Freddie Roach thought he was turning Iron Mike around. But as the
fight fell apart, he learned what many other spit-bucket guys
know: Training Tyson is the most thankless job in sports
Of the dozen trainers Iron Mike Tyson has employed during his
18-year career, few have lasted long and none have left happily.
They wind up getting either dumped, banished, marginalized,
verbally battered or all of the above. Only Trainer No. 1, Cus
D'Amato, bowed out with dignity intact, and he had to die to gain
It isn't easy trying to harness the power of an entity only
slightly less stable than nitroglycerin. And yet last week in Las
Vegas, Freddie Roach, Trainer No. 12, said he was thankful for
the chance to be preparing the faded 36-year-old ex-champ for a
scheduled Feb. 22 bout with Clifford Etienne in Memphis. "The
challenge is to bring Mike back to something like what he once
was," said Roach, who'd spent seven weeks trying to iron out
Mike's kinks. "The challenge is to get inside his head."
Even as he spoke, though, Roach was realizing that Tyson's head
is not a place that's easily broached. Last Wednesday, Tyson
showed up to train with a tattoo etched over the left side of his
face and complained about back pain. (Asked if the tattoo hurt,
Tyson, an authority in these matters, said, "No, there's not too
many nerves in your face.") On Thursday and Friday, Tyson didn't
show up at all. Nor did he respond to a dozen phone messages from
Roach. As rumors that Tyson was on a partying binge and suffering
a "mental meltdown" circulated, Roach sat in the dark. "Mike went
from being a great guy to somebody who withdrew into a shell,"
Roach said on Friday. "I'd heard all the horror stories, but this
is just crazy."
In some ways it was just business as usual. It's not that Tyson's
trainers aren't credible; it's that to get to him they must wade
though a sea of flunkies. "If, by chance, a trainer reaches
Mike," says one veteran cornerman, "he's faced with a guy who's
not a model of rationality."
Roach was supposed to be different, a mild, gritty ex-pug who has
trained 16 world champions and would go toe-to-toe for what he
believed. "Freddie was a world-class fighter who put his whole
heart into the game," says trainer Joe Goossen. "If you don't, he
lets you know."
Roach, 42, joined Team Tyson on Dec. 26 after agreeing to a
$150,000 fee--a substandard 5% of Tyson's $3 million purse. If
there was no fight, there would be no pay. He left the stable of
19 pros he trains at his L.A. gym, moved in with his mother in
Vegas and set to work. Tyson had been out of the ring since June,
when he was knocked out by Lennox Lewis in eight rounds. "Mike
boxed for the first three minutes," Roach says. "Then he gave
Roach hoped that that humiliation would make Tyson train
diligently. And for a while the fighter did, meeting Roach for
roadwork at 5:30 a.m., showing up for every workout, scrapping
his entourage. He even reperfected the left jab--pivot--left
hook, a combination he used in the late 1980s when he was
training with Kevin Rooney. "I was getting through to Mike,"
Roach insists. "He obeyed my orders."
A moment of truth came one day during a sparring session. In the
final round, Tyson suddenly bent over and vomited. "After Mike
was done puking, I told him to finish the round," recalls Roach.
"He glared at me and said, 'F--- you.' I said, 'No, f--- you, Mike.
Let's finish.'" Tyson did. "If you let Mike be the bully, he
will," Roach says. "Don't give Mike control, and he'll give you
For a while, maybe. On Sunday and Monday, while promoters debated
whether to cancel the fight, Roach knew less about Tyson's status
than a fan browsing the Web. Finally, Roach reached Tyson, who
told him he had the flu and planned to pull out. The fight was
dead. Roach would receive nothing. Then Tyson mumbled a few words
of thanks and hung up. --Franz Lidz
Time for a Meltdown
Why the NHL must contract
Player-owner Mario Lemieux didn't try to sugarcoat the deal. His
cash-strapped Penguins essentially sold their leading goal
scorer, Alexei Kovalev, to the Rangers last week for $4 million
and four low-priced players, and no, Lemieux admitted, this was
not about putting Pittsburgh in a better position for a playoff
run. The Rangers' money and the shedding of Kovalev's $4.6
million salary would keep the team out of bankruptcy, Lemieux
explained, and the Penguins would now try to get by with a
defense-first philosophy. Offensive stars such as Kovalev and
Jaromir Jagr--who was dealt to the Capitals for three prospects
in 2001--cost too much for the Penguins; guys who can play a
little D come cheaper. For Pittsburgh, it's the end of an era.
