July 11, 1997 in Sports

Boxing Masks Avarice In A Cloak Of Hypocrisy

Bernie Lincicome Chicago Tribun

Hypocrisy is to boxing what linen is to the Ku Klux Klan, pardon the comparison. On second thought, don’t.

The difference between a bite to the ear and a punch to the face is not as distinct as, oh, a bite to the ear and a kiss on the mouth, which I also have seen in the ring and also have found disturbingly out of place.

So, I wonder if Mike Tyson had been as aggressively affectionate to Evander Holyfield as he was fiercely brutal, what the fine would have been, if he had only, for instance, repeatedly stuck his tongue into Holyfield’s ear.

There would have been, at least, an inquiry. I’m guessing Tyson would be told not to do that any more, get to keep all his money, and find it hard to get any more fights. Because he spit out a piece of the other guy’s flesh, tickets could go on sale today for Tyson’s first fight back a year from now. And opponents will bite each other to be first in line.

Another fighter, Oliver McCall, refused to fight, allowed himself to be punched without hitting back, broke into tears, and was judged to be loony, when, of course, this is exactly the advice mothers give their children all the time.

Is McCall a hero? Not even to moms. He likely will be suspended by the same commission that lifted Tyson’s license. A man who won’t fight is as unwelcome as a man who will overfight.

The problem is trying to civilize the uncivilizable. There are rules of war until the war starts. And then the winner gets to judge the loser. The important rules of boxing, such as they are, have nothing to do with the Marquis of Queensbury or the Queen of Marberry, whoever it was that had the nutty notion that rage could be restrained.

The only rule in boxing that matters is that people will pay to watch other people attempt to hurt each other. This is, in fact, the primary rule of every sport, the very heart of competition. Winners. Losers. Pain.

This is a matter, ideally, between Holyfield and Tyson, and not boxing commissions or cable TV programmers or casino operators or tuxedoed frauds, and no business at all of the public, which probably is the chief villain in the whole piece because, without paying witness, fistfighting would be a matter for the police.

The moment that it should have been settled has passed. The two of them could have taken care of it alone somewhere, like they used to do in duels, when honor required only a minimum of seconds and no audience at all. But, then, what would be the point? The only good reason for fighting is for money.

Tyson’s apology was made not from his conscience but from his wallet. Holyfield’s acceptance of it came from the same place. The lifting of Tyson’s license to fight was done, not for honor, but for expediency.

One of Tyson’s lawyers explained that his client, under advice of counsel, would not be attending the judgment for chomping on Holyfield. The lawyer felt that the situation might cost Tyson, in the lawyer’s words, his dignity, the price of dignity being established at $27 million, the amount Tyson gets to keep.

Having experience in legal proceedings, Tyson would have known just where to stand and how to look contrite. He has promised to take the sentence like a man, or, in the legal designation, convicted rapist.

Tyson’s dignity is not the casualty here. The casualty of all of this is truth.

This is a great career move for everyone, Tyson most of all. He had become a slug and a dullard and an uninteresting fighter. Suddenly, he is the most fascinating individual on the planet.

I marvel that Dennis Rodman did not think of this first.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Bernie Lincicome Chicago Tribune

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