Commentary : Tyson More Than Sum of Other Parts


Affairs among boxing's heavyweight division, if anybody cares, have now devolved from a mess to indescribable, unadulterated garbage. The heavyweight title has now been hacked into four parts. All gall has been surpassed. The heavyweight champion of your choice is available, which is not to say he won't get knocked stiff when Mike Tyson gets out of jail and suits up. This will happen some time after his release on March 25.

Take your pick of the jokers who hold the fragmented titles: George Foreman (WBA and IBF), Oliver McCall (WBC), and somebody named Herbie Hide holding a newly invented coronet (the WBO-World Boxing Organization-as distinguished from the World Boxing Association and World Boxing Council, plus the International Boxing Federation).

The unarguable fact is that there isn't a legitimate heavyweight champion among them. None in the faintest image of a Dempsey, a Louis, an Ali or a Tyson. They aren't champions, they are creations of promoters such as Don (Bad News) King, who attaches himself to a fighter and then wrangles a piece of the alphabet from friendly organization presidents such as Jose Sulaiman, who owns the WBC and awaits King's bidding.

George Foreman is a limp 46-year-old has-been who has re-created himself as a fighter after a shelf life of 10 years. His snake-oil comeback campaign had the cooperation of as willing a bunch of stiffs as could be rounded up for that purpose. At his advanced age, and with the mobility of a manacled monolith, Foreman lucked into his titles by licking one Michael Moorer, who had taken them from Evander Holyfield -- a renowned in-and-outer.

Foreman lucked into his titles because Moorer, who had won all of the first nine rounds, just stood there in the 10th in front of a badly beaten Foreman and caught a right to the chin. Until then, it had been so easy for Moorer to stay out of the limited range of Foreman, who was showing at his age all the agility of a rheumatic snail.

The WBC champion, as it happens, is Oliver McCall, of dim fame who is managed by King, who got his foot back in the door when McCall feasted on Lennox Lewis for a two-round workout. McCall proved that Lewis, as always suspected, could not fight much.

McCall's WBC title is the one Riddick Bowe trashed, literally, when he was WBC, WBA and IBF champion after beating Holyfield. Bowe consigned the WBC belt to Lewis with the haughty taunt of tossing it into a nearby garbage can from which Lewis retrieved it -- thus claiming the WBC title for which he was, in turn, trashed so hastily by McCall.

And now who owns the WBO title? The WBO thing is the newly created heavyweight title that somehow fell into the hands of Foreman, and is now owned by somebody named Herbie Hide.

Herbie Hide? How did this fellow get into the picture? Simple. He licked Tommy Morrison, and Morrison is the fellow who once licked Foreman, who was then claiming the WBO title. Thus, Foreman was without a title until the fortuitous Moorer affair.

At this point the odd man out is the unreliable Bowe, who blew his titles in a return match with the unreliable Holyfield. But Bowe's manager, Rock Newman, sees a title chance when his man fights Hide March 11 in Las Vegas. That the WBO thing is the least of the titles and somewhat scoffed at in boxing company will not deter the shrill Newman from calling from the mountain tops if his man Bowe beats Hide -- as he undoubtedly will.

All of which will be irrelevant the moment Mike Tyson decides to step into the ring again. Who will he fight? Foreman, Bowe, McCall, whoever? They all want a piece of the zillion bucks a Tyson fight will command. But nothing in their resumes says any of them will be around for long after that night's referee tells Tyson and the other guy to come out fighting. None belongs in the same ring with him. With either fist, Tyson will pick up all the titles that are out there. You can bet on it.

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