Another era needs to end as well: the 30-team one. The growth
spurt of the 1990s, which added nine NHL franchises in nine
years, briefly filled the league's coffers with expansion fees
(each new club paid $70 million to get in) and resulted in
short-term success in new markets such as Anaheim, Atlanta and
Nashville. But as the novelty has worn off in those cities, so
have the profits. The gap between the hockey strongholds (New
York, Toronto, Detroit) and the fair-weather friends has widened
to a chasm, and teams are falling in. The Sabres and the Senators
declared bankruptcy this season. More than a dozen others say
they're losing money. And salary-dump trades like the Kovalev
deal have become so routine that NHL vice president Bill Daly
calls them "a fact of life in this league."
In the overexpanded NHL, 12 clubs draw less than 85% of capacity,
and 15 have seen a drop in ticket sales from last year. That's
crippling for a league that divides a relatively meager $120
million annual TV contract with ESPN/ABC 30 ways. Yet somehow
commissioner Gary Bettman keeps a straight face while insisting,
"These are all good markets."
Bettman would be better off acknowledging the league's woes and
working on a solution that would euthanize at least four teams.
With players competing for fewer jobs, and fewer clubs bidding on
free agents, smaller-market teams could lower their overhead, and
the concentration of talent would lead to more excitement on the
ice. In 1990--91, the last year of the NHL's Original 21, teams
averaged 6.91 goals per game. This year it's 5.30. "There might
be more talent out there than ever," says one general manager,
"but it's so spread out." The NHL is finding out that too much of
something is even worse than too little. --Stephen Cannella
113 Career best-in-show awards for Mick, a 6 1/2-year-old Kerry
blue terrier, who won his latest at last week's Westminster
Kennel Club Dog Show.
18,000 Alexei Kovalev bobblehead dolls to be distributed at the
March 6 Hurricanes-Penguins game, even though the former Penguins
winger was traded to the Rangers last week.
20,578 Attendance at the Wizards-Clippers game on Feb. 12, the
largest crowd ever to attend a pro basketball game in Southern
1--35 Nuggets record this season when opponents score 83 points
138.9 million. Final U.S. viewership for Super Bowl XXXVII, the
most-watched TV program ever, surpassing Super Bowl XXX, which
drew 138.5 million.
0.85 Percentage of U.S. cable-television households that have
tuned in to ESPN's bowling coverage this year--a higher
percentage than ESPN's audience for the NHL, LPGA, WNBA or IRL.
17 years, 111 days Age of striker Wayne Rooney, the youngest
player to represent England in soccer.
1,417 Strikeouts for Randy Johnson in his 1,031 innings with the
FOR THE RECORD
In his sleep on his 96th birthday, Johnny Longden, the only
man to have both ridden and trained a Kentucky Derby winner. Born
in England and raised in Canada, where he developed a push-pull
style with the reins that earned him the nickname the Pumper,
Longden rode Count Fleet to a Triple Crown in 1943. After
retiring from riding in '66 with 6,032 wins--then the alltime
record--Longden took up training and in '69 won the roses at
Churchill Downs with Majestic Prince.
Of a heart attack, Kid Gavilan, 77, a welterweight champ from
1951 to '54. Born Gerardo Gonzalez in Camaguey, Cuba, where he
began fighting at age 10 for purses of bread and guava paste,
Gavilan turned pro in '43 and went 107-30-6 over 15 years. Famous
for his sambalike shuffling and bolo punch--a quasi uppercut that
mimicked the movements of Cuba's sugarcane harvesters--the flashy
fighter captivated U.S. fans. Gavilan even moved up in class to
beat Jake LaMotta and win the middleweight title vacated by Ray
Robinson. He retired to Havana in '58 but fled to Miami 10 years
later after Fidel Castro, infuriated that Gavilan preached for
Jehovah's Witnesses, seized his home. Plagued by memory loss,
Gavilan spent the final years of his life in an assisted-care
facility in Hialeah, Fla. He was, says boxing historian Bert
Sugar, "one of the heroes in the golden era of Friday-night
A motion for a new trial, hockey dad Thomas Junta, who in
January 2002 was sentenced to six-to-10 years in prison for the
fatal beating of another father during a dispute at their sons'
hockey practice (SI, July 24, 2000). Junta, who's in a
correctional institute in Concord, Mass., claims the prosecution
failed to disclose that medical examiner Stanton C. Kessler, who
testified against him, had said at a forensics conference that
the injuries suffered by Michael Costin, the slain father, could
have resulted from a minor scuffle. Junta's lawyers claim
Kessler's testimony made Junta's attack appear more vicious than
By Washington Huskies coach Rick Neuheisel, that he had
repeatedly lied when denying that he'd interviewed for the 49ers'
coaching job, which went to Dennis Erickson. Neuheisel, who said
he had been honoring a confidentiality agreement with the 49ers,
came clean after a Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist reported
overhearing Neuheisel discussing the interview on his cellphone.
