The big boxing news this week is that Mike Tyson is back in the heavyweight title picture. Fortunately for the 37-year-old Iron Mike, the division appears to be deteriorating faster than he is.
Wladimir Klitschko got knocked out Saturday night by field horse Lamon Brewster, who now claims the previously vacant and still thoroughly spurious World Boxing Organization heavyweight title. Wlad is the brother of Vitali Klitschko, Lennox Lewis' final opponent, who fights Corrie Sanders in Los Angeles in two weeks for the World Boxing Council title. Sanders dribbled Wladimir off the canvas a few times a year ago, knocking him out in the second round. Two other heavyweight titles, the World Boxing Association and the International Boxing Federation belts, are also being contested this month.
The Klitschko brothers, who have both held the WBO title in the past, had hoped to hold simultaneous claims to various heavyweight championships. If they stick around long enough maybe they will. Shoot, if you hang around, maybe you'll be a champ too. Who knows how far down the ranks of club fighters, journeymen and part-time plumbers the title picture will have to reach in the future to find warm bodies for championship fights. But no brother act for now.
Wlad was on the verge of beating Brewster, having knocked him down twice in the fourth round, though one of those was ruled a push. But the big Ukrainian had puzzlingly looked winded since the first round, and Brewster rallied in the fifth and knocked him down at the bell. Referee Robert Byrd waved the fight off between rounds, Klitschko in a daze.
Klitschko underwent a brain scan after the fight, which came back normal, and his people announced Monday that post-fight blood tests revealed he was suffering from high blood sugar, which had never happened before. This will serve as a plausible explanation for the loss and get him a quick rematch, which he should win, based on his performance in the first four rounds Saturday.
Meanwhile, Tyson's licking his chops because he's thinking he can beat Brewster and get a belt. Here's your headline on that one: Tyson has rational thought.
The Klitschko brothers were once thought of as the bright future of the heavyweights, and Wlad, five years younger and an Olympic gold-medal winner in 1996, was thought to be the better of the two. Neither has ever done much to impress me other than earning doctorate degrees. Vitali's claim to fame is that he was beating an aging Lewis before being stopped on a cut. But Lewis never impressed me either, his big moment being a knockout of Tyson a dozen years after Tyson had ceased to be a good fighter.
I would say that Tyson still being in the title conversation tells you all you need to know about the heavyweight division. That's only if you didn't already know everything you needed to know from guys like Sanders, Brewster, the Klitschko brothers, John Ruiz, Fres Oquendo, Chris Byrd and Andrew Golota -- all of whom have fought or will fight for a heavyweight title this month and none of whom is much more than a club fighter -- being in the conversation.
I'll get a note or two from defenders of Byrd, a slick boxer who is 31-2, his losses coming three and a half years ago to Wladimir Klitschko and five years ago to the forgotten Ike Ibeabuchi, a better fighter than all eight April contenders who went off the rails at the turn of the century and is now in prison on a rape conviction. But Vitali Klitschko was handling Byrd in 1999 before having to retire with a shoulder injury.
And around it goes. Everyone's big win is against one of the other plumbers. Aside from his loss to Lewis, Vitali's big moment was a win over Kirk Johnson, whose claim to fame is that he didn't lose until he stepped up in class and fought John Ruiz, whose claim to fame was going 1-1-1 with a badly washed up Evander Holyfield. But Ruiz was knocked out in the first round years ago by David Tua, who has a puncher's chance against anybody, but has never beaten anybody good in his prime. I haven't even mentioned Roy Jones Jr., a miracle of a fighter but a light-heavyweight who drank a bunch of milkshakes and beat Ruiz once.
Can you see how Tyson fits into this picture? Even with his eroded skills, he can play in this league, even if he won't dominate it. He should probably stay away from Byrd and Jones, whose speed would frustrate him, and maybe Vitali, whose unorthodox style might do the same. But otherwise, there isn't anybody around who should scare him.
There may be some great heavyweight fighters in the world today, but we don't know who they are. They don't either. They're collecting paychecks as running backs and power forwards, and were lucky and smart enough to stay away from boxing.
Tyson can still put a few butts in the seats, and all he has to do is wait until the title merry-go-around lands on one of the other guys. That's why he was hanging around in Vegas this weekend, dreaming about meaningless belts.
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Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told the paper that commissioner Bud Selig had promised him "he was not going to allow it to happen."
You can decide for yourself how much faith you want to put in a Bud Selig promise, or actually a third-hand report of one -- from a senator, no less. A message left at the commissioner's office Monday went unanswered. But if true, it would be a victory for the sanctity of the big-league uniform. It would be nice to know there are a few inches of real estate not for sale.
Now, about those patches that have become ubiquitous on the left sides of caps ...
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