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Mike Tyson's Marijuana Use May Have Been A Factor

BY Tim Graham ON July 31, 2004
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Mike Tyson wasn't high on Kentucky bluegrass Friday night. He hadn't smoked any Panama Red either.

At least that's what trainer Freddie Roach believes.

Most others familiar with Tyson's act probably are a little more skeptical. Cheech and Chong are withholding comment.

Tyson frequently broached the subject of his prolific marijuana usage during interviews in the days leading up to his crushing knockout defeat to Danny Williams in Louisville.

I'm not blaming Tyson's loss on blunts as much as blunt trauma courtesy of his unheralded foe. No, his career was all but snuffed out for multiple reasons that might not have had anything to do with dope.

His manager, Shelly Finkel, announced Saturday that Not-so Iron Mike sustained a complex tear of a left knee ligament, an injury that prevented him from utilizing his full punching repertoire.

Roach also claimed exhaustion played a factor. The trainer cited two weight differentials -- the 35 pounds Tyson lost from the start of training and the 32 pounds that separated the combatants -- in the steady demise from rapid-firing, head-moving favorite to slow-footed, disinterested loser.

But it's easy for those who know Tyson to picture marijuana playing a role in his training for the Williams fight. Maybe the munchies prevented him from dropping below 233 pounds, the third-heaviest weight of his career.

"Mike told me that he had quit marijuana," Roach said, "and I told him "That's the best news I've ever heard.' I thought that's what was keeping him from the world championship. He spoke about it before and he made it public. He gave it up on his own, and he's been clean for almost a year now. He has not smoked marijuana.

"I thought that was a great big move for him. I thought that was part of his growing up, a sign of his maturity. To make a decision. He was addicted to it, actually, because he thought he needed it. Anything can be addictive if you use it like that."

Roach's perception of Tyson's gallant reform, however, doesn't quite jibe with other indicators.

Tyson smelled stronger than Spicoli's van when he showed up for the postfight news conference of Vitali Klitschko's victory over Kirk Johnson less than eight months ago. Others who were around Tyson said he was still smoking like a fiend in recent weeks.

There was no fear Tyson would need to submit to a drug test for Friday night's bout. Illegal narcotics and steroids conveniently aren't banned substances according to the Kentucky Athletic Commission.

Tyson joked that dope affected his performance two years ago when Lennox Lewis systematically broke him down. Speculation abounded that Tyson was on antidepressant medication before the lucrative bout so he aberrant behavior wouldn't spoil it.

"I don't know what the hell happened," Tyson told reporters. "I may have smoked too much weed, but I wasn't taking any drugs or anything."

Another time he was asked about the Lewis fight, Tyson replied: "Man, I don't know what I was on. Maybe I just smoked too much weed. There's no doubt I've been a monster."

Tyson's victory over Andrew Golota in October 2000 was nullified because he tested positive for marijuana. Roach revealed dope likely was a factor in Tyson's erratic conduct heading into his quick knockout victory over Clifford Etienne 17 months ago, his last bout prior to Friday night.

"For the Etienne fight I couldn't get much out of him," Roach said. "That was probably one of the reasons why. For this fight that didn't happen. You could see a huge, huge improvement.

"I just patted him on the back. I was proud of him for doing that because he did it on his own. He didn't ask for any help, and he knew he needed to do that for his career. He made that sacrifice."

Williams (no relation to pot-smoking former running back Ricky Williams) entered the fight less worthy of being on a big-time fight poster than the cover of Abbey Road; he was a British pedestrian, an opponent Tyson was supposed to walk over with ease.

Tyson nearly knocked out Williams in the first round, wobbling the Brit with a left hook to the chin followed by an uppercut. Williams hung on and, demonstrating a total disdain for Tyson's formerly fearsome facade, started to land punches himself.

All three judges had Tyson winning by a shutout on the scorecards. Inept referee Dennis Alfred helped the cause by twice deducting a point from Williams without so much as a warning in the third round, inducing a 10-7 score from two judges.

In the end, none if it was enough to withstand a brutal sequence in which Williams landed 19 unanswered punches. He threw many more that didn't connect.

Tyson slumped into the ropes. Blood streamed from around his right eye. Alfred again tried to help by giving the fallen ex-champion a few extra seconds to get off the canvas.

Tyson's big night and, more significantly, his career still went up in smoke.

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