INDIANAPOLIS, MARCH 26 -- Mike Tyson's life as a free man ended today as an Indiana judge rejected pleas for leniency and sent the former heavyweight boxing champion to prison for six years for raping an 18-year-old beauty pageant contestant last July.

Judge Patricia J. Gifford, saying Tyson was capable of raping again and had not expressed sufficient remorse for the crime, sentenced him to 10 years on each of three felony convictions, then suspended four years for "mitigating" circumstances. The sentences must be served concurrently.

It will be at least three years before he is eligible for parole.

Gifford refused to free Tyson on bond pending appeal. His lawyers quickly submitted paperwork in the state court of appeals to request his release. A hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday. Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz, who sat behind Tyson in court today, is handling the appeal.

Tyson, wearing a light gray suit and black and red tie, solemnly answered "yes" when the judge asked if he understood the terms of his sentence. Then, with a wall of attorneys and boxing promoter Don King circling him, the 25-year-old millionaire prizefighter was led from the hushed courtroom with a new identity: Indiana Department of Corrections inmate 922335.

"The guys in the ghetto still love you, Mike," a man yelled as Tyson left through a rear exit. "We love you, Mike," a woman screamed as she burst out sobbing.

Handcuffed and taken into custody by the Marion County Sheriff's Department, Tyson was later to be transferred to the Department of Corrections, where he was to be processed like any other felon: He would exchange his suit and tie for the standard prison attire of white T-shirt and blue jeans and would undergo a strip search, de-lousing and a shower before being assigned to a two-man cell.

Tyson will spend up to 45 days at the Reception-Diagnostic Center, a maximum security facility in Plainfield, 20 miles west of here. After a battery of tests, he will be assigned to another state prison.

As he entered the County Courthouse before 9 a.m., several dozen Tyson supporters had picketed outside and police on horseback were on hand. Inside Courtroom 4 prosecutors asked the judge to sentence Tyson to eight to 10 years -- significantly less than the 20-year maximum -- because he had no prior adult criminal record. Under state guidelines, the minimum sentence was six years, all of which could be suspended.

Special prosecutor J. Gregory Garrison said Tyson should be imprisoned immediately because he had shown "an ongoing, practiced pattern of aggressive behavior toward women. . . . He is guilty, he has been convicted, he is to be remanded."

Defense attorneys argued passionately that Tyson would profit more from counseling in an alternative setting from prison. Additionally, lawyer Vincent J. Fuller said, the famous 5-foot-11, 250-pound boxer would be "a marked man" in the penitentiary.

Dershowitz, who was not involved in the trial, told the Associated Press: "The great tragedy is if we win this appeal a year down the line and Mr. Tyson would have spent that time in prison."

Tyson, who gave a rambling 11-minute statement midway through the 2 1/2-hour hearing, insisted he had not raped Desiree Washington, a Miss Black America pageant contestant, when he took her to his hotel room early in the morning of July 19.

"I have not raped anyone, I did not rape anyone by any means," Tyson said in a quiet, hurried voice. "I'm sorry to Miss Washington. I by no means meant to hurt her or do anything to her. I'm sorry Miss Washington took it personally. I'm sorry Miss Washington isn't here so I could apologize to her."

Tyson conceded that his behavior towards women during the pageant had been "kind of crass" and he accepted blame for "saying some things that were horrible."

"I got carried away and I got into a situation that got way out of hand," he said, referring to lewd remarks and gestures he made to contestants at pageant activities.

During the 13-day trial that ended with Tyson's conviction Feb. 10, Washington testified that Tyson lured her to Room 606 of the Canterbury Hotel and raped her.

"We made an arrangement and the situation happened," he said of his late-night encounter with a woman whom he characterized as "sophisticated. It was incredible to believe that I could take her upstairs and do horrific things to her."

Tyson said prosecutors and some witnesses portrayed him unfairly. "I was devastated listening to people say how stupid I was," he said. "I kept reading things that weren't true, that were vindictive and ferocious, that weren't fair. Things that were said by the prosecutors were distasteful and disdainful."

Often gesturing with his hands, Tyson said he had thought a lot about the case and was nervous and "slightly afraid" to be in court because he was not guilty of committing a crime.

"I don't come here begging for mercy, ma'am," he told Gifford. "I expect the worst. I can't see anything good coming out of this. I've been crucified and humiliated worldwide. And socially with women. Rape is a bad thing, an extremely bad thing. The situation that occurred was not meant harmfully at all," he said, adding that there were "no black eyes, no bruises, no scars."

He ended by telling Gifford: "Ma'am, if you may, I'm prepared to deal with whatever you have to offer me."

Washington, a freshman at Providence College in Rhode Island, was not in the courtroom. But she wrote a letter to Gifford and today county prosecutor Jeffrey Modisett read portions of it in court.

"In the place of what has been me for 18 years is now a cold and empty feeling," the letter said. " . . . Although some days I cry when I see the pain in my own eyes, I am also able to pity my attacker. It has been and still is my wish that he be rehabilitated."

Defense attorney Fuller, a partner in the Washington firm of Williams & Connolly, asked the judge to suspend all of Tyson's sentence or place him in an alternative residential program where he could undergo counseling. He said that despite Tyson's impoverished background and lack of education, Tyson had shown determination by becoming a boxing success.

Fuller said the boxer's life was filled with people interested only in his career. Fuller singled out Tyson's boyhood trainer, Cus D'Amato -- whose companion, Camille Ewald, was in the courtroom today -- saying that "Mr. Tyson-the-man was secondary to Mr. D'Amato's purpose."

Gifford, who received hundreds of letters as well as thick presentencing reports, acknowledged she struggled to reconcile disparate portraits of him. "From everything I've read and heard so far, we're looking at two different Mike Tysons," Gifford said before asking him several questions. "It makes the court's decision even more difficult."

Ultimately, the 53-year-old judge, a former sex crimes prosecutor, seemed to be swayed by the seriousness of the crime and Tyson's apparent failure to understand the magnitude of what he had done. "You have been given many gifts. . . . Your background and what you have done with yourself is a mitigant," she said. "You are to be commended. You have done a lot."

But as to whether Tyson was capable of raping again, Gifford said, "Quite honestly I'm of the opinion that you are." She added, "Something needs to be done with that attitude that I hear from you, saying that somehow she {Washington} misunderstood."

With that, Tyson was stripped of his life as a famous boxer, stripped of the houses, women, cars and jewels, and sent to the spartan life in a prison cell.