The coach says he finally told the truth out of concern for his
credibility--which his peers had questioned even before this
incident. At its annual meeting last month the American Football
Coaches Association censured Neuheisel and put him on one year's
probation for "showing very little remorse" about the 51
recruiting violations that the NCAA found while he coached
Colorado between 1995 and '98.
Steve Bechler 1979--2003
Of apparent multiple organ failure due to heatstroke,
Orioles righthander Steve Bechler, 23. Bechler complained of
dizziness and collapsed during a running drill on Sunday on a
field in Fort Lauderdale, where the temperature was 81° and the
humidity was 74%. He was given oxygen and intravenous fluids,
then taken to a nearby medical center, where he was admitted into
intensive care. He died on Monday morning; an autopsy was
scheduled for Tuesday. Bechler, listed at 6'2", 239 pounds, had a
13.50 ERA and no record in three games with Baltimore last
As a professional in his signature event, Alan Webb, who
two years ago set a schoolboy record in the mile when he ran
3:53.43 for Reston, Virginia's South Lakes High. Webb, 20, who
last June left Michigan after a disappointing freshman season to
sign a six-year endorsement contract with Nike worth $250,000
annually, finished third in a 10man field last Saturday at New
York City's Armory Collegiate Invitational.
Coming off a month in New Mexico, his first extended training at
altitude, Webb said on Friday that he felt stronger than ever.
For the better part of Saturday's race he looked that way, too.
Webb paced the pack before being overtaken by James Thie, 24, an
unheralded Welshman, and Kenya's Eliud Njubi, 23, on the
backstretch. Thie's winning time was 3:57.71. "I tried to break
'em with two laps to go and paid for it with 50 meters left,"
said Webb, who finished in 3:59.42. "I can handle any pace, but I
need to be more aware of what's going on at the end."
Webb, who was widely hailed as the future of American
middle-distance running when he shattered Jim Ryun's 36-year-old
high school mile mark at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore.,
on May 27, 2001, had hoped for a better result on Saturday. But
he did turn in an indoor personal-best performance, an impressive
feat given his eight-month layoff from major competition.
Relieved to have his first professional mile behind him, Webb
returned to Reston, where he will work out with his former high
school coach Scott Raczko and study economics at nearby George
Mason. He wants to focus on racing tactics before facing a tough
field at the Indoor Nationals in Boston from Feb. 28 to March 2.
"My legs are there," says Webb. "I'm getting my head there,
too." --Kelley King
A Silent Witness
The death of booster Ed Martin weakens the case against Chris
Federal prosecutors have long believed they had Chris Webber
cold. From the moment he appeared before a grand jury in August
2000, the government was convinced he had lied about gifts and
money from infamous University of Michigan booster Ed Martin.
Last September they charged him with perjury. But Martin's death
last week at 69, apparently from a pulmonary embolism, will make
life difficult should the Feds go ahead and prosecute the former
Michigan and current Kings star in July.
Martin's testimony was "vital" to the government's case against
Webber, according to Martin's lawyer, Bill Mitchell III. Also,
Martin's earlier statements to a grand jury about his dealings
with Webber might be inadmissable. Under the Sixth Amendment,
Webber must be allowed to confront his accuser, and although a
federal evidence code allows for a hearsay exception, the chances
are slim that Martin's words will make it to trial. According to
a top federal prosecutor not involved in the case, "[The case]
has become much more of a paper trail."
Luckily for the government, there is plenty of paper. A
beefed-up, 45-page indictment filed on Jan. 17--the original
indictment was only 10 pages--lists a series of what prosecutors
believe are verifiable transactions between Martin and Webber,
including the gift of a stereo, payment for a "medical procedure
for a girlfriend," rent on an apartment and work on a car. Webber
denied before the grand jury that Martin paid for any of those.
