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After Weigh-In, Buster Mathis Jr. Needs A Way Out

Bill Lyon Phildelphia Inquirer

Buster Mathis Jr. stepped on the scales. The scales didn’t flinch.

Two-twenty-four.

As good a weight as any for a human sacrifice.

Buster then blew a two-fingered kiss to the crowd, gave it one thumb up, and stepped modestly back. He seems to feel more comfortable there, in the background, on the fringes, away from the klieg lights. He seems like a nice young man. Too nice for what awaits him.

Buster did not, at any time, remove the black T-shirt that hung from his frame like loose tapestry, concealing we know not what. You can only assume that he didn’t want to reveal the specific condition, or lack thereof, of that two-twenty-four.

Is it Michelin Tire Man soft? Rolling hills and fleshy valleys? Or is he just modest in public? We will find out soon enough, when the robes come off in center ring in the Spectrum Saturday night.

Mike Tyson stepped on the scales. The scales said, “Wow!”

Two-nineteen.

Tyson had stripped to white briefs. He looked like an anatomy chart. “Cut in stone,” Don King crowed. “Cut in stone.”

And so he was. Everything was in chiseled definition. He looked to be packing the body fat of a hummingbird.

Buster Mathis was wise to keep his shirt on. He’s already suffering enough by comparison. A pose-down would have been overkill. But then that’s what this entire sham is anyway - overkill.

The first opportunity for Philadelphia to experience the raw adrenaline jolt of Fight Night in years and years, and we wind up with a walkover.

Ray Rhodes will love this fight. A few weeks ago, the Eagles coach explained his philosophy of football and life to me this way: “I believe in killing a mosquito with a sledgehammer.”

Thursday was weigh-in day for The Mosquito and The Sledgehammer.

There is no ritual in sports quite as irrelevant as the weigh-in for a heavyweight fight. It is, after all, the only division in boxing in which there is no limit. You can weigh one-twelve or five-twelve.

Thursday’s weigh-in consumed exactly 4 minutes. Tyson scored a one-punch knockout.

He is a 25-1 favorite. After seeing him flexing in malevolent, chiseled fury and seeing Buster in a loose shirt blowing a kiss of peace, anyone would have doubled the odds.

The weigh-in confirmed what the trail of horizontal sparring partners he has left in his wake suggested - Mike Tyson is in terrific shape.

And Buster Mathis Jr. is in harm’s way.

Buster’s big problem is that he does not possess the firepower to keep Tyson off him. His record, against mostly undistinguished competition, is 20-0, but Mathis has only six knockouts. A stiff, discouraging jab is essential against Tyson.

Lacking that, an opponent needs some sort of forceful punch to keep Tyson from raging in, bringing a tidal wave of punches with him.

“I’m a good slipper,” Mathis said. “My style is to not get hit.”

Tyson very likely will be overanxious and, as a result, wild. But if he feels he has nothing to fear in terms of return fire, he will not care whether he misses. Soon enough, all that incoming will find a target.

There is a portion of the fistic fraternity that suggests that, while Tyson’s physical conditioning may be knife-edge, the years of inactivity have drained his primal passion. He no longer has the appetite for getting hit, they say.

There is a decided tone of hopefulness in their arguments. Personally, I think it sounds more like wish than fact.

Tyson’s best could well be in his past, but the suspicion here is that it will be a long time before he will need anything resembling his best, period.

The heavyweight championship is currently divided among three men, all of whom will be in town for Saturday night’s fight, and all of whom will be inhaled by Tyson over the next 18 months or so.

The three are Frank Bruno, the brittle-chinned Brit whom Tyson already has beaten; Bruce Seldon, the “Atlantic City Express” whose punch does not match his imposing physique; and Frans Botha of South Africa, who, for reasons known only to him, doesn’t mind being known as “The White Buffalo,” and who managed to stagger to a split decision over Axel Schulz in a clumsy, hamhanded punch-about last Saturday night in Germany.

One-half of the old Tyson takes those three and reconsolidates the title. By then we are well into 1997, and Riddick Bowe still will be shouting into the wind. The way the fight game works, Tyson will rake in tens of millions more before he ever has to put himself at risk.

So the larceny that takes place here Saturday night is merely a prelude. Philly is a wall safe. The big bank vaults come later.

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