Now you know there is nothing more bizarre than a Mike Tyson
fight in Las Vegas. Unless it's the week leading up to a Mike
Tyson fight in Las Vegas. Or the events that follow one. Let's
get ready to nibble!
100 HOURS TO THE FIGHT On the rack at Bernini are 21 bright
yellow Italian blazers that you would not wear to a luau, even
drunk. Each one costs $1,495. Good luck selling them, pal.
"These?" says the manager. "Oh, these will all sell by Saturday."
92 HOURS TO THE FIGHT From all over--from the Learjets and the
G-4s and the Dubai-based 737s that triple-park at the private
airfield near the Strip; from the limos with the hot tubs in the
back; from the Suburbans with dark-tinted windows and the Lexi
with the gold trim--the incredible collection of people and
finery known as a heavyweight title fight crowd starts to pour
into town: rap stars and wannabe rappers; Crips and Bloods;
pickpockets and deep pockets; Louis Farrakhan's Muslims and
Evander Holyfield's Holy Rollers; CEOs and CFOs; pimps and
whores and others who just want to dress like them (men in
bright orange zoot suits with bright green fedoras and matching
Italian boots; women in 12-inch stainless-steel heels with
Cleopatra thigh straps and with dresses made up of $3.99 worth
of materials from Ace Hardware); squadrons of men in sunglasses
and black Armani suits with Nokias protecting one man in sagging
blue jeans and a $19 plaid flannel shirt. It's outrageous and
scary and splendid all at once. Fear and clothing in Las Vegas.
81 HOURS TO THE FIGHT In one of the oddest prefight press
conferences in Don King's long history of odd prefight press
conferences, the Tyson and Holyfield camps are dignified and
gentlemanly. It's the women on the undercard who are animals.
The ugliness rises between Christy Martin and her opponent,
Andrea DeShong. Ms. Martin has been saying that Ms. DeShong is
stalking her, trying to climb into her car and saying vile
things about her manner of dress. Ms. DeShong has said that Ms.
Martin is wrecking women's boxing. Now they are at the press
conference podium. Ms. DeShong leads with a jab about Ms.
Martin's low-income roots. Ms. Martin counterpunches with a
snipe about Ms. DeShong's apparent failure to attend a decent
"My mom taught me [the difference] between ass and class," Ms.
Martin says. "And your mom forgot to teach you that."
After which King strides to the microphone with a huge grin and
says, "Well, hell hath no fury that equated to a woman who has
Ain't it the truth?
77 HOURS TO THE FIGHT We ask Bob, our cabbie, if he'll get a lot
of business on fight night. "No way," he says. "I don't go near
the place [the MGM Grand, site of the fight]. Anybody wants to
go there, I take them within a hundred yards and drop them off.
They killed a guy once, don't forget that. Nosir."
74 HOURS TO THE FIGHT This isn't exactly the Budget lot: Ferrari
Mondial convertibles ($500 a day, plus a buck a mile); Dodge
Vipers in all your favorite colors ($400 a day, plus a buck a
mile); 21 other kinds of sports cars; 15 types of Harleys,
including the Ultra Classic ($200 a day). It's $5 million worth
of adult show-and-tell on one lot, polished, gassed and ready to
drive the one eighth of a mile to the MGM Grand, where, in most
cases, the car will be parked out of sight the whole time. "We
get rich people who want to drive something like they drive at
home," says Rent a Vette owner Robert Wolfe, "or we get average
people who want to make it look like this is what they drive at
Either way, all of Wolfe's fleet will be rented out by fight
morning, which is when he starts losing his hair. "I don't
sleep," he says. "Everything I own is on the street. And if
Tyson loses, these people go ballistic."
68 HOURS TO THE FIGHT Sgt. Ron Swift of the special-events squad
at the Las Vegas Metro Police Department has a lot on his mind
as the Michael Buffer hour nears: several thousand Las Vegas
gang members, prominent gang leaders from other cities, a
sizzling East Coast vs. West Coast gang war, memories of rap
star Tupac Shakur's murder the night of Tyson's 1996 fight
against Bruce Seldon, ticket scalpers and credential forgers.
