done on his life and has appeared on television.

All of this is fine, but for me, Tyson’s last great gesture was being a pallbearer at Ali’s funeral.

Because even if only for a few minutes, the “Iron Mike” we all knew was back on top.

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Mike Tyson

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Lemieux vs. O’Sullivan: There Will Be Blood

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There is not much to dislike about Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan. The bald and mustachioed O’Sullivan looks like his name and fights like an Irishman named “Spike.” He rarely backs up and just keeps coming and coming until he wears out his opponent. And he is willing to take two to give one as he did against Antoine Douglass (22-0-1 coming in) in December 2017. The Douglass win, a KO, gave Spike a regional title, but more importantly put him squarely in the mix of top contenders. In fact, he has joined the growing chorus of those who want to fight Gennady Golovkin—and the early retirement payday that could follow. If he beats David Lemieux on the undercard of the Canelo -GGG mega fight on September 15 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, he just might get his chance, but that’s a big “if.”

Thus far, Spike’s only two losses have been to Chris Eubank Jr in 2015 and slick and tough Billy Joe Saunders in 2013. Since the Eubank loss, Spike (28-2) has won six straight, the last five by stoppage. When he KOd Melvin Betancourt in May 2015 in Boston, MA, the Dominican middleweight was 29-1. Today he is 29-6. Pleasing local Irish fans (and this writer), O’Sullivan has fought nine times in the Greater Boston area, bringing back memories of another tough Irish fighter by the name of Stevie Collins.

Lemieux

David Lemieux was also outboxed and shut down by Billy Joe Saunders in a clash of styles that favored Saunders. This time, the styles virtually guarantee a thriller for as long as it lasts. Lemieux (39-4) has 33 stoppage wins compared to Spike’s 20. His KO of Curtis Stevens still resonates as one of the more chilling one’s ever seen.

Unlike the globetrotting O’Sullivan, The popular Canadian fighter has done most of his work in Montreal but is 4-1 outside Canada losing his title to GGG at Madison Square Garden in October 2015. At stake in this one were the IBF, WBA, and interim WBC World Middleweight Titles. David was badly bloodied by Golovkin (then 33-0) but did not disgrace himself as he fought to win.

David is a tremendously powerful puncher with either hand and begins the stalk as soon as the bell rings. But Spike also generally moves forward at the opening bell. Something has to give here and it just might give early on. Spike is no BJS and moving away and slipping punches is not his strong suit. But it’s not in Lemieux’s DNA either. This is almost guaranteed to be a spine tingling, all action thriller. Fans had better stay glued to the telecast.

Chocolatito

In addition to Lemieux-O’Sullivan, it appears that all-action fighter Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (46-2) will also appear on the GGG/Canelo undercard, opposing Moises Fuentes (25-5-1). If so, this one will be over sooner rather than later. In fact, the promoters better have some solid fill-in fights on tap before the main event.

This is about as good as it gets; this is a boxing fan’s dream. Don’t miss it!

Ted Sares is one of the oldest active full power lifters and recently won the Maine State Champions in his class. A member of Ring 10, and Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame, he was recently cited by Hannibal Boxing as one of three “Must-Read” boxing writers.

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Why Fury’s Bout with Pianeta is Bigger than Ever Imagined

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Artur Szpilka

Back in January of 2016, Tyson Fury got into the ring and upstaged him on live TV after he struggled with and eventually stopped Artur Szpilka in the ninth round. Now it’s being conveyed that WBC titlist Deontay Wilder will be ringside for Tyson Fury’s second comeback fight against Francesco Pianeta in Belfast Saturday night, and it’s expected that he’ll pay Fury back and get in the ring and upstage him and call him out.

Wilder quickly accepted Fury’s challenge on that night in Brooklyn, but Fury went away and in his own words overindulged with food, alcohol and drugs. And with that, the talk of Wilder vs. Fury died.