Prosecutors and Webber's attorneys had no comment on how their
cases might be affected by the death of Martin, who pleaded
guilty, in May 2002, to conspiracy to launder money and was
awaiting sentencing. Lately Martin had been sick and had little
money, a far cry from the man who once cruised Detroit in a
Mercedes, dressed in a fur coat, handing out pastries and shoes
to kids, Webber among them. "The only thing of any value he had
left was his story," Mitchell said. Now prosecutors will struggle
to tell Martin's story without him. --George Dohrmann
GOING FOR THE JOGGLER
Think you're good at multitasking? Check out Chris Essick, 31,
who lowered the 200-meter indoor joggling record at a meet in
Storm Lake, Iowa, last Saturday. Essick, a former decathlete at
Missouri Valley College joggled--yep, it's juggling while you
jog--the 200 in 27.75 seconds, thus adding to his world bests in
the outdoor 200 (26.16) and 400 (56.9). "It's difficult because
you can't propel yourself with your arms. It's all legs," Essick
says. "We try to keep it on a pro level. We don't want to come
out as a circus act, no big shoes, no red nose." Essick, who
coaches junior high track in Branson, Mo., hopes to break his
records at the World Joggling Championships this July in Reno.
The event is held by the International Juggling Association,
which, to Essick's chagrin, has reservations at the Circus Circus
hotel. --Melissa Segura
ON THE STUMP WITH ... BULLS GREAT BOB LOVE
Bob Love won't stop talking. When the former Bulls All-Star isn't
making one of his six or seven weekly speeches as the team's
director of community affairs, he's working the streets as a
rookie politician. Chicago's second-leading alltime scorer
(behind you-know-who) is among the candidates vying to become the
South Side's 15th Ward alderman, on Feb. 25. The running of this
Bull is amazing, considering that he once stuttered so badly he
couldn't do interviews and that eight years after his career
ended, he was making $4.75 an hour as a busboy and dishwasher in
a Seattle cafe.
Though he earned as much as $105,000 a year in his 11 seasons
with the Bulls, Cincinnati Royals, Knicks and SuperSonics, Love's
life fell apart quickly after his retirement in 1977. While
living in Seattle in the mid-1980s, he needed back surgery, which
put him on crutches; doctors said he might never again walk
correctly. Shortly afterward his wife left him, taking all the
money in their joint bank account, he says, and leaving a note
that read, "I don't want to be married to a stutterer and a
That led him to the job in the cafe at Nordstrom's, where John
Nordstrom, head of the store, offered to pay for speech therapy.
Love accepted, and a year and a half later he had his stutter
under control. Nordstrom put him in charge of health and
sanitation for the store's 150 cafes. In 1991 Bulls chairman
Jerry Reinsdorf heard about Love's progress and brought him back
to handle community relations for the franchise, a job that Love
says inspired a desire to run for office.
Although Love has endured charges from political rivals who say
he spends too much time away from the South Side, his name
recognition makes him a serious threat in the alderman's race.
Even if he doesn't get elected, Love will still feel like a
winner. As he said on the Today show last week, "For me to be
here this morning and utter one word to you without stuttering
makes me the happiest person in the world. It's a dream come
true." --Kelvin C. Bias
THE WEEK IN TELEVISION
SATURDAY 2/22 > ESPN 2 PM > No. 14 Xavier at No. 25 Dayton
On Feb. 8, in arguably the greatest single-game performance in
Atlantic 10 history, Xavier's David West had 47 points and 18
rebounds in an 85--77 win over Dayton.
SUNDAY 2/23 >CSTV 2 PM> Notre Dame at No. 1 Connecticut
College Sports Television, the first network devoted exclusively
to college sports, debuts with a prime women's hoops matchup.
SUNDAY 2/23 >CBS 4 PM > No. 6 Kansas at No. 5 Oklahoma
The Jayhawks are 16--2 in their last 18 games, but winning at
Lloyd Noble Center--where the Sooners have won 34 straight--is
SUNDAY 2/23 > ESPN 8:30 PM> Rangers at Avalanche or Blues at Wild
The Avs, who had a recent 10-game unbeaten streak, try to damage
the high-priced Rangers' slim playoff hopes; the Wild's taut
defense gets tested by the potent Blues.