Oh, and one other thing. Steven Seagal. "Last time he came to a
Tyson fight," says Swift, "he didn't want to give up his gun."
60 HOURS TO THE FIGHT It's another insane, jam-packed day at the
Shadow Creek Golf Club, where, what with prefight madness, they
are expecting nearly 10 foursomes for the day. That's a lot at a
place that has no members, charges no greens fee, allows almost
nobody in and yet is ranked among the top 15 U.S. courses.
Steve Wynn's 320-acre plaything is the most exclusive and
expensive golf course ever built, an outlandish 18-hole Xanadu
sprung miraculously from the scrubland outside Las Vegas, like
an outdoor version of Wynn's phantasmagorical Mirage lobby. One
minute you are driving in some of the ugliest, barest earth
anywhere, and the next you happen upon a square mile of Vermont,
a lush world of trees (12,000 shipped in), flowers (changed four
times a year), rabbits and pheasants and rare birds (all trucked
in), lakes and streams and waterfalls (man-made). "It's amazing
what you can do with a little grass seed," says Wynn, "and 40
Golf is just one of the things Wynn provides for the beautiful
baccarat set whose members arrive for the fight and stay at the
Mirage. Wynn might also 1) pick them up in any of the hotel's
three jets; 2) tuck them into any of the Mirage's eight cozy
5,000-square-foot, three-bedroom "suite complexes"; 3) take care
of all their meals, drinks and shows; and 4) get them as many
great seats to the fight as they need. Everything comped,
naturally. You do not want to be charged for the range balls
when you are playing baccarat at $100,000 a hand.
34 HOURS TO THE FIGHT Tyson lays a bouquet at the grave of Sonny
Liston. "Mike didn't know until yesterday where Liston was
buried," says his trainer, Richie Giachetti. "You can't believe
how much the old fighters mean to Mike."
It's the new fighters who aren't so lucky.
33 HOURS TO THE FIGHT Jimmy Lennon Jr. has been getting steams
and massages and drinking tea with lemon all week. He is the
Tyson-Holyfield ring announcer, and he doesn't want his golden
throat to give out before the fight. Lennon comes from a long
line of silky voices. He is a first cousin of the singing Lennon
Sisters, and his father was a ring announcer at Madison Square
Garden. All of which is just an excuse for us to tell our
favorite ring announcer story.
It is 1930-something, and Johnnie Addie, the longtime Garden
announcer, pulls the huge microphone down by the cable suspended
from the rafters and announces, "Ladies-ees-ees and
gentlemen-men-men! Here to sing-ing-ing your national
anthem-em-em, Miss Clara Bee Weatherwax-wax-wax!"
At that moment, in the silence before the music, a heckler in
the last row shouts, "Clara Bee Weatherwax is a 25-cent whore!"
Addie pulls the microphone down again:
27 HOURS TO THE FIGHT Cosmic forces have thrown together, in a
space the size of a phone booth, Don King, Al Sharpton and
Rodney Dangerfield. At high decibels and without the use of
commas, King explains how the Tyson-Holyfield fight is causing
"radio waves of love cherishment and brotherhood" to fly back
and forth between the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower.
Sharpton, nearly as voluble, remarks on Scripture and boxing.
Dangerfield's eyes bug out. "Speak up, fellas," he says. "I can
hardly hear you."
20 HOURS TO THE FIGHT There are two uniforms in a Tyson crowd:
that of the Tyson Girl and that of the Tyson Guy.
The Tyson Girl is usually outfitted in a chartreuse stretch mini
with matching stilt heels and a little purse. The heels are
usually longer than the dress.
The Tyson Guy is right out of Guys and Dolls, which means his
uniform is just the opposite of the Tyson Girl's: The more
material the better. High-button vests go over silk shirts, and
high-button jackets go over the high-button vests. Sometimes a
lavish cape is added, and a bowler. All in various shades of
neon. The Tyson Guy holds a cell phone in one hand and a bottle
of Dom Perignon ($200 per in the MGM's Betty Boop bar) in the
All of which makes Vegas clothiers very happy. "This fight,"
says a haberdasher at the Fashion Show Mall, "will save our June."
