By Mark Schlabach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 12, 2005
In the end, Mike Tyson, who was once considered among the greatest heavyweights in boxing history, couldn't get off his stool before the seventh round of a fight against an unknown Irishman and quit on his professional boxing career. Tyson lost to Kevin McBride last night at MCI Center after referee Joe Cortez stopped the fight before the seventh round at the urging of Tyson's corner.
Tyson, who has lost three of his last four bouts, indicated he would retire, saying: "I don't have the guts to fight anymore. My heart is not in it anymore. I don't want to disrespect the sport I love."
As bad as quitting might tarnish whatever is left of Tyson's once-proud legacy, his reputation would have been even further damaged if the fight had stopped after Tyson first tried to break McBride's left arm and then purposely head-butted his opponent, opening a cut above McBride's left eye. When Tyson locked up McBride's left arm in a corner of the ring, Cortez separated the fighters and McBride shook his arm in pain.
Later in the round, with Tyson's flurry of punches unable to hurt McBride too badly, Tyson purposely head-butted McBride in front of his corner. Cortez stopped the fight while McBride's trainers tried to stop the bleeding, and Cortez deducted two points from Tyson for the head butt.
McBride is fortunate that Tyson decided to quit. Despite out-classing Tyson in five of the six rounds, two judges, Tammye Jenkins and Stephen Rados, still had Tyson leading, 57-55, when the fight was stopped. Judge Paul Artisse had McBride winning by the same score.
Tyson (50-6, 44 knockouts) seemed to be in trouble near the end of the sixth round, after McBride (33-4-1, 28 knockouts) hit him with a hard, right-handed overhead punch and left uppercut. With less than 10 seconds left in the round, McBride pushed down Tyson, nearly entangling him in the ropes. Cortez ruled the fall a push and not a knockdown, but Tyson couldn't get up off the canvas. Cortez seemed to plead with Tyson to get up and after about eight seconds, Tyson slowly walked back to his corner.
Less than a minute later, Cortez walked to McBride's corner and raised the Irish heavyweight champion's right arm, declaring him the winner. Tyson sat dazed in his corner, his attempt at a comeback and financial solvency seemingly over for good. Tyson, who turned a $400 million fortune into $34 million of debt, still owes creditors more than $20 million after declaring for bankruptcy three years ago.
Tyson, who will turn 39 on June 30, was fighting for the first time since he was knocked out in the fourth round by Englishman Danny Williams on July 30. That loss was considered the worst of Tyson's career, but McBride was even more lightly regarded than Williams. McBride, 32, was paid only $150,000 to fight Tyson and wasn't expected to last longer than a couple of rounds.
"This win was for the pride of Ireland," McBride said. "I proved everyone wrong tonight.
Tyson seemed surprised that McBride was able to absorb most of his punches during the early rounds, and seemed to start the third and fourth rounds looking for a quick knockout to end the fight. At the end of the third, McBride seemed to be tiring and was off-balanced, but Tyson couldn't find the punches or combinations to put him away.
At the opening of the fourth round, it seemed McBride didn't want to brawl with Tyson. A left uppercut from Tyson stunned McBride, but Tyson missed later with a sweeping left hook that might have ended the fight. At the end of the round, McBride seemed to hurt Tyson with a hard jab to the side of his head.
The fighters traded punches in the fifth round, and Tyson seemed surprised that the 271-pound McBride wouldn't go down.
Former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali was one of the few notable celebrities who were sitting ringside. Washington Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich and several NBA players, including Carlos Boozer, Dikembe Mutombo and Juan Dixon, were sitting in the crowd. Fight organizers were expecting rap star Snoopy Doggy Dog -- "His entourage is definitely here," a spokesman said -- and singer Mary J. Blige were also expected to attend the bout. But overall, the event lacked the energy and excitement of Tyson's past fights, and the mega stars who have attended marquee fights in the past, such as actors Billy Crystal and Chris Rock and actress Nicole Kidman, weren't here.
Tyson's probably didn't care who watched because he moved a step closer to regaining the heavyweight title and paying off his $21 million in remaining debt. Monica Turner, Tyson's ex-wife, said yesterday that she waived her rights to $750,000 from the fighter's $5.5 million purse, and she won't collect any of the remaining $6.6 million in unpaid alimony and child support Tyson owes her until he gets a fight with a payout of more than $7 million. Turner said Tyson will take home about $2 million for fighting McBride, after the Internal Revenue Service takes about 45 percent in taxes and more than $1 million in expenses are paid.
According to documents filed with a U.S. bankruptcy court last month, Tyson was expected to receive only $250,000, with most of the after-taxes purse going to Turner and his creditors.
"I want him to get back to where he needs to be," said Turner, who left her job as a pediatric resident at Georgetown University Medical Center to take over the fighter's business affairs. "The kids and I aren't getting anything from this fight."