Tyson stays quiet, on best behavior as fight nears
Tuesday, June 4, 2002
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Mike Tyson seems to be done talking about Lennox Lewis, or anything else for that matter.
Tyson's handlers canceled a press conference Monday as they tried to keep the volatile fighter under wraps with a precious few days remaining before he meets Lewis for the heavyweight title.
Arriving for a training session in a Memphis suburb, Tyson kept to himself, although he seemed disappointed that the gay rights activists, who protested the day before, were nowhere to be seen.
"Where are my homosexual friends?" he asked.
Tyson otherwise was on his best behavior, signing autographs for fans waiting outside a gym where he trained for two hours before getting into a blue SUV and heading back to his rented luxury home outside the city.
His public relations people, meanwhile, said Tyson would have an open workout today but would not answer questions.
"All we need to do is get him through the weigh-in on Thursday," one Tyson handler said. "Then we're home free."
While Memphis geared up for one of the biggest fights ever, Tyson did write out a statement promising to "put a world of hurt on Mr. Lewis in a devastating and spectacular manner," but that was about as far as it went.
It was pretty tame stuff for a fighter who spouted profanities at the audience and grabbed his crotch at a New York news conference in January and followed it with expletive-filled tirades at a press gathering in Maui last month.
Those eruptions helped hype the fight, but clearly worried Tyson's camp, which wants him to get into the ring Saturday night with no new controversies following him.
"I don't think Mike will be talking this week," his manager, Shelly Finkel, said.
A quiet Lewis, too
Lewis also kept to himself Monday, though few seemed to care.
Tyson is clearly the attraction of this fight, with the local newspaper following his caravan from the airport on Friday to see where he was staying and local television stations airing Tyson updates repeatedly.
Lewis' business manager, Adrian Ogun watched as workers set up the ring at thePyramid Arena.
"Lennox has been unfazed by any of Mike's antics," Ogun said. "He's ready to get into the ring and establish his legacy."
The fight is arguably the biggest event in Memphis since Elvis died here 25 years ago in August. Posters promoting the fight line the famous Beale Street downtown, and bars and hotels are counting on thousands of fight fans to boost business.
But tickets remained available in large numbers in all price categories ranging from $500 to $2,400 on Monday. and there were no buyers at the fight box office.
At Neely's Bar-B-Que restaurant on the fringe of downtown, waitress Gina Neely wore a Lewis-Tyson promotional badge as she delivered some pulled pork sandwiches to a table.
Neely had seen Tyson in a limo with some women during the weekend. She hoped to get a glimpse of Lewis while he was in town.
She knew she wouldn't be seeing them in the ring.
"Can't afford a ticket," Neely said.