Don King is waiting to see. In a sense, so is Mike Tyson. But what they’re waiting to see are two very different things.
The rumor milI was grinding overtime last weekend with speculation about a third Tyson-Evander Holyfield fight promoted by King. The King of bombast dismissed such a notion with a sweep of his long cigar, saying he hadn’t even spoken to Holyfield in years, but he did not so quickly dismiss the idea of joining forces with Tyson to bring him back into the heavyweight division at the age of 43.
At last weekend’s Devon Alexander-Juan Urango junior welterweight unification title fight at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut, Tyson hinted at a possible comeback attempt 4 ½ years after quitting on the floor against journeyman Kevin McBride. He was a spent hurricane at that time, a storm blown harmlessly out to sea.
He admits he is old, broke, fat and not always motivated to do much of anything, let alone engage in the strict discipline of boxing. Yet after joking about needing a lot of vitamins and minerals –not to mention hundreds of thousands of dollars in training expenses – to even consider trying a comeback, he left open the possibility.
King did much the same this week but he said for them to rekindle their long-dormant partnership would require at least one thing from Tyson that he has not shown in years – a commitment to the demands of his sport.
“When people been as big as Mike was they require a lot of love,’’ King said from his Deerfield Beach, Fla. conference room. “You’ve got to restrain, contain and maintain them. Mike would be a breath of fresh air to the heavyweight division. No one ever beat Mike. Only Mike beat Mike. His own pride took him out of the business. To regain that pride, respect and ability he’s got to work.
“Conditioning is 80 per cent of this game. I don’t care if you driving a Rolls Royce. If the tank is empty you won’t get to where you want to go. A Toyota with a full tank will go right by that Rolls and leave your sorry ass standing on the side of the road. I’m full of love for Mike Tyson but is the commitment there (to boxing)?
“I could never refuse Mike if he goes back to that. It don’t matter what he said or did to me. But there’s a big gap between the assumption and the promise. This would have to be something he wants to do.’’
It would also have to be something King wants to do because it will take a deft promotional hand, a sizable financial investment and a stern taskmaster’s touch just to bring Tyson back into the ring after losing three of his last four fights by knockout, with two of those loses coming against the boxing equivalent of a KIA (McBride and England’s Danny Williams).
Yet there is clearly something in the air and it is more than smoke. King well understands that smoking embers do not always lead to a raging conflagration but he also understands the promoter’s mind and the public’s insatiable desire to believe in monsters and comebacks. Under the right circumstances, Tyson could represent both.
“Don’t tell me how old he is,’’ King said. “George Foreman raised the bar on that to 45, 46. The public has always gravitated to Tyson. He comes naked to the battle like a gladiator. Tyson is indicative of knocking people out if he do what he’s supposed to do! But that’s easier said than done. You got to work. That’s what he’s got to show me.’’
Despite some apparent skepticism on King’s part, he admitted he and Tyson have smoothed over the differences that led Tyson to sue his former promoter for $100 million, calling him a wretched piece of excrement among other things along the way. In fact, in typical fashion, King has taken those sad times and harsh words and turned them inside out, claiming “The white mentality doesn’t understand those words. In the black mentality bad is good! Mike was giving me love.
“The man said what he will or may but it ain’t nothing but b.s., man. He was bullshitting the white folks, giving them what they wanted to hear. In the process he was b.s.ing himself. But it don’t matter. Who would have thought he’d be with me or come to see me in Las Vegas on Halloween?’’
Although that particular holiday carries with it its own baggage, King then veered in a direction that strongly hinted he has a plan in place for Tyson’s fistic resurrection and perhaps that of his company’s as well.
“It would have been a surprise (announcement) were it not for somebody’s indiscreet comments,’’ King said of a twitter report from a Tyson “friend’’ claiming he was reuniting with King for a possible Holyfield fight. “We would have dropped the bomb that he’s here but we got premature exposure so now here they come! The midnight ramblers and the four day walkers are all coming out.
“We were doing it a little differently but now everybody who ever had a contract with Mike will come out of the woodwork whether that contract has some validity or whether it has no truth but only consequences. But if Mike is ready the struggle don’t bother me. I done been investigated by Interpol, the IRS, the CIA and the FBI. I gotta be a combination of Houdini, Siegfried and Roy and Mandrake the Magician to do the things they accuse me of doing and still be standing. Let others be timid. I say, ‘Roll the dice!’’’
King sounded almost invigorated at the thought of bringing Tyson back. Not once did he go so far as to say it might be a reality or confirm the existence of any sort of agreement for the two of them to launch a comeback attempt together. All he kept talking about is what promoters always talk about –which is what might be.
“I love the man,’’ King said of Tyson. “I always will. I won’t be condemnatory. He just knocked out one of those Maseratis with the flashing lights and the cameras. One of them paparazzi. And he won. That’s unheard of in Mike Tyson’s life. Things are changing for Mike.
“I’m a creator and an innovator not a follower and a debater. Together we could do great things. If Mike Tyson came back and wanted to fight he’d outdraw the Klitschkos. He’d outdraw everybody.’’
And then he laughed that long, cackling Don King laugh. The laugh that usually means this may not be as funny as you might think.