Fitness Shouldn't Be a Problem for Tyson : Boxing: Strength coach says fighter is in the best shape of his life after prison.

From Times News Services

Mike Tyson is in the best shape of his life, said his new strength and conditioning coach, Carlos Blackwell.

Tyson lost 19 pounds in his preparation for his Aug. 19 comeback fight against Peter McNeeley and cut his body fat nearly 17%.

"At the present time Mike Tyson is in the best shape than he's ever been in his entire life," Blackwell said. "I guarantee you have never seen Mike Tyson in the past the way you'll see him now."

Blackwell, who joined Tyson's camp three months ago, said the former heavyweight champion weighed 239 pounds when he began workouts the first week of May.

That contradicts Tyson co-manager Rory Holloway, who said three weeks ago that Tyson was "224 or 225" when he left prison. Holloway agreed at that time that Tyson is in "in tremendous shape and looks better now than he ever has in his whole life."

Blackwell said Tyson is now down around 222 pounds, and he has targeted 220 as what the fighter will weigh when he takes on McNeeley in his first fight in four years.

"Through the layoff he had suffered a lot of muscle deterioration," Blackwell said of Tyson's three-year stay in an Indiana prison on a rape conviction.

Tyson last fought in June 1991, winning a unanimous decision against Razor Ruddock to improve his career record to 41-1, with 36 knockouts.

Blackwell said Tyson was "well overweight" when he entered prison in February 1992.

The coach put Tyson on a five-stage program that includes a new diet, running 3-5 miles a day, and a 3-5 hour workout. The program is tailored to Tyson's particular body style.

"You have to train an athlete as an individual, you can't give them some type of generic program and expect them to reach their maximum ability," Blackwell said.

Tyson, 29, will only have the first stage of the program completed before the fight with McNeeley, and completing the second stage could take another four months.

"The program is designed to make sure that it increases speed, power, endurance and his agility," said Blackwell, who owns a Houston fitness center.

"He's eating completely different than the way that he's accustomed to eating, and he would have to. He has never been on a nutritional program of this sort as well as a strength and conditioning program of this nature. There will be no question that this man is in superb condition."

Blackwell insists that Tyson is in even better condition than in 1986, when he became the youngest heavyweight champion in history at age 20 by knocking out World Boxing Council champ Trevor Berbick in the second round.

"At 20 years old he was not as strong, as fast or as agile as he is now. He has surpassed those periods by leaps and bounds and we're only in stage one," said Blackwell, a former pre-med student who graduated Jarvis Christian College in eastern Texas with a bachelor of science degree. He was hired by Holloway and Tyson co-manager John Horne after he was recommended by a mutual acquaintance.

Blackwell said that Tyson had 24% body fat when he was released from prison, as opposed to the 16-19 percent body fat of someone in normal condition.

He added dropping the fighter's body fat to between 7-8% by fight time will make him more dangerous.

"When you start to put a lot of fat on a fighter, especially the percentages that Mike was carrying before, it's just like taking hand weights or a pack on your back and jogging. Take that stuff off and you're going to be able to go a lot longer, have a higher endurance level and you're going to be faster," Blackwell said.

"He's going to throw a better punch because he's not going to carry the excess weight, and he will take a better punch because his muscle structure and his entire body is going to be much more compact and much harder."

He said he knew nothing about the rumors that Tyson hurt his hand in workouts.

Blackwell said he provided workout programs for several other boxers and runners, although he refused to name any specific clients.

He also stressed he has not encountered any problems with getting Tyson, the WBC's top-ranked fighter, to follow his regimen.

"I have worked with Mike Tyson from morning to night over this three-month period and given him 100% of my time. I've never given one fighter 100% of my time before," Blackwell said.

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