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'I've lost my sensitivity'

Sports | Mike Tyson's boxing career comes to a fitting conclusion

Issue: "Bob Geldof: Whose jubilee?," June 25, 2005

The ending was somehow fitting for Mike Tyson. Suddenly in the sixth round of his fight against Kevin McBride, Mr. Tyson, 38, had a moment of transcendence, a lightning bolt of self-awareness. Once a world champion, Mr. Tyson's career had devolved to fighting tomato-can boxers like Kevin McBride. Worse yet, Mr. Tyson couldn't even knock the tomato can down.

It's a sad moment when you realize the joke's on you. Fans weren't tuning in to watch Mr. Tyson the boxer. Iron Mike hasn't been a real boxer in some time. His last big win came 14 years ago against Donovan Ruddock. Instead, fans came to see Mr. Tyson for the same reason people used to go to Barnum's freak shows. Would Mr. Tyson bite off Mr. McBride's ear? It could happen.

In the sixth round, after rounds of landing punches with seemingly no effect (early in Mr. Tyson's career he sometimes needed just one punch to knock out an opponent), Mr. Tyson turned on the freak show. If he couldn't hurt Mr. McBride with punches, he'd find other ways. He tried to break his opponent's arm. He delivered a low blow. He head butted. In the final seconds of the sixth, Mr. McBride had endured enough. He shoved the former champion to the ground.

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Mr. Tyson sat back, leaning his body and head against the ropes. Eventually he made it back to his corner, but he never came out for the next round. "I'm not going to lie to myself," Mr. Tyson said, adding that he's done as a boxer. "I'm not going to embarrass this sport any more."

So that's how it ended for Mike Tyson. No fanfare. No title bout. The Mr. Tyson who fought on June 11 only barely resembled the fighter who in 1985 made his debut, in 1986 became the youngest heavyweight champion, and until 1990 dominated the sport. Since then, Mr. Tyson has spent three years in prison on a rape conviction, endured a separate jail stint, bitten off a piece of Evander Holyfield's ear, caused a pre-fight melee, and racked up tremendous debt.

In fact his debt-reported to be around $40 million-may eventually push him out of his newfound retirement and back to the ring. But don't feel sorry, Mr. Tyson says. He became his own self-fulfilling prophecy.

"Most of my fans are too sensitive when it comes to me. I'm a cold and a cruel and a hard person. I've been around the worst," he said. "You can't take away what's happened to me. I've been abused any way anyone can be abused. I'm not used to sensitivity any more. Don't cry. I don't know how to handle people crying anymore. I've lost my sensitivity."

Yes, even Mike Tyson, perhaps especially Mike Tyson, understands total depravity.

Around the Horn

•Meet the new coach, same as the old coach. One disastrous season after blowing up the franchise, the Los Angeles Lakers turned back to coach Phil Jackson. The Lakers let Mr. Jackson go on June 18, 2004, and hired him back on June 14 this year. The 60-year-old Mr. Jackson will face perhaps his toughest task: rebuilding a team with an apparent lack of talent. The Lakers still boast Kobe Bryant, but the all-star guard could only lead the Lakers to a 34-48 record last season.

•Just in time for the Cincinnati Reds' first trip to Boston's Fenway Park since the 1975 World Series, the Red Sox decided to make a change at the ballpark. In a pre-game ceremony on June 13, Boston officials dubbed the left field foul pole the "Fisk Pole" in honor of former Red Sox slugger Carlton Fisk. Almost 30 years ago, Mr. Fisk launched a historic home-run shot down the left-field line during Game 6 of the World Series. The video of Mr. Fisk waving his arms as if to will it fair has become an icon of autumn baseball.

•The clock is now ticking on a new 100-meter dash world record holder. Asafa Powell of Jamaica broke American Tim Montgomery's 100-meter world record by .01 second when he clocked a 9.77 at the Tsiklitiria Super Grand Prix meeting in Athens June 14. Progression of the 100m record:
1896: Tom Burke (12.0)
1908: Reggie Walker (10.8)
1936: Jesse Owens (10.3)
1968: Jim Hines (9.95)
1983: Calvin Smith (9.93)
1988: Carl Lewis (9.92)
1990: Leroy Burrell (9.90)
1991: Carl Lewis (9.86)
1994: Leroy Burrell (9.85)
1996: Donovan Bailey (9.84)
1999: Maurice Greene (9.79)
2002: Tim Montgomery (9.78)
2005: Asafa Powell (9.77)

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