The first question to ask about any professional prize fight is no longer "Who won?" but "What happened?"
In the case of Mike Tyson vs. Orlin Norris here late Saturday night, Norris was taken to a hospital in an ambulance because he twisted his right knee and said he was unable to continue. Tyson questioned whether Norris had any heart. And the Nevada State Athletic Commission held Tyson's $10 million purse, pending review of professional boxing's latest evening of absurdity.
The Tyson-Norris heavyweight fight scheduled to go 10 rounds lasted one round--three minutes. Tyson hit Norris with a weak left hand an instant after the bell ended the first round. Norris fell awkwardly to the canvas, got to his feet after several seconds and returned to his corner, where he sat for approximately five minutes before referee Richard Steele, ring physician Flip Homansky and state athletic commission officials determined Norris could not continue because of a knee injury. The official ruling was "no contest due to an accidental foul after the bell."
Homansky said there was swelling in Norris's right knee and that it was getting stiff as the 34-year-old boxer sat in his corner. Asked why Norris didn't limp while walking back to his corner, the doctor said, "You can't see all you're going to see immediately with a knee injury."
An MRI exam showed that Norris dislocated his kneecap, Homansky said today.
"The MRI clearly shows the path his kneecap took when he went to the ground," said Homansky, according to the Associated Press. "When he stood up it popped back in. There's no way he could have continued. He very well might need surgery."
An angry crowd of 12,000--at least 4,000 short of capacity--wasn't buying Norris's injury Saturday night, not after spending between $100 and $1,500 for a ticket, and neither was Tyson.
"The way he conducted himself, he should feel disgraced about himself," Tyson said. "A real fighter would fight until he can't fight anymore."
Tyson said he didn't believe Norris hurt his knee while falling to the canvas.
"He must have hurt it sitting on his stool," Tyson said. "When I fought Buster Douglas I could have quit, but I didn't. I took my beating like a man. The reality of the situation is he could have fought but didn't want to. I put that heat on him and he didn't want to continue."
Norris, leaving the ring, said: "He hit me after the bell. I just went down on my knee the wrong way."
Marc Ratner of the Nevada State Athletic Commission said afterward that Norris received his $800,000 purse, but Tyson's was held until the group could review tape of the bout and the late blow Monday. Ratner said a hearing would be held Thursday or Friday.
Ratner said that the fight was declared "no contest" because Steele determined the punch after the bell was accidental.
"But to rush to judgment is not the right thing to do," he said. "We want to see the film and make sure what happened. I haven't seen one millimeter of film yet."
Tyson has had his purse held by the commission before, following his June 1997 bout with Evander Holyfield in which he bit off part of Holyfield's ear. That incident in the same MGM Grand Garden ring cost him part of his purse and a 15-month revocation of his boxing license.
Asked what he thinks will happen to his purse this time, Tyson said: "They'll probably take it again."
Following this latest incident in Tyson's troubled career, it seems almost impossible for a fight involving the former undisputed heavyweight champ to go off without drama, a thought not lost on Tyson himself.
"I'm tired of everybody and everything," he said. "I just want to go home. I'm caught in all this crap. They've got me obligated [to contracts]. I don't want to do this stuff anymore."