Boxing's marriage of convenience on rocks

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 March, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 March, 1998, 12:00am

Is Don King really the Prince of Thieves? 'Iron' Mike Tyson says so but given his track (read prison) record he's not exactly the most believable of accusers.

Tyson-King was a match made in the hell of the Indiana State Prison where the former was serving time for rape.

King, the fast-talking boxing promoter, convinced Tyson, the slow-witted pugilist, that he should sign exclusive deals for his future fights to be staged at the MGM Grand Hotel and broadcast on Showtime Networks pay-per-view channel.

Like most marriages, there was an immensely satisfying honeymoon period. Tyson, all of a sudden a holier-than-thou figure outside the ring, soon regained his heavyweight title with a typically aggressive first-round victory over Bruce Seldon.

Tyson was happy. King was elated.

Then along came Evander Holyfield in 1996 and made Tyson look very ordinary as he thumped him to take the heavyweight crown.

Tyson was angry. King was worried.

The wolf of old started to shed his sheep's clothing and there were run-ins with the authorities.

Tyson, it seemed, was finding it difficult to stay on the rails.

When he eventually did derail, it was shockingly brutal.

In his re-match with Holyfield last year he took a bite out of his opponent's ears and was disqualified.

Subsequently the Nevada State Athletic Commission suspended Tyson and July 9 is the earliest he can apply for reinstatement of his boxing licence.

Tyson was mortified. King, for once, speechless.

It now transpires that Tyson and some legal-eagle cohorts have been spending the boxer's enforced down-time hatching money-making schemes.

And, in the United States, the easiest of these is 'sue'.

Tyson has hit King with a US$100 million action claiming that the promoter fraudulently siphoned off millions of dollars from his boxing winnings. The boxer also wants the Federal Court in Manhattan to tear up the contract he signed with King while in prison.

News of the lawsuit reached King in Mexico and added to a bad week for the showman promoter.

In an incident that must have made his famous locks stand ever more rigidly to attention, he was held up at gunpoint and had his watch stolen.

Although he admitted it was a terrifying experience, King said the robbers would never have stopped him 'had they known I was Don King'.

Oh, really? If they did not know the identity of their victim, the four gunmen must have been living in deepest, darkest Mexico for 20 years, so recognisable is King.

It's also fortunate for King that the armed men were not Tyson fans or they might have grabbed more than his watch, reportedly a US$100,000 diamond-encrusted Rolex which King described as a 'shiny little bauble'.

His hair-raising (if his could rise any more) brush with Mexican bandits behind him, King composed himself to rebut Tyson's allegations.

'What saddens me most is the way Mike Tyson is being manipulated by certain people who have their own agendas. Mike knows the truth. He knows that I treated him fairly,' he said with the straightest of faces.

The court, in its wisdom, should rule that Tyson and King stay linked 'till death do thee part' - for, goodness knows, they certainly deserve each other.