Tyson Biographer Says Nothing Can Distract Champ : Torres Says Once He's in the Ring, Fighting Supersedes Everything Else

Baltimore Evening Sun

Actually, it is much ado about very little, which is usually the case in the fight game until the bell rings.

It seems Jose Torres, former light-heavyweight champion and chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission, wrote a book about his friend Mike Tyson. They are buddies no longer.

The champ says he hasn't read the book, but "has heard bad things." Chances are good millions won't read "Fire and Fear," but it's at least worthwhile to talk to the author.

This is so for a couple of reasons:

(1) No one knows Tyson the fighter (and maybe the person) better than Torres.

(2) With Mike defending his title in Convention Hall tonight against a 12-to-1 underdog, few feel it's necessary to detail the life of times of Carl (the Truth) Williams, since he doesn't figure to be around long.

"It's funny how all this got started," Torres said of his rift with Tyson. "I got word that a couple of guys were doing books on Mike and we talked about it one day. I said no one knew him better than me and I'm a writer. Why don't I do one? He agreed with me and even went to the publisher to pitch it with me. Then he gave me a 'to whom it may concern' introductory letter to give to anyone I might interview."

Anyway, one thing led to another and, in excerpts that have already made it into magazines, Tyson said some pretty off-the-wall things about his relationships with and thoughts about women.

Tyson insists Torres betrayed a confidence. Torres counters by saying all of Mike's words are on tape and, besides, the fighter--who has fallen under the spell and influence of promoter Don King--set the tone for the interview sessions.

Maybe it's all a ruse to sell books, who knows? But by pointing out correctly that he knows Tyson as a fighter better than anyone, Torres marks himself as a man well-qualified to discuss this fight.

"A big deal is being made about this just as there was all the stuff about the divorce (from actress Robin Givens) before the Frank Bruno fight (in February)," Torres said. "Everybody wants to know how things like this affect Tyson.

"It is not affected at all. Once he's in the ring, fighting supersedes everything else. Cus D'Amato got him at 12 years old and taught him self-control in the ring. Mike learned well. Thing is Cus died too soon. He didn't teach him how to act outside the ring."

Put another way, if this was an oral examination to see who qualifies for a scholarship, Williams would probably go off as the 12-to-1 favorite. It's strictly rights and lefts, though, so Tyson looks to go 9-for-9 in title defenses.

Naturally, the big challenger (6-feet-4 and 220 pounds with a reach of 85 inches to Tyson's 71 inches) has a plan. "I know all the other guys said they knew how to beat Tyson," he said. "Then they stepped into the ring and, whoa, the plan went out the window.

"But I'll fight when I have to and box when I have to," Williams said. "I'm not intimidated. I'm not Michael Spinks. I won't back off when I hurt him. I'm not going to be reluctant like Bruno (who supposedly stung Tyson in the first round) and the others. I'll take my chances and go after him."

The man dubbed "The Truth" made it sound like a lead-pipe cinch that he would hurt Tyson.

In one of his longer dissertations during the last public appearance by the fighters yesterday, Iron Mike scoffed, "They all have a plan until they get hit. I'm the champ. He can say what he wants."

So Williams did. "I'm finally getting the shot I deserve," he said. "I was the No. 1 contender for two years and they put me on the back burner for some reason I don't know."

In the spring of 1985, unbeaten Williams (16-0) got a title shot against Larry Holmes. He lost a close 15-round decision. He didn't handle the disappointment very well, beating a nobody and getting knocked out in two rounds by Mike Weaver over the course of the next two years. Since Holmes more than four years ago, Williams has had just seven fights and 43 rounds of action, many of them unimpressive.

Reminded of this, he said, "I don't kid myself. I know it's going to be tough, but I can do it. I'm ready for my best effort, better than the effort I gave against Holmes in 1985.

"I sort of like the idea of people thinking I don't have a chance. What was I against Larry Holmes, 50-to-1? The odds are breaking in my favor," he said with a laugh.

It was the only real levity during a conference featuring a head table of thousands, each given a two-minute introduction by King, the man who knows a million words, many of which he uses correctly.

Tyson started out bored and quickly lost interest. He did calisthenics during King's spiels and expended words as if it was wartime and they were being rationed.

"His size will have no effect," Tyson said. "Everybody I fight is bigger than me."

"I know I'm the best fighter in the world, that's all I'm concerned with now."

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