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Bosco’s Corner: A title fight more like a sideshow

The man once called “the Baddest Man on the Planet” will step back into the ring June 8 in Memphis, Tenn. to take yet another shot at the most coveted prize in all of sports, the world heavyweight championship. But is this a fight or a sideshow carnival act? If I and those willing to plunk down $54.95 to see the bout on Pay-Per-View are lucky, it will be a little of both.

What does Mike Tyson’s upcoming bout with Lennox Lewis have to do with Queens you ask? Well, nothing really. But this is the kind of match-up that I absolutely have to chime in on, the kind of fight I can’t possibly pass up the opportunity to discuss. But if you need a reason, Tyson is from the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, just over the border from Queens, practically neighboring Ridgewood. It’s a stretch, but what the heck.

Tyson beat Trevor Berbick, James “Bonecrusher” Smith and Tony Tucker to unify the crowns. He seemed almost indestructible at this point in his career, a wrecking machine whose fights lasted longer than a bag of potato chips. I, like so many others, thought Tyson would reign supreme for as long as he wanted.

He even beat Queens native Carl “The Truth” Williams — yes, another dubious Queens connection — during his reign. But that all came to an end when he took his title oversees to fight a man almost everyone thought he’d walk over.

James “Buster” Douglas was supposed to be a “shot” fighter when he entered the ring to fight Tyson. But having lost his mother just weeks before the fight, Douglas was primed and ready to go. He mustered every ounce of skill and fulfilled every bit of potential he ever had in pulling off one of the most thrilling upsets in the history of boxing.

Tyson didn’t just fold up his tents and disappear. He kept fighting, including two brutal bouts with Donovan “Razor” Ruddock. He was all set to take on then heavyweight king Evander Holyfield — who stopped Douglas in the second round of the latter’s first title defense — when Tyson was convicted of raping a beauty pageant contestant in Indianapolis.

And off to jail he went.

Tyson got out a few years ago and again started his road back to the championship. Fighting a bunch of guys who never did much of anything in the pro ranks, he was lined up to fight Bruce “The Atlantic City Express” Seldon, for a portion of the now fragmented title. Seldon, a likable guy I once interviewed, fell in the first and Tyson was king again, sort of.

Tyson never regained the linear title, the one you can trace back to the first gloved heavyweight champion in history, James J. “Gentleman Him” Corbett (who, coincidentally, lived his latter years and died in Bayside). That was held by Holyfield, who lost to Riddick Bowe, who lost to Holyfield, who lost to Michael Moorer, who lost to George Foreman, etc.

But Tyson eventually lost the crown to Holyfield via knockout. Holyfield then lost it to Lewis, who had previously held one of the fragmented titles. And since then, Tyson has been involved in one circus bout after another, against Orlin Norris, Lou Savarese, Andrew Golotta and others. Controversy follows him everywhere, most of the time of his own doing.

Since Tyson first ascended to the throne in the mid-’80s, laying to waste a field of tired, old heavyweights who bridged the gap between Muhammad Ali and the next generation, things have obviously not been peachy keen for the ex-champ. There was jail, a ban for biting off a piece of Holyfield’s ear in their second encounter, which he lost via disqualification, and countless verbal tirades that would embarrass Larry Flynt.

The question I find myself asking more than any other is, “Is this really a fight at all?” Tyson is at least a decade past his prime years, when most fighters were scared to death before the first bell, while Lewis has never seemed stronger, more confident and more skillful.

But it still is a must see, if for no other reason than to watch two of the most dominant heavyweights of the past 20 years getting it on. Tyson, Lewis, Holyfield and Bowe are, in my opinion, the best of the lost since Larry Holmes lost to Michael Spinks in 1985. It has historical significance, it really does.

Maybe that’s the boxing fan in me talking. Lewis is the bigger man, by far, has a longer reach, will outweigh Tyson by at least 15 pounds on fight night and has been busier against better opposition. He is the prohibitive favorite, making Tyson the long-shot underdog, something he hasn’t been since his amateur days.

That Tyson is in this position says a lot about him and a lot about society. He is not the ideal person anyone would want to hold the title, but neither was Sonny Liston, Jack Johnson or the great John L. Sullivan. His personal life has nothing to do with his boxing life. He should be allowed to fight, he should be allowed to try and he should be allowed to win.

I’m not sympathizing with the man. He is anything but sympathetic. Still, the rules apply to all, not just those we think deserve it.

Regardless, I still think Lewis is going to knock him silly.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger @aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

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