THURSDAY 2/27 >TNT 9:30 PM> Kings at Mavericks
Early this month in Dallas, the Kings held on for a one-point win
as Dirk Nowitzki missed a 15-footer at the buzzer. What can these
division leaders do for an encore?
THURSDAY 2/27 >HISTORY CHANNEL 8 PM > Stories from the Hall of
Profiles of Sugar Ray Leonard, Larry Holmes and Ray Robinson,
>> DON'T miss
MONDAY 2/24> ESPN> 9 PM>
Texas Tech at Oklahoma State
The coaching battle between OSU's Eddie Sutton (far right) and
Bob Knight (right) is so intriguing, we fear that hype-happy Dick
Vitale may injure himself trying to convey the specialness of it
all. The winner takes a 5--4 lead in a series between coaches who
have nearly 1,500 wins combined.
--Wide World of McKay
He never called a Super Bowl, a Stanley Cup final or a World
Series, but Jim McKay has been the most important sports
broadcaster not named Cosell. As host of ABC's Wide World of
Sports for nearly 30 years beginning in 1961, he spanned the
globe to introduce us to a variety of rarely seen sports--the
Grand Prix of Monaco, cliff diving in Acapulco, barrel jumping at
Grossinger, N.Y.'s falls--that mesmerized viewers and begat the
action sports mania of today. He also hosted 12 Olympics, and at
the 1972 Games in Munich he delivered the news that 11 Israeli
athletes had been killed by terrorists. "When I was a kid, my
father used to say our greatest hopes and our worst fears are
seldom realized," McKay told ABC viewers. "Our worst fears have
been realized tonight.... They're all gone." His 56-year career
is the subject of Jim McKay: My World in My Words, a rich
documentary premiering on Feb. 24 on HBO at 10 p.m. McKay, a
former Baltimore Evening Sun reporter, wrote and narrated the
piece, which is filled with Wide World footage (McKay traveled
some 4 1/2 million miles for the show) and interviews with those
he covered (Olga Korbut) and worked with (Walter Cronkite, Peter
Jennings). At a screening in New York City last week, McKay, 81,
seemed awed by his own accomplishments. "How many people in the
world could ever have had a lifetime like that?" he said.
Whether or not you agree with his harsh assessment of Annika
Sorenstam's prospects at the PGA Tour's Colonial, at least CBS
golf analyst Lanny Wadkins wasn't afraid to speak his mind. "I
just don't think she can compete," Wadkins said during last
Saturday's coverage of the Buick Invitational. "I don't think
that her game in any way, shape or form matches the top players
on our Tour." --R.D.
SPUR OF THE MOMENT The hoopla surrounding Michael Jordan's
farewell tour has obscured the final go-around for another of the
NBA's 50 Greatest Players, San Antonio center David Robinson.
Robinson's finest single-game performance was on April 24, 1994,
when he scored 71 points against the Clippers. Who has the most
points in an NBA game since then?
a. Kobe Bryant c. Shaquille O'Neal
b. Michael Jordan d. Glen Rice
DOUBLE DUTY As a senior at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1987,
Robinson won the Naismith Award as the nation's best college
basketball player. He later won the 1994--95 NBA Most Valuable
Player award. Who is the last player to earn both accolades?
THIS WEEK'S MATCHUP After graduating from Annapolis, Robinson
served two years in the Navy. Pair these other athletes with the
branch of the U.S. military in which they served.
1. Mike Anderson a. Army
2. Joe Louis b. Navy
3. Chad Hennings c. Air Force
4. Stan Musial d. Marines
CALL TO ORDER Robinson was the first pick of the 1987 draft. Rank
these players in the order they were selected that year.
a. Muggsy Bogues c. Reggie Miller
b. Mark Jackson d. Kenny Smith
SPUR OF THE MOMENT: c. Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal had 61
points, also against the Clippers, on March 6, 2000.
DOUBLE DUTY: Tim Duncan won the Naismith Award as a senior at
Wake Forest in 1997. He was the NBA MVP last season as Robinson's
teammate with the Spurs.
THIS WEEK'S MATCHUP: 1. d; 2. a ; 3. c ; 4. b
CALL TO ORDER: Smith (sixth, to the Kings); Miller (11th, to the
Pacers); Bogues (12th, to the Bullets); Jackson (18th, to the
Webber." --A SILENT WITNESS, PAGE 26