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From the Sidelines

Michael Kiral / L’Observateur / August 5, 1998

Heavyweight boxing is a sport that never has had the best of reputations.

It has been investigated by Congress and even two of its most famous moments have not been anything to gloat about – The “Long Count” in 1927 and the Cassius Clay’s knockout of Sonny Liston in their second bout.

The sport has been taking more hits to the head in recent years. A numberof its top fighters have been in trouble with the law outside the ring and there have been few memorable matches in it. Just look at the prospectivematch between George Foreman and Larry Holmes, two boxers who should have hung up the gloves long ago. What’s next, a seance set up so that JackDempsey and Joe Louis can go toe to toe? And perhaps the best example of how far heavyweight boxing has fallen is Mike Tyson. A decade ago, Tyson was boxing’s savior, hailed by SportsIllustrated and others as the next great heavyweight. And for a time hewas, knocking out one opponent after another. It seemed like nobody couldbeat him and in a way that was true. In the end, it was Tyson who beathimself.

It started even before that night in Japan when Buster Douglas did what considered the impossible and knocked Tyson out. But as Tyson startedfalling to the mat, so did the rest of his life. A rape conviction followedas did a three-year prison term. Tyson tried to make a go of it in the ringonce he was released but already signs of his diminished skills began to show.

Then came that night a year ago in Las Vegas. Against Evander Holyfield ina WBA heavyweight championship fight, Tyson bit Holyfield’s ears not once, but twice. Boxing, which has had a number of black eyes from eventsof the past, now had cut ears and was bleeding profusely. The Nevada StateAthletic Commission tried to limit the amount of blood lost by suspending Tyson indefinitely.

This week those old wounds began to be reopened. Tyson has appealed forreinstatement. Not to the boxing authority that suspended him, but abackdoor approach to get back in the sport via the New Jersey Boxing Commission. Tyson knows that if this attempt fails, he can always go backto the Nevada Commission.

The New Jersey Board will consider this week whether to reinstate Tyson’s boxing license. But Tyson proved last week before the board thathe deserves no such favor. He cursed his attorney. He pounded his fists onthe table. He has said he is sorry for his actions last year, that he justlost it. Unfortunately for Tyson and boxing, it was not the first time thathe has lost it nor will it probably be the last time.

Tyson has twice knocked down the sport of boxing. This is one time thatthe three knockdown rule should not be in effect. Heavyweight boxingneeds to recover from shots it has taken in the past. It does not need togive Tyson a chance to deliver the haymaker.

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