Since then, Wilder has established himself more as a title holder and, in the opinion of most, is thought to be the second best heavyweight in the world, ranking behind only Anthony Joshua. Two months ago in June, Fury made his awaited ring return and stopped a non-entity in Sefer Seferi. Throughout the spring and summer the talk of a showdown between Joshua and Wilder remained one of the foremost stories in boxing. Every time it looked close to becoming a reality it fell through, due mostly to how the purse split should be divided with each side blaming the other and avid fans of both fighters siding with their man. While arrows were being slung back and forth between Team Joshua and Team Wilder, the shrewd Fury slung arrows at both of them.

Tyson Fury is one of the greatest salesmen in boxing history and nobody uses social media better than he does. Seeing how hard Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn is to deal with, a light went off in Fury’s head and he began to shy away from AJ and began turning his attention towards Wilder, who has been riding a high since stopping Luis Ortiz in his last fight. Tyson, fully understanding that Wilder has never earned huge money for any of his bouts, understood that a match between him and Wilder could rival nearly any bout Hearn/Joshua could make, excluding one involving himself or Wilder. With that, someone must’ve got in Wilder’s ear and outlined the monumental upside it would be for him to face Fury and what beating him would do as far as helping him negotiate the anticipated fight with Joshua. Not to mention he wouldn’t be facing Fury at his best.

With Fury having lost a lot of the weight he gained during his exile, an impressive showing this weekend versus Franceso Pianeta would go a long way to help boost the interest in a Wilder-Fury bout. The Fury-Pianeta clash has been picked up by Showtime and that says a lot in regards to the way Fury can attract attention. With Wilder having committed to attend the bout, is there a morsel of doubt that he’ll be a big part of the broadcast?

The mere fact that Wilder will be there has increased the credibility among fans in that Wilder-Fury is no longer a press grab and it very well might just come to fruition. And to help increase the profile of a future bout between Wilder and Fury, it’s impossible not to believe Wilder won’t get into the ring after Fury wins and publicly challenge him. If Wilder does that, hopefully he’ll script what he says and not adlib because exchanging adlibs with Fury would be a losing battle for Deontay….even Muhammad Ali might be the underdog doing so because Fury is such a good talker and so quick-witted.

And if there’s any doubt about Fury being able to sling verbally and hype a fight between he and Wilder, I present his recent words….

“I’m just sat here thinking, isn’t it marvelous that the world’s biggest fight, Fury vs Wilder is going to happen and that smug little t****r Eddie Hearn has nothing to do with it at all.”

“He has nothing to do with the world’s biggest fight — or his little puppet on the string the fighter he’s got [Joshua].”

“They’re not involved in the biggest fight the world has ever seen, between the two biggest heavyweights on the planet.”

“The two most controversial — most outspoken heavyweights out there — both over 6ft 6, both talkers, one Brit. one American.”

“Isn’t it marvelous that this fight is going to happen and little Eddie ain’t got nothing to do with it.”

At the moment Fury is killing Hearn and Joshua on social media while at the same time convincing everyone within earshot that he and Wilder is the biggest fight in boxing and the authentic heavyweight championship. Along with that, Wilder and Fury are both going to earn their blockbuster payday facing each other and without fighting Joshua. The winner will easily be able to get a 50-50 purse split when he meets AJ, and there will be nothing Hearn can do about it….because Team Joshua knows that for AJ to be recognized as the true undisputed champ, he must beat the winner of Wilder versus Fury.

Another testament to the Fury factor is found in the odds. Earlier this week, a friend emailed me the pending Vegas odds on Wilder vs. Joshua and Fury vs. Joshua. In a proposed fight with Wilder, Joshua was listed a 2-1 favorite. However, if he were to face Fury, he’d only be an 8-5 favorite, signifying that Fury, with only two fights under his belt after a nearly two-and-a-half year layoff, is considered by the betting public to be the bigger threat to Joshua.

At this time it looks as though only a loss to Pianeta 35-4-1 (21), who’s never ranked among the top-10, can derail Wilder-Fury from becoming a reality, and even against a rusty Fury that looks doubtful. In Pianeta’s only title shot he entered the bout undefeated and was still bounced around the ring by Wladimir Klitschko as if he were a Spalding basketball. He had the advantage of being one of Klitschko’s sparring partners for a year prior to them meeting and yet he still couldn’t make it out of the sixth round.