16 HOURS TO THE FIGHT To say this bout will be held in Las Vegas
is to say it will be held nowhere and everywhere. Las Vegas is
the only town in the world where you can pass the Statue of
Liberty (at the new New York, New York hotel), the Pyramids (the
Luxor), the Caribbean (Treasure Island) and, coming soon, the
Eiffel Tower (the still-under-construction Paris Las Vegas) and
the canals of Venice (the 6,600-room Venetian), all for a $6 cab
Vegas isn't about the surface being more important that the
substance. There is no substance. Nor much sentimentality. This
is a town that took its most legendary hotel, the Sands (of Rat
Pack fame), and blew it up for the entertainment of tourists.
That's why the backdrop of a Tyson fight does not last in your
memory. When Muhammad Ali fought George Foreman in Zaire, there
was a sense of place attached to the bout. But nothing really
lasts in Las Vegas.
6 HOURS TO THE FIGHT J.J. Casper, 5'10", blonde, blue-eyed,
rose-lipped and only a little curvier than Vail Pass, is
preparing to carry the round cards for the main event. We ask
her to describe the perfect card-girl walk. "First of all, don't
trip," Casper says. "Walk heel to toe, not toe to heel. No ankle
movement. Arch your back and hold the card up high. Remember
that the four-inch heels will get everything moving that needs
to be moving. And the Number 1 rule is, Never make eye contact
with the fighter. If you make eye contact with the fighter, it
may break his concentration. I've seen it. They look up, and
they're done for."
Hmmm. Maybe that's what happened.
2 HOURS TO THE FIGHT No sporting event on earth pulls in as many
celebrities as a Tyson fight. To name just the one-name
luminaries who crowd the guest list for the oh-so-very-fabulous
prefight party thrown by Showtime, which is producing the
pay-per-view telecast: Demi, John-John, Madonna, Mel, Shaq, Sly,
Tiger, Wesley and Whitney. There are also the nearly
one-name-famous: Christian (Slater), Dennis (Rodman), Eddie
(Murphy), Jenny (McCarthy), Kevin (Costner) and Nicolas (Cage).
But having so many celebrities intermingle often makes for
tortured conversation. For instance, there is this:
Roseanne: "Well, too bad you were on the wrong side of the O.J.
Bald man: "I was?"
Roseanne: "Aren't you Robert Shapiro?"
Bald man: "No, I'm Dick Vitale."
Then there is this:
ESPN's Chris Meyer: "So, do you actually change your baby's
Madonna (drily): "No, I never see the kid. I'm always out
singing and dancing."
15 MINUTES TO THE FIGHT There is a feeling of dread among the
fans at ringside: Shaq hasn't sat down yet. When he does, the
fans fear, somebody's $1,500 view ($12,000 if bought from a
scalper) is going to be mostly of the back of Shaq's gigantic
head and white golf cap.
The Showtime people have thought of this. Wisely, they have put
Shaq in the last row before the stands begin sailing upward.
Unfortunately the chair is too small for him. He kneels. It is
not a great hardship. The fight will last only 14 minutes.
THE BELL At long last, the most exciting moment in sports is
here. That's when the entourages and card girls and anthem
singers and fight promoters and cameramen and hype and bluster
get out of the ring and leave only three men.
Unfortunately, one of them has a very hungry look in his eye.
9 MINUTES INTO THE FIGHT Tyson gets a lot done in the third
round. He lands one overhand and one straight right, two nice
lefts, two bites and one shove; disqualifies himself from the
most important fight of his life; swings at a cop who is
blocking his way to Holyfield in the crowded ring; destroys any
chance he has of getting another shot at the heavyweight
championship; and erases any doubt people might have had about
exactly what atrocities he is capable of. The upside is, his
bridgework holds nicely.
5 MINUTES AFTER THE FIGHT Tyson makes his way out of the arena.
Two men in suits who had screamed for him as he entered, who had
even held up a homemade sign supporting him as he made his way
to the ring, are now screaming bloody murder at him, booing with
the thousands of others who are booing. The two fans throw cups
of soda at Tyson.
