Fri, May 16, 2003 - Page 24 News List

King holds Tyson back in hopes of more bucks ahead

AP , LAS VEGAS, NEVADA

It's never easy being Mike Tyson.

It's even harder -- no, make that impossible -- to try and figure him out.

Just when there was a glimmer of hope that Tyson might somehow resurrect his faded career, he's found a way to make a mess of things once again.

This time, it had nothing to do with a weird facial tattoo. And this time, Don King deserves at least a share of the blame.

Eight million dollars to fight a stiff next month on the same card with Lennox Lewis wasn't enough to get the nearly 36-year-old Tyson back into the gym where he desperately needs to be.

Instead, he was in New York, where King put him up in a fancy hotel for a week to keep him from signing to fight on a June 21 card topped by Lewis and Kirk Johnson in Los Angeles.

The week's stay cost King US$86,000 plus a new car he gave Tyson, but the potential reward for the wild-haired promoter was much greater.

King isn't just interested in promoting Tyson once again, six years after the fighter vowed he would never, ever, have anything to do with King.

Tyson, you see, has a US$100 million lawsuit pending against King that goes to trial in September. The suit claims King conspired to steal that much money from Tyson after he got out of prison in 1995 and went back to fighting for King.

"He didn't have to steal all that money," Tyson said a few months ago. "I was giving him enough anyway."

If you believe Tyson's lawyers, it's a slam-dunk of a case that could end up bankrupting King. Already, a law firm that represented both King and Tyson at the same time paid US$20 million to settle its portion of the suit.

And that's why King has put on a full-court press to win Tyson back, reportedly promising him a US$20 million signing bonus and lucrative future fights if he drops the suit and comes back to the fold.

King, of course, can be very persuasive. And he has his own way of doing business.

A lawsuit filed by Lewis last week claimed King conspired with a female friend of Tyson's to keep him in the hotel and away from manager Shelly Finkel so they couldn't talk about the June 21 fight.

It also alleged that King threatened to shoot Los Angeles agent and Tyson adviser Jeff Wald if he interfered.

King convinced Tyson that he would be humiliating himself to fight on the undercard of the Lewis-Johnson fight, even though the fights were being billed as co-main events.

By agreeing, Tyson threw away an easy payday for what would likely have been a knockout win against Oleg Maskaev. He also cost himself some much needed work and any chance of a lucrative rematch with Lewis.

Tyson has fought only once since being knocked out by Lewis last June. That fight lasted only 49 seconds and almost didn't come off because Tyson was busy getting a tattoo on his face and didn't feel like getting in the ring.

Who knows now when Tyson will fight next. He says he needs three more fights before he meets Lewis, but at the pace he's fighting, Lewis will be long retired before they could meet again.

The beating Tyson took from Lewis was enough to convince all but the most die-hard Tyson followers that his career is more freak show now than anything else. People still pay to see Tyson fight, but his days as a legitimate heavyweight contender are far behind.

Tyson doesn't want to train, and it's increasingly evident he really doesn't want to fight.

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