Only in America

"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles CEO, The Sports Network

Mike Tyson
A close-up of Mike Tyson and his new tattoo during his heavyweight bout against Clifford Etienne at The Pyramid in Memphis, Tennessee.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -- Where else can one man come out of prison, where he was held, accused of murdering another, and dominate the world of boxing as his own private universe, turning it inside out, upside down and into nothing more than a circus that is not even the envy of the carnival we know as wrestling? Only in America.

The wagons with barnstormers selling magic elixir that will cure all of your ills with just one gulp were replaced by stretch limousines, but the carnival atmosphere pervaded every inch of the acreage from start to finish. The boxing ring became the center tableau for a Barnum and Bailey spectacle whose resemblance to anything referred to as the sport of boxing was limited to the gloves the combatants were required to wear. Only in America.

The criminal element was no longer outside the ropes, controlling and choreographing the results. "The Harder They Fall" leaped from the pages on which it was written and off the celluloid screens on which it appeared to become reality. The gangsters were wearing trunks and showing up at weigh-ins. They were no longer hiding in the shadows of the arena backrooms and corridors, restructuring percentages in a fashion that would be the envy of the Enron accounting corps and Arthur Andersen. There they were, prancing about the ring and then, as one, laughing all the way to the bank. Only in America.

At least "The Music Man," Professor Harold Hill, displayed some credibility and a shred of decency at the conclusion of his attempt at bilking an entire town. Boxing has opted to do that to a nation and, ultimately, the world. Don King crafted a money machine at the expense of the sport and never looked back. Is there really going to be a 390 pound woman doing battle with an 85 pound octogenarian as a preliminary to the main bout next time around? What about the two-headed boy, the reptile man or the gorilla lady? Instead, Memphis gave us Mike Tyson?again. Only in America.

Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson looks on as Clifford Etienne lays on the mat after being knocked out by Tyson just 49 seconds into the bout.
It is a violent sport to begin with and now it has become a travesty, a giant joke perpetrated upon the suspecting public. Unsuspecting would be gracious. We are being had and we know it. That we pay for it is ludicrous. Tyson earned a little more than $100,000 a second for knocking out a pretender that I honestly think I could take in three rounds or less. If Iron Mike is playing with a full deck, then the cards are marked. Clifford Etienne was the pawn in this drama, a willing one no doubt for $900,000 that he feigned his wife had to convince him to take. Right.

Showtime will televise anything at all that has to do with boxing and, to their credit and promotional savvy, they realize that there is no end to the public's idiocy and thirst for watching anything at all. The reality shows of the past few years have proven that beyond a shadow of a doubt. Mike Tyson has risen and seen his shadow. We are all in deep trouble.

At least he had the common decency to say that he is not ready for Lennox Lewis yet but that is on his mind. Another pay day when all who watch will want him to lose but will be torn between leaving the championship belt in England or returning it to the U.S. around the waist of one who is not exactly a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. Lewis entertaining this is the near equivalent of Tyson inviting Etienne to the dance for a few moments. His latest foil walked into a right hand punch, hit the canvas, had the sobriety to casually remove his mouth piece and the sense to just lie there until he heard the word "ten" before allowing Tyson to help him off the canvas.

Let's see now, after having Evander Holyfield for dinner, Tyson has vanquished such household and formidable boxing names as Etienne, Francois Botha, Orlin Norris, Julius Francis, Lou Savarese, Andrew Golota, Brian Nielsen. You have to be kidding!

He is 36 years old now and it has been just about 17 years since he first won a title, plus seven since he last held one. And he goes out and earns $100,000 a second. Only in America.

Tonya Harding and Samantha Browning
Tonya Harding poses during the weigh-in for her Bantamweight fight with her opponent Samantha Browning. Harding and Browning made their professional debut before the Tyson match.
Tonya Harding and Samantha Browning flailing against one another in a four round preliminary bout had more excitement. It is also indicative of just how far boxing has regressed. In boxing a sucker is not born every minute. Try every second.

"The Black Rhino" (who came up with that one?) came to collect his check. It is as simple as that. Etienne will not be heard of again. Nor should he. His place in the annals of boxing would be best served with an eraser.

The Pyramid, the site of this fiasco, was filled to near capacity thanks to a crowd that had nothing better to do. Hey, this is Memphis, remember? Harding grasped her share of the limelight, wished it was Nancy Kerrigan in the ring with her and Tyson took the money with both hands while they were still wrapped.

Evander Holyfield might as well start working out again. The last time Mike Tyson did anything worth talking about was when he beat Michael Spinks in 1988. Since then he has been knocked out by Buster Douglas (1990), taken to task by Holyfield twice and given a lesson in boxing by Lewis. The rest of his fights were against porters and short order cooks on their nights off. Only in America.

If Tyson is back, as the fans in Memphis chanted, the sport of boxing is in worse trouble than anyone could possibly imagine. The remnants and vestige of what was are in worse shape than Humpty Dumpty's famous fall. All the king's horses and all the king's men, helped by the producers of Showtime sports extravaganzas, cannot put this together again. Don King has left boxing in a shambles and the buffoons and curmudgeons, the yahoos and klutzes that are still coming down the aisle and into the ring are only putting the final nails into the coffin that is already in the ground.

Is there any hope for a resurrection and return to days of old? You gotta be kidding!

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