Since losing to Wladimir in 2013, Pianeta has gone 7-3 (6) and in his last bout lost a 10-round unanimous decision to Petar Milas, who was fighting for only the 12th time as a pro. Fury looks in good shape based on his recent pictures on social media, and is one of the most difficult heavyweights to fight and look good against since Vitali Klitschko was at his best. True, Fury isn’t a devastating puncher and sometimes fighters who aren’t in his league can go rounds with him, but with so much on the line and Wilder observing from ringside, it’s nearly impossible to envision him losing.

The prospect of a Wilder-Fury confrontation has escalated the interest in Fury’s second comeback fight this weekend. It’s unlikely the actual fight between Fury and Pianeta will be fan-friendly, but the thought of Wilder being there to help launch their fight makes it worthwhile to see. Don’t be surprised if Wilder vs. Fury is announced in the ring after Fury’s bout concludes. And if that’s the case, or when it is announced, for the first time as the alpha heavyweight in the world, Anthony Joshua won’t own the headlines nor will he be the sole focus pertaining to the heavyweight division.

Like him or loathe him, Tyson Fury’s return has provided the division with an infusion of anticipation. And Joshua will ultimately benefit financially as a fight between him and the Fury-Wilder winner becomes that much bigger and lucrative for all the parties involved.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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What Are You Up To, Paddy Barnes?

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Paddy Barnes

For all the hullabaloo about Tyson Fury and his victim elect Francesco Pianeta in Belfast, Northern Ireland this weekend; for all the “Irish Eyes Are Smiling” rhetoric surrounding the return of Carl Frampton to Windsor Park, where he, too, will defeat an overmatched opponent in Luke Jackson; for all that and the barely concealed excitement with which writers and promoters crane their necks at the futures of both these men – for all that, the most intriguing and competitive fight on this Saturday Night’s big “Norn Iron” card is the rampantly ambitious attempt by Paddy Barnes to win a title-strap against Cristofer Rosales (27-3) in just his sixth contest.

This might not be quite Vasily Lomachenko taking on Orlando Salido in his second fight but Rosales, just twenty-three years old and fighting out of Nicaragua, will not be visiting Northern Irish shores to lose. In fact, the TBRB rank him as the worlds #2 flyweight, second only to veteran Donnie Nietes. Flyweight’s radiance may be on the wane but becoming the second best fighter at 112lbs is no small matter, no matter the drain being inflicted upon the division by super-flyweight, the new home of the fashionable small man. Rosales earned the right, and Barnes will have to take it from him.

Like Lomachenko, Barnes is a storied amateur, a two-time Commonwealth gold medalist and two-time Olympic bronze medalist.  Prior to his third swipe at Olympic glory, Barnes turned in a sterling performance in the World Series of Boxing, once controversial for straddling the amateur and professional codes so comfortably, now  seen as nothing more (nor less) than a nursery for top-class amateurs who are ready to mount an assault on the professional ranks.

Barnes began his assault on the professional ranks in the traditional way, beating up overmatched, underfed opposition with losing records.  In 2017 he staged his fifth fight, his fourth in Belfast, against Elie Quezada (21-6-3) who represented something of a step up, though to nothing like world-level where many were sure Barnes was headed.

Even against his taller, heavier, more experienced, switch-hitting opponent, Barnes looked good that night, feinting with the jab behind organized pressure-footwork, opening up shots to the body with jabs, outs-squabbling his rangy opponent when Quezada decided to throw. In the second, investment in the body paid early dividends as a withering short right-hand to the torso married earlier work done with the left hook to achieve a knockdown and nine-count. A ten count at the very end of the sixth was earned with a left-uppercut to the by then tenderized body of an overmatched opponent.

In between the two knockdowns there were naturally issues, the kind experienced by all raw prospects. For that’s what Barnes is, at thirty-one years of age and carrying an armful of amateur medals; professional fighting is different.

So it should be noted that Barnes repeatedly strayed low, and was so paranoid about his inability to keep his punches north of the borderline he apologized to the referee on one occasion without being warned. He hit Quezada when he was down after the first knockdown. He has issues with temperament that need fights to iron out.

