Be Unlike Mike

May 28, 2006

There are twoways to be heavyweight champion of the world.

You can do it theMike Tyson way: Surround yourself with mooks and thugs, guys who would ratherdance Swan Lake than say "no" to you about anything. Blow millionsfilling seven-car garages, sleeping under sable bedspreads and feeding your petwhite tigers. Harass and molest your groupies.

Or you can do itthe Wladimir Klitschko way. The current IBF champion, Klitschko is so lame hedoesn't even have a posse. He has a Ph.D., a jones for chess and there arestuffed Easter bunnies on the lawn of the place where he stays in L.A. Hedoesn't even munch ears. Single, he doesn't sleep with his groupies, mostlybecause he doesn't have any.

An actualconversation Klitschko had at a bar one night in L.A.:

Woman: What doyou do?

Wlad: I travelvery much.

Woman: But whatdo you do?

Wlad: I ampugilist.

Woman: What'sthat?

Wlad: I dopugilistica.

Woman: Ohhhh.That sounds very smart.

Finding peoplewho don't know him is easy. Throw a bucket of birdseed in any bar and you'llhit 50 of them. So far, on this May Wednesday in L.A., we've been to Gold's Gymin Venice, a café in Pacific Palisades and stopped for a few hundred redlights, and not one person has asked for his autograph or so much as honked ahorn at him.

Tyson, meanwhile,hasn't beaten a decent opponent in 10 years, yet was in London the other dayand had to run for his life from people who wanted to touch him. Of course,people wanted to touch Al Capone, too.

Klitschko, 30,wants your attention only long enough to practice his magic tricks. And even ifhe picks a card that isn't yours, you say it is. Have you ever seen this beast?He's 6'6", with hands the size of toaster ovens, shoulders that scrape bothsides of doorways and a scowl in the ring that would make a Soprano hand overhis wallet.

Not that Tysoncan't do magic. He made $400 million disappear pretty quick. Like Klitschko, hekicks around Los Angeles, too, only a lot less joyfully. Saw him at Mr. Chow'sthe other night, head down in his noodles, never looking up, talking to nobodyat his table. He is a hollow figure these days, trying to scare up appearancemoney, reality-show offers, or ads, and mostly failing.

He still has theTyson way, though, offering to eat other fighters' children and such. Not thatlong ago he insisted that he didn't rape teenager Desiree Washington in1991--although he did three years of striped sunshine for it--but he said thewhole episode made him so mad, "I wish I did." Classy.

Klitschko,meanwhile, doesn't want to eat people's kids. He wants to teach them. He is atireless spokesman for UNESCO--United Nations Educational, Scientific andCultural Organization--and its work in developing countries, and he's going toAfrica later this year to help again.

That's the rip onKlitschko. He needs more Tyson, more savagery. "They say of me, 'No heart,no chin, no balls,'" Klitschko says. "I want to give an answer with myperformance, not with the words. Words do not mean anything."

He convinced somepeople with his outpatient surgery on Chris Byrd last month to win the title.Now he wants a fight this fall at Madison Square Garden. "I work on liningup an opponent every day now."

Yeah, that'sright--Klitschko even acts as his own promoter and manager. Do you realize howmuch money Tyson would have today if he'd have been his own manager andpromoter? He wouldn't have had to sell his houses in Las Vegas, Ohio andConnecticut. His lawyers wouldn't be negotiating with the IRS to whittle downthe millions he owes. Not that Tyson can pay the reduced figure, either.

Poor Klitschko.He's completely clueless about how to be a champ. He has this crazy notionabout saving his money instead of giving it to Don King. Growing up in Ukraine,he dreamed of American riches for too long to blow it now. One time, a familymember brought back a bottle of Coke from America. Klitschko's eyes went aswide as Frisbees. "There's U.S. air in that!" he yelled. He put hisface over the top, flipped the cap and sucked in, smiling hugely. Wlad theInhaler.

Of 100 people, 99will know Tyson and one will know Klitschko. Personally, I am more grateful toknow Klitschko, a good man whose right hand is huge and whose heart is evenbigger.

And I think: Notmore Tyson, less.

• If you have acomment for Rick Reilly, send it to reilly@siletters.com.

RIFFS of REILLY

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Klitschko doesn't want to eat people's kids. He wantsto teach them. He's a tireless spokesman for UNESCO's work, and he's going toAfrica later this year to help again.

PHOTOPETER READ MILLER

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)