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  Not Enough Rings for This Circus

By Shirley Povich
Washington Post Columnist
Sunday, July 13 1997; Page D06

In making his abject apology to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Mike Tyson was so cast down in spirit that he not only said he was sorry, but confessed to the world that he was in need of mental help.

Then, suiting action to words, Tyson soon after demonstrated his version of self-help, of mood lift, of a therapeutic exercise. He sauntered into a dealership in Spring Valley, N.Y., and acquired a Ferrari 456 TG, a little number that retails for about $233,000.

Now, presumably, Tyson had dealt with one of his traumas. He had banished the unsightly gap in his collectibles. His new gem, the Ferrari, would dovetail nicely with the Rolls Royces, the Porsches, BMWs and his other prides that all those pay-per-view suckers have paid for.

Meanwhile, the post-fight atmosphere has been an unrivaled circus. Tyson apparently hired two lawyers immediately, or was this Don King operating in his behind-the-scenes role? Unlike in previous rhubarbs, notably Tyson's knockout in Tokyo by Buster Douglas when King was in the ring shouting for the referee to reverse the result, King made himself scarce immediately on Tyson's disqualification. How do you protest that Holyfield's ears were the aggressors?

By nightfall the day of the ban, two lawyers among all the King's men were working to put a Tyson spin on the big mess. One, a certain Oscar Goodman, who said he was hired that day (by King or by Tyson, who took time out from buying that Ferrari?), appeared on Larry King's show. The other Tyson attorney, Marty Keach, at the same hour was working the Geraldo show. Their defense of Tyson was insulting to both audiences.

Goodman made a bid for induction in some kind of Hall of Fame when, in pleading for Tyson, he said, "In the 13 years of his boxing he has brought nothing but credit to the boxing profession." Yow!

Tyson was bringing credit to the boxing profession by abusing his first wife, smashing up his cars and earning a three-year prison sentence for raping a beauty pageant contestant. Where was Mr. Goodman residing during those 13 years in which he was hearing and seeing no evil?

Just as repulsive was the post-fight role of Jim Gray, the same chap who had done such a splendid job interviewing referee Mills Lane and Tyson & Co. for the pay-per-view customers. But after the fight, on Larry King's show, Gray sounded like the sorriest of lackeys intent on saving his job with Showtime and Don King, who has a big interest in that outfit and doubtless picks the commentators.

Shame on Gray. He had nothing but praise for Don King the greatest manipulator in the history of the game and then he had the chutzpah to intone this about Tyson: "Mike Tyson always treated people with the utmost respect." Yeah? That's why he landed in that Indiana prison, huh? And is now still on more than a year's probation -- for constantly exuding his respect for people?

And of course Rock Newman, Riddick Bowe's manager, would get into the act. Rock explained away the whole thing in terms of racism, and why did Tyson get the works where as Andrew Golota was treated so differently for being disqualified twice for fouling Bowe with low blows. Newman thus equated the groin with the ears, a stretch. Newman could perceive racism in a vanilla ice cream cone.

The question now is, what will happen when, a year hence Tyson applies for his revoked boxing license to be reinstated. This is not one of those 25-to-1 shots Mike has dealt with, courtesy of Don King, in his 13 years on boxing's stage.

Three of those five commissioners who lowered the boom on Tyson will be gone within another year and new ones will take charge, all of them aware that boxing is much of the life blood of Las Vegas and Tyson is the No. 1 gusher and Vegas needs him.

This is not an original prognosis. My friend and colleague, Tony Kornheiser, the other day advanced the notion that Las Vegas is very fond of Tyson, which is why they did not ban him permanently. And he put it so Tony-like, observing that the commission refrained from tossing Tyson out on his, ahem, ear.

The punishment they dealt Tyson doesn't fit the crime, yet that will be decided by the manner in which a year hence they handle Mike's appeal. There's no precedent. No boxer was ever before indicted for taking the peculiar view that both of his opponent's ears were twin morsels-in-waiting.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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