More pertinently he was hit, often, by an opponent who was not afraid to trade with him.  Barnes is not a puncher. Quick and accurate, he’s very capable of hurting his opponents but not of turning them away or, as a rule, concussing them. This is problematic and demands careful attention by style, but Barnes does not box like a man who can seek but cannot destroy. He brings speedy pressure, using his quickness and natural balance to unseat an opponent and turn him, all while throwing fast combinations which tantalize between slickness and indeterminate.   Like Rocky Marciano, Barnes has a “land and it’ll do” rule of combat, unlike Rocky Marciano he’s not breaking any bones while he does it.

How is Rosales, a legitimately world class opponent, going to handle all this?

A possible clue lies in another fight Quezada lost. Also a Nicaraguan, last March he met Rosales over ten rounds in their shared hometown of Managua. Rosales won in a fun, bruising fight but was unable to stop his countryman despite throwing and landing a large volume of punches; the judges, a little unkindly I thought, awarded only a split decision but it was interesting that Barnes was able to get Quezada out of there and Rosales was not.

Nevertheless, Rosales was at a more advanced stage of his career and was rewarded (only after defeating the unbeaten Italian Mohammed Obbadi in Italy) with a shot at the strap held by the latest Japanese wonderkid, Daigo Higa. 15-0 with fifteen consecutive knockouts, Higa was favored to win that fight but after struggling with the weight was badly beaten by a vicious Rosales.

Much of this was put off on to Higa’s indiscipline on the scales, but Rosales was exceptional that night in Yokohama. Aggressive and direct, he is a big, big flyweight, pushing 5’7 and sporting a reach of nearly 71” by BoxRec. Rosales does little to favor this reach advantage. He is loose with his selected leads, booming over trailing right hands from outside and sometimes shortening up his own jab by stepping in; on the other hand he loves and administers serious punishment on the inside. Rosales is delightfully old-fashioned in his attitude to his physical advantages and is adapt with both hook and uppercut.

He used both of these to his advantage against Higa, positively bullying him in the eighth, before brutalizing him with his left hand in the ninth.  His corner pulled him after little more than a minute of that round.

Reviewing this footage, the right pick is absolutely clear: it’s Rosales. Bigger, he is probably the puncher in the fight, certainly the more experienced of the two, and he was equal to the relentless body assault Higa mounted early in their fight; but there’s more.

Rosales does not have a spotless record in the UK. One year before his defeat of Higa, he was being out-boxed by the less talented of the two Selby brothers, Andrew. Andrew Selby weathered a dramatic and forceful storm from the Nicaraguan late, but my impression was that he was good for his points win. Two years previous to this, Khalid Yafai, who holds a strap up at 115lbs, defeated him over eight rounds in another tough scrap.

Rosales travels well but not to the UK, and my impression while checking in with friends who follow the smaller men was that his reputation was firmer abroad than upon these shores.

What to make of this web of intrigue?  Has Barnes overstepped in agreeing to fight Rosales so soon based upon a week British rep? Or has Rosales falsely enhanced his status by beating up a weight-drained, crestfallen Higa? Is Rosales too big for Barnes? Or is his propensity for letting wasp-like, whip-crack fighters like Barnes inside a disaster of a style-matchup and one which Barnes, who has slightly faster hands, is primed to take advantage of?

Here’s the truth: I don’t know. I’ve had this fight under the microscope all last week and can’t pick a winner. Just when I think some crucial aspect has been revealed to me it is counter-balanced by some snippet of information from the other camp, or spied on the often single-camera video that spills out of Nicaragua.

I suspect the fight itself will be a thriller though. Both are busy, both have proven punch resistance, both come to fight, both want to mix it up close. The hand that is raised may be the one that is most tempered, the one most ready to shy away from what is natural. Can Rosales spear Barnes on the outside, making him pay for every step? Can Barnes resist the temptation to rush and use his superior speed to close the reach and height gap by staging a sometime counter-punching offense?

With all due love and respect to Tyson Fury, perhaps my favorite active fighter, and Carl Frampton, the man of the moment for the rampant Belfast fans, finding the answer to the above questions is the main reason I’ll be tuning in.

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