Originally created 02/24/03

Tyson ponders a future with Lewis, and no dancing rhinos



MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- On Mike Tyson's list of lessons learned from his 49-second destruction of Clifford Etienne, a few stand out:

First, rhinos don't dance, but they sure hit the canvas with a thud.

Second, one devastating right hand doesn't mean Tyson has any chance in a rematch with Lennox Lewis.

"I'm not going to lie to myself and lie to the public," Tyson said. "I need more fights. I'm not interested in getting beat up again."

Tyson rambled on as only Tyson can after Saturday night's fight, touching on everything from his bad back (broken, he says) to his desire to party (it's big) and, finally, to his future in the ring (more Clifford Etiennes).

But there was an element of truth in his comments that was largely missing from a weird week of pre-fight nonsense that nearly obscured the fact that Tyson was entering the ring with a fighter made to order for his punching style.

Etienne - aka the Black Rhino - had gone down seven times in one fight with soft-hitting Fres Oquendo two years ago. Tyson proved that the last thing to go in an aging heavyweight is his punch when his right hand flattened Etienne.

Etienne made the mistake of trying to punch with a puncher, and as soon as Tyson landed his right, he walked away knowing it was over.

"That's what rhinos do," Tyson said. "Rhinos don't dance."

The crowd of 15,171 at the Pyramid went wild over the sixth-fastest knockout of Tyson's career. But the former heavyweight champion was more realistic about what it all meant.

"People are excited to see me knock guys out because that's how I made my reputation," Tyson said. "But I need more rounds. After a fight like this, 49 seconds, I can't go in there against Lewis, a confident fighter who's accurate. I need to go back to the gym."

Whether that happens depends largely on Tyson's mood at any given time. If he skipped training for a week just before the fight to get a tattoo and relax, who's to believe he has enough dedication left to get in top condition?

"I like doing other things. I like getting high, hanging out with my kids. I like drinking," Tyson said. "I have so many demons."

Tyson's handlers had hoped for a spectacular knockout to set up a June 21 rematch with Lewis, who gave Tyson such a beating in the same ring eight months ago that many wrote him off as finished.

Lewis himself gave up an April fight with Vitali Klitschko to see whether Tyson would impress enough to sell the rematch.

But 49 seconds proved little, except that Tyson can still hit like a mule and Etienne can still fall down. And even though Tyson desperately wants - and needs - the money a Lewis rematch would bring, he said he needs another fight or two before risking it all against a fighter who simply may be too big and too good for him.

Tyson said after Lewis knocked him out that he could never beat the WBC heavyweight champion. He didn't sound much more confident after disposing of Etienne.

"I don't even know if I want to fight no more," Tyson said. "If I have to make Lennox Lewis my next fight, there's no way I can continue fighting. I don't want to fight Lewis right at this moment."

In his next breath, Tyson gave another reason why.

"I'm so messed up. I just need to get my life together."

Tyson claimed after the fight that doctors told him he had a broken back from a 1997 motorcycle accident. His doctor said the injury was uncomfortable but nothing serious enough to keep him from fighting.

It certainly wasn't enough to stop Tyson from throwing a right hand reminiscent of some of the punches he threw in his prime, when he was the most feared fighter on the planet.

Etienne, who was booed and harassed by some in the crowd as he left the ring, was clearly hit by a big punch. But his head was clear enough that he reached into his mouth to take out his mouthpiece, and he seemed to get up just as the referee finished his 10-count.

Afterward, he seemed more relieved than anything.

"This was the way I had to fight him," Etienne said. "How else could I fight him? I'm OK. He caught me with a good punch."

Etienne whispered in Tyson's ear that he should get his act together and become the heavyweight champion once again. Tyson was so touched he invited Etienne to come to Las Vegas and work with him.

It was the closest Etienne came to Tyson's much-talked about tattoo, which an expert solemnly described earlier in the week as indicative of a Maori tribal warrior design.

Tyson wasn't so sure. He just liked the way it looked.

"I don't care about no tattoo in the fight. I just fight," he said. "I don't know about no warrior and all that stuff. This is what I do for a living. I'm in the hurt business, and no one should care if I get hurt or if I die in the ring, because this is what we do."