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Friday, 31 May, 2002, 14:11 GMT 15:11 UK
The mystique of Tyson
Mike Tyson looking bored at a press conference
Tyson's brooding menace has captivated boxing fans
BBC Sport Online's Sanjeev Shetty

Consider this - Mike Tyson has been knocked out, stopped and disqualified, to say nothing about what he gets up to out-of-office hours.

So why do many people think this 35-year-old, who is clearly past his best, can knock out Lennox Lewis, the most dominant champion of the last 10 years?

Ask a boxing purist and they will tell you that Tyson should not even be allowed in a boxing ring.

But speak to a man on the street and the first boxer's name that comes into his head will be Tyson.

Testament to Tyson's reputation is how the public have reacted to him after his various setbacks.

When he lost to James "Buster" Douglas, many viewed that Tyson was still the uncrowned champion and his defeat was a fluke.


He's one of those guys that people think cannot get hurt and he has that ability to take people out with either hand
Julius Francis

In 1996, Evander Holyfield battered Tyson for 11 rounds - the public demanded a rematch, despite the one-sided nature of the fight.

Less than a year later, Tyson resorted to biting Holyfield's ear after being dominated for two rounds.

Such a violation would lead to a lifetime ban in any other sport - for reasons linked directly to the almighty green, Tyson was allowed to fight again.

The native of Brooklyn remains a big draw around the world.

For most of boxing's real fans, the question is why?

In his prime, which came during the last 1980s, Tyson was quite simply awesome and boxing historians wondered whether he could have beaten Muhammad Ali.

His arrival on the scene was perfectly timed - heavyweights had earned the tag of being lazy, poorly conditioned and not very talented.

Tyson, who won the world title at the age of 20, flattened the likes of Trevor Berbick, Pinklon Thomas, Tyrell Biggs and Tony Tubbs in quick and exciting fashion.

His speed of fist and feet were unique in heavyweight boxing and his power was something to behold.

Mike Tyson poses with former world cruiserweight champ Glenn McCrory
Tyson still has a number of pals in boxing

Added to a keen sense of boxing history - Tyson walked to the ring without a gown, like his hero Jack Dempsey - the young champion was feared and respected.

The whole sport benefited from Tyson's existence and when Britain's Frank Bruno fought him in 1989, the nation held its breath.

Now, boxing suffers from Tyson's existence, the little credibility it has besmirched by the never-ending series of bad headlines that the former champion creates.

One man who knows plenty about Tyson is Julius Francis, the British fighter who faced the American in January 2000.

Although Francis contends that he had no fear of Tyson when they met and fully believed that he could win, he knows Tyson's primary tool remains the one he had when he turned professional.

"I think he has always had that aura of invincibility and he's carried that all the way through his career even up to this point," said the former British champion.

"He's one of those guys that people think cannot get hurt and he has that ability to take people out with either hand.

"And that is fundamentally what people want to see."

Second best

If intimidation is one word frequently used to describe Tyson, potential is another.

It is something that current British champion Danny Williams believes that Tyson still has in abundance.

"He's still the second best heavyweight in the world - who's to say that if he gets himself right, what would happen?

"Tyson for me, is a much better fighter than Lewis, but his dedication and commitment have gone out of the window.

"I think he is one of the top five heavyweights ever, going back to the days of John L Sullivan."

High praise indeed for a man whose best win remains a brutal knockout of former light-heavyweight Michael Spinks in 1988.

What will prove the ultimate test of Tyson's intimidatory power will be whether he can induce nerves into the psyche of boxing's coolest cat - Lennox Lewis.

A look at the Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson fight

Lewis stuns Tyson

Our man in Memphis

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Links to more Lewis v Tyson fight stories are at the foot of the page.


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