HEY, TYSON, I'M THE MAN!

For $1.5 mil, you would fight Iron Mike, too, says the scribe
October 01, 1989

The press conferences never end. One city one day, another city the next. The microphones always are pointed at my face. The sportswriters always ask the same questions. The bar is always open. The meal is always chicken.

I hopscotch my way across America on the way to the great confrontation. Mike Tyson awaits. "How can you even think about fighting Tyson?" the reporters ask in their dull, unimaginative way.

"How can I not?" I reply. "I'm making $1.5 million for one night's work."

"But you've never had a professional fight," they say. "You've never had an amateur fight. As far we can figure, you've never had a fight."

"I've never been knocked down," I say. "I've never been knocked out. I'm unbeaten. I'm a mystery. He's never seen anyone like me. I have an awkward style that might give him trouble—or at least I think I do. Isn't no style an awkward style?"

I'm 46 years old, 5'9", 165 pounds—but I'm hard at work adding bulk. Isn't that what Evander Holyfield is doing, altering his dimensions, in preparation for a shot at Tyson? I'm altering my dimensions. I eat double servings of the chicken at every stop.

The pace is quick, but I'm enjoying it. Talk shows want me. My face is on the cover of national magazines. I'm thinking of getting a tattoo. A butterfly? A scorpion? Perhaps the words LOVE and HATE across my knuckles. "Do you honestly think you have a chance against Tyson?" ask the reporters.

"I have as much chance as anyone in America has," I say.

If opportunity knocks, a man has to respond. That's my feeling—even if opportunity is wearing a 10-ounce Everlast glove. I never thought I would be fighting for the heavyweight championship of the world, but 20 years ago I never thought I would be using a Touch-Tone phone or have Call Waiting. A man has to adapt to changing times.

The promoter—a strange fellow; I didn't catch his name, but he had electro-shock hair that stood straight in the air and he spewed polysyllabic words in a deep voice—apparently picked my name from a long list of nonentities. He appeared on my lawn with a contract in his hand that couldn't be disregarded. I was weeding the garden and wondering where the summer was going. The promoter's message was that I was "The Man, undeniably, irrefutably, indubitably The Man." He mentioned the $1.5 million. I put down my trowel. I told him I was The Man.

"No one ever has seen you fight!" the promoter shouted.

"No one has," I agreed.

"America will buy this!"

"America will buy just about anything."

The idea is that Tyson is running out of opponents. He has been steam-rolling through a collection of has-beens, never-beens and never willbes. His fights have become embarrassments—90-second thrashings after months of hype and hoopla. He's going to fight someone named Razor Ruddock in a skating rink in Edmonton in November. Towns and cities and countries everywhere want to stage the bout after that one. Bored househusbands want to make the magic call to the cable-TV company to give their lives a one-night, pay-per-view jolt of excitement. Demand far outweighs supply.

"You could be a bigger attraction than Razor Ruddock!" the promoter shouted.

"I probably could," I agreed.

"You could be as marketable as Tony Mandarich ever would have been!"

"Undoubtedly," I replied.

The papers were signed in a moment. I now have a trainer named Angelo, who tells everyone my workouts are going great. I run in the mornings. I hit the speed bag and watch Oprah in the afternoons. I talk with my accountants at night. There are rumors that the bout might be held in Tokyo, though I suspect that it probably will be staged next door to a gambling casino in Nevada or New Jersey. Someone said that Donald Trump is interested.

My main job now is hype. The promoter tells me I should promise to "make Mike Tyson fall." I promise that I'm going to make Mike Tyson fall. I've worked on a sequence of scowls and grimaces in the mirror to show that I mean business.

"You're older than George Foreman," the reporters say in their tired, singsong voices.

"I'm in better shape than George Foreman," I reply. "Can anyone say that I'm not?"

"You've done nothing more than type for most of your adult life."

"Is there a better workout for developing strong fingers?"

"You don't know what you're doing."

"Ah, but neither does anyone else."

Too bad. Tyson must fall. I'm The Man.

PHOTOJOHN IACONO

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)