Tyson Running Out of Time,second Chances

Friday, July 30th 2004, 6:10 am
By: News On 6

LOUISVILLE, KY. (AP) _ Mike Tyson is running out of time and second chances.

He returns to the ring Friday night broke, aging and in desperate need of a win to help repay creditors and rebuild the $300 million fortune he somehow managed to squander.

Tyson does it in Muhammad Ali's hometown against a British heavyweight by the name of Danny Williams, who seems to understand that he was chosen because he works cheap and poses little threat to the former baddest man on the planet.

He does it knowing that time is running out, and both his legacy and financial health are at stake.

``My future seems so much brighter than my past,'' Tyson said. ``I'm a different person today.''

Tyson is also a different fighter from the man who once terrorized the heavyweight division in the late 1980s. He's thicker, slower and still making a living from those who remember him as the most intimidating fighter ever.

Those days, though, are long gone. At 38, he's a shell of the fighter he once was, reduced to taking on fringe contenders while hoping he still has something left _ and that fans still care enough to pay to see it.

Even Williams is curious to find out the answer.

``I don't believe he's the threat he once was,'' Williams said.

The return is hardly a calculated one. Tyson blew through millions and now owes $38 million to creditors. He hasn't fought in 17 months, but now must fight again because he has no money left.

``I didn't think I was going to fight again,'' Tyson said. ``I wanted to be like Ricky Williams and have some fun.''

The fun stopped when creditors took his cars, made him sell his multimillion-dollar houses and reduced Tyson to caring for his pigeons in a modest Phoenix home. But Tyson insists that while he's fighting again because of necessity, he has also rediscovered a love for the sport.

Now, it's a new, mellower Tyson who has no entourage, shows no public anger and appears genuinely happy to be back in the ring.

``I'm just looking forward to fighting Friday,'' Tyson said. ``Isn't it cool to be fighting Friday?''

Tyson, who has been in the ring only 49 seconds since taking a beating from Lennox Lewis two years ago, trained three months for the scheduled 10-round fight.

Unlike his last fight against Clifford Etienne, when he partied during training and then took a week off before the fight to get a facial tattoo, Tyson claimed to be taking this comeback seriously.

That didn't show at Thursday's weigh-in, when Tyson weighed 233 pounds, one less than when he was stopped by Lennox Lewis but seven more than against Etienne. Williams weighed 265 pounds.

Tyson will earn several million dollars for the 57th fight of a pro career that began 19 years ago with a first-round knockout of Hector Mercedes in Albany, N.Y. If his bankruptcy reorganization plan is approved by a judge, he'll be able to keep $2 million of it while the rest goes to creditors.

According to the plan, Tyson must fight often in the next two years to pay off his debts, and his handlers are making plans to do just that. Assuming he wins, he's supposed to fight in late September or October and then once more before the year is over.

Promoter Bob Arum is negotiating with Tyson's manager for a series of three fights that Arum claims can make Tyson at least $100 million if he wins them all.

That's huge money for a fighter who hasn't held a title in eight years, and, arguably, hasn't beaten a top-rated fighter since he was in his prime 16 years ago. But Tyson is still marketable, no matter what he has done in the ring.

First, though, Tyson (50-4, two no contests, 44 knockouts) must get past Williams, who has fought in America only once and is 1-1 against Julius Francis, a British fighter Tyson knocked out in the second round a few years ago.

Williams is 31-3 with 26 knockouts, but has never fought a name opponent or top contender. Still, Tyson will have ring rust after his long layoff and hasn't exactly been beating household names recently, either.

``I believe Tyson will charge right out at me,'' Williams said. ``You've got to stand up to him and give it back to him. You can't run off and be scared.''

The fight at Freedom Hall is being bankrolled by a local money man, and promoted by a local promoter with no big fight experience. Estimates of ticket sales fluctuate wildly every day, but those involved with the fight acknowledge that ringside ticket prices of $1,500 scared many buyers away.

Still, Tyson remains enough of an attraction to draw 5,000 people to a lunchtime workout at a local entertainment complex, and the fight is expected to generate modest pay-per-view sales at a suggested price of $44.95.