Mur­ray Greig.

Boxing’s once and for­ever Man of the Ear and the youngest heavy­weight champ in his­tory has re­cast him­self as a pro­moter and racon­teur, writes

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

It’s been 28 years since a tru­cu­lent ball of hate named Mike Tyson ex­ploded on the scene like a cruise mis­sile and be­came the youngest heavy­weight cham­pion in boxing his­tory. ¶ And it’s been eight years since he re­tired fol­low­ing an ig­no­min­ious KO at the hands of jour­ney­man Kevin McBride. ¶ But now the sport’s once and for­ever Man of the Ear is back with a bang. He’ll make his pro­mo­tional de­but on Fri­day night at the Turn­ing Stone Re­sort Casino in Verona, New York, fronting the IBF su­per feath­er­weight ti­tle clash be­tween cham­pion Ar­ge­nis Men­dez (21-2) of Ar­gentina and Cana­dian chal­lenger Arash Us­ma­nee (20-1).

Tyson opened Wed­nes­day’s fi­nal me­dia con­fer­ence by in­tro­duc­ing him­self ... and apol­o­giz­ing for his frac­tured pro­nun­ci­a­tion of some of the fighter’s names.

“Hey, lis­ten, I didn’t do good in school but I’ll give you the best I can,” he said. “I’m just be­ing funny be­cause I’m a lit­tle ner­vous. This is a very ex­cit­ing thing for me.

“I’m priv­i­leged to have Ar­ge­nis Men­dez in my sta­ble and he’s gonna go against Arash Us­ma­nee, who’s from Afghanistan I take it?”

The 31-year-old Us­ma­nee, who moved to Canada when he was five, smiled and nod­ded as Tyson went on: “OK, guys! And we’ve got Clau­dio Marr ... ero, who’s go­ing up against Je­sus ... please help me here ... Cuel­lar?”

The main event fight­ers were clearly in­tim­i­dated by their pro­moter, but did their best to hype the show.

“I chose Arash for the first de­fense of my world ti­tle be­cause I thought he was robbed in his last fight, which was his first loss,” said Men­dez.

“I un­der­stand what’s en­tailed in pre­par­ing for a cham­pi­onship fight and he does too, so that’s why I ex­pect a great ef­fort from him on Fri­day. But he’s gonna have to go through ‘la Tor­menta’ (the Storm, Men­dez’ nick­name). I’ll be ready.”

Us­ma­nee, who was born in Kabul and saw his fa­ther killed in a Soviet rocket at­tack, said the ti­tle shot is the cul­mi­na­tion of years’ of prepa­ra­tion.

“I’ve worked so hard for so many years, it’s kind of sur­real to be here,” said the five-time Cana­dian am­a­teur cham­pion. “I had a great camp and I’m look­ing for­ward to a great fight, a real war.”

Af­ter lis­ten­ing to the fight­ers gush with grat­i­tude for the op­por­tu­nity to ap­pear on ESPN’s Fri­day Night Fights and the in­au­gu­ral show for Iron Mike Pro­duc­tions, Tyson gen­tly chided them for be­ing so, well ... unTyson-like.

“I don’t know if this is po­lit­i­cally cor­rect or not, but no­body talks about hurt­ing any­body no more,” he later said in the Oneida (NY) Dis­patch. “I don’t know ... they talk like they’re go­ing to dance, not fight.It’s not like back in the day.”

Not even close. This was the guy who took a bite out of both of Evan­der Holy­field’s ears dur­ing their 1997 ti­tle bout — a stunt that cost Tyson a long sus­pen­sion and a $3-mil­lion fine.

A cou­ple of years later, at a me­dia con­fer­ence to pro­mote his bout with Len­nox Lewis, he mem­o­rably de­clared his de­sire to kill the cham­pion and eat his chil­dren.

But that was the old Tyson. As a newly-minted pro­moter, he’s rein­vented him­self yet again and seems com­fort­able in the role of self-ef­fac­ing racon­teur.

He closed the me­dia con­fer­ence by sign­ing au­to­graphs and invit­ing awestruck fans up on the stage for photo ops.

“I’m hav­ing fun,” he said. “I’m gonna watch the fights as a fan, of course. And I’m gonna be so happy that I’m not in there tak­ing punches.”

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