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August 20, 2014

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Mike Tyson shows talent ringside, on the mike

The former champion turns in a surprising performance as a commentator for TI bouts

Image

Associated press file

Mike Tyson, shown in November.

Beyond the Sun

The most surprising and delightful performance of Saturday night’s fight card at Treasure Island was not Yonnhy Perez’s upset victory against Joseph Agbeko in an outstanding bantamweight title bout in the main event.

It did not even take place inside the ring.

Rather, it took place deep on the nontelevised portion of the undercard, just outside the ropes, where Mike Tyson was handling the color commentary for the Internet pay-per-view feed of the preliminary bouts on promoter Don King’s Web site.

It was a new venture for Tyson, but one I hope he continues to pursue, perhaps on a bigger stage.

Upon hearing Tyson was scheduled to work color, some fans might have been tempted to tune in hoping for some kind of a blowup or meltdown from the erstwhile baddest man on the planet.

This was a much more mellow Mike, however. You could almost picture him figuratively lighting up one of King’s cigars, then sitting back to offer his take on the action in the ring, to pontificate on the finer points of the fight game, and to reminisce about his life in boxing.

Tyson found his groove quickly, riffing on James De La Rosa’s jab in his bout against Lenin Arroyo: “It is so ironic that the jab can be so effective in a fight, in this game, and that’s why it’s more a science than being the big, strong tough guy from a bad neighborhood. A guy who never had a street fight in his life can be a master in here. He can give you an awful shellacking.”

He prodded De La Rosa, who ended up winning a decision, to go for a more emphatic ending: “De La Rosa doesn’t have much resistance in front of him, so I think if I was in his position I would just go full speed ahead and try to take this gentleman out.”

And later: “You showed your skills, now get it over with ... if he can.”

Prompted by fellow announcers James Smith and Ken Miller, Tyson recalled how Cus D’Amato, his early manager and trainer, emphasized the mental aspects of boxing.

“The fact is, you can have a great athlete with a great heart and still ruin him if he doesn’t have confidence,” Tyson said. “You have to build his confidence up.”

A good corner crew’s leadership, Tyson said, is often “more spiritual than vocal, as ironic as that might sound.”

Tyson offered a historical perspective on De La Rosa: “He moves a lot with his legs but not a lot with his upper body. His upper body is pretty much stationary. He moves his feet like the great Cuban boxer in the late ’20s and early ’30s, Kid Chocolate. He was a master of moving his feet, but his downfall was he didn’t move his upper body.”

With Arroyo absorbing blow after blow, Tyson gave him some encouragement: “I respect a man who can take his punishment like a man, more so than the man who’s giving it to him. That’s the school I come from. ... There’s a lot of heart associated with this game. You get hit with a shot in a street fight and you get angry. You get hit with a hard shot in a boxing match, you have to stay relaxed and calm.”

Tyson said he has given up nursing grudges and has patched up relationships with King and Evander Holyfield: “If I want to forgive myself, I have to forgive everyone.”

At one point, Tyson said: “This was more entertaining than I anticipated.”

Agreed.

Notable

The telecast of Saturday’s fight card will re-air on Showtime 2 at 11 p.m. Wednesday. It features the main event between Perez and Agbeko, and Antonio DeMarco’s victory against Jose Alfaro at lightweight in the co-headliner.

The Showtime Championship Boxing telecast will also be available in the On Demand section beginning Tuesday and running through Nov. 30 ... The show at the intimate TI Ballroom drew a sellout crowd of 1,012, according to Don King Productions ... Scoring for Showtime, I had Perez winning the main event 115-112, or seven rounds to five including a 10-8 round. The judges had the margin a bit wider, 117-110 twice and 116-111. I awarded every round to DeMarco before his fight with Alfaro was halted ... Showtime announcer Steve Albert said of the main event: “In 22 years of calling boxing, I don’t think I have ever called a fight with this many punches thrown.”

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