Tyson looks up. He screams at the two men and begins to try to
climb the scaffolding to get to them, even though they must be
30 feet up. He gets nowhere, but police are already on their way
to the two fans. They tackle the men, cuff and arrest them. A
rumor sweeps through the arena that one of the fans is Dallas
Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith. He isn't.
20 MINUTES AFTER THE FIGHT Evander (the Real Meal) Holyfield
enters his dressing room, followed shortly by his ear. It
arrives in the company of Mitch Libonati, a ring cleaner. He was
sure he saw Tyson spit it out in the third round, so when all
the brawlers had finally been cleared, he walked to the middle
of the canvas and found it, the
three-quarter-inch-by-one-quarter-inch tip of what the
heavyweight champ once hung his sunglasses on. Libonati wrapped
it in a latex glove and took it to the door of Holyfield's
"What?" says the security guard.
"I have something Evander probably wants," Libonati says,
holding out his offering. The Holyfield camp takes it and thanks
him. This is recorded as the first time in Las Vegas hotel
history that an employee came to a door and left a tip.
25 MINUTES AFTER THE FIGHT Holyfield climbs into an ambulance
with paramedics and his strength and conditioning trainer, Tim
Hallmark. The paramedics pack the glove in a plastic bag and
bury it in an ice chest. But when Holyfield arrives at Valley
Hospital Medical Center, nobody can find the glove.
"There were a lot of gloves and bags in there, and we were
digging through them, and we just couldn't find it," says
Hallmark. Doctors sew Holyfield up as best they can. Some
cosmetic surgery will have to come later.
You just pray that later this summer, at the annual Las Vegas
Ambulance Drivers family picnic, somebody doesn't reach into the
cooler for the hot dogs and pull out a chunk of boxing history
30 MINUTES AFTER THE FIGHT The Range Rover in which Tyson is
riding is blocked by a limo. This gives fans behind the Grand
Garden Arena a moment to scream a few things at Tyson. One fan
calls him a chump. This causes Tyson to go triple O.J. He
unrolls the window and threatens to kill the guy, and it seems
like he's about to jump out and snack on the guy's extremities
when the limo backs up and the Rover peels off. The screamer
looks as if he's seen his ears pass before his eyes.
3 HOURS AFTER THE FIGHT Bob the cabbie turns out to be a seer.
In a wild night at the MGM Grand's casino, a huge, sharp pop
causes a human stampede to the doors. Some people say guns were
waved. Some say the pop was a shot. Some say it was only a
champagne bottle that fell out of a Tyson Guy's uniform,
smashing on the floor and causing itchy patrons to expect the
worst: more East-West gang payback.
Mark West, the 7-foot center of the Cleveland Cavaliers, is in
the middle of it. "Everyone just started running like crazy," he
says later. "I found a place to sit down. When you're as tall as
me, a stampede is trouble."
A Las Vegas Metro Police spokesman says there is no evidence of
a shooting; witnesses repeat that they saw guns waved. Forty
injured people are taken to local hospitals. Thirty-nine are
treated and released; one stays behind with a shattered ankle.
On the casino's richest night of the year, most of it must close
down for almost three hours, costing a small fortune. The MGM
Grand has one more fight on its contract with Tyson. MGM
officials do a very good job of hiding their delight.
Ambulances, fire trucks and police come and go, but no taxis are
allowed in. Guests and visitors are stranded in the hotel.
Guests don't have much to do except go to their rooms and order
room service, which takes two hours to arrive. "I tell you
something," says my room-service guy when he finally shows up.
"I don't think this hotel wants Mr. Tyson to come back here."
4 HOURS AFTER THE FIGHT Holyfield, the Van Gogh of the fight
game, and his physician wife, Janice, are walking out of the
hospital. Evander's head resembles a used pinata. The Holyfields
will head home to Atlanta in the morning on a private jet.
As they walk, Janice finds a bluebird in all of this. "Well,
honey," she says, "I'll bet your Web site is busy tonight."
THE MORNING AFTER In the arena's basement, workers are setting
up for the hotel's next event: World Championship Wrestling.
Thank god. Civilization.