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Saturday, June 11, 2005
Boxing--- The legendary career of Mike Tyson appeared to come to an end tonight, as he lost by sixth round TKO to journeyman fighter Kevin McBride and then announced his retirement from boxing. It was a memorable night and a sad finish to one of the most thrilling and controversial careers in the history of boxing. While it's true that athletes regularly come out of retirement, especially in boxing, Tyson came across in every post-fight interview as confident and certain with his decision to retire as anyone I've ever seen.
The Fight, and the Post-Fight Interview
Through five rounds, Tyson vs. McBride was a close fight in which the ferocity of the old Mike Tyson was not present. McBride took a lot of hard shots to the body during the fight, and Tyson took a lot of hard shots to the head. Tyson was ahead on the scorecards going into the sixth round, but he got rocked by an uppercut in the last twenty seconds of the sixth round and was never the same after that. Even before the uppercut, he appeared to be physically hurt and emotionally finished, and the uppercut just sealed the deal.
The closing seconds of the sixth round saw McBride push Tyson to the canvas, which was correctly not ruled a knockdown. Tyson looked dazed and had the look of someone who didn't want to continue, as he struggled to his feet. He staggered back to his corner with a very distant, glassy look in his eyes, and sat down on the stool. Several of Tyson's cornerman then had a heated verbal exchange with each other (more on that in a moment), before the head trainer ultimately asked the referee to stop the fight.
As he announced his retirement during an in-ring interview with Jim Gray after the fight, Tyson said, "I realized early into the fight that I don't have it anymore. I don't have my heart anymore. I was just fighting to take care of my bills. I don't have the stomach for this anymore. I don't have that ferocity anymore. I don't love this anymore."
When asked by Jim Gray what his future holds, Tyson said, "I do not have the guts to be in this sport anymore, and I don't want to disrespect the sport that I love by continuing to fight like this. My heart is not into this anymore. I'm sorry for the fans. I wish I could have done better. I want to move on with my life. It's time to move on with my life and be a father, take care of my children."
Repulsive Display from Tyson's Corner
As Mike Tyson was sitting on the stool in the corner after the sixth round, having taken a lot of clean shots to the head, in a dazed state, and clearly looking like he didn't want to continue, the instant replay on the pay-per-view broadcast with amplified audio was able to clearly reveal that everyone in his corner except the head trainer was actually yelling at the head trainer to NOT stop the fight.
They were yelling at the head trainer to ignore anything Tyson may have to say, and send him out there for the seventh round, even though he would be out on his feet. They were yelling at the head trainer to "leave him alone," meaning don't talk to him and find out what he has to say, and hopefully he will go out for the seventh round just out of pride.
If you rewind through the magic of TIVO and listen carefully, the actual quotes are as follows, with the assistant cornermen yelling the following at the head cornerman: "Come on, come on, leave him alone! Leave him the f--k alone! Just leave him alone! Come on, don't f--k with me! Leave him the f---k alone!"
Fortunately, the head trainer, longtime Tyson friend Jeff Fenech, wasn't willing to send a fighter out for another round who was in no condition to continue, and might have been seriously injured if he had continued.
In the face of everyone in the corner yelling at him to send Tyson out for the seventh round at all costs, Fenech yelled back at them, "I'm the f---ing boss!" essentially telling the others to shut up, before he informed the referee that the fight had to be stopped.
Being a "Quitter" in Boxing, and Retiring as a Shell of Your Former Self
I've already seen a lot of knee-jerk reactionary talk on the Internet, branding Tyson as someone who will be remembered as a "no-good quitter" and acting as though it's disgraceful for a boxer to ever quit during a fight.
It is downright ridiculous for anyone say that a boxer should never quit during a fight, given the fact that countless boxers have died over the years from brain injuries that were suffered during fights. For any boxing fan who thinks that a dazed and disoriented fighter (as Tyson was) doesn't have the right to not go out for the next round, you need a serious reality check of how dangerous boxing can really be.
The online database of boxing deaths lists 1,255 deaths that have been documented from 2005 going all the way back to the year 1741, including 53 deaths in the past five years. In addition to people who have died, there are countless others with mild brain damage, or severe brain damage, or who are in a coma. Just a few weeks ago on a fight card in Los Angeles, a boxer named Ruben Contreras suffered head trauma, had to have emergency brain surgery in order to save his life, and is still in a coma.
There's no doubt Tyson is leaving the sport of boxing as a shell of his former self, but that's really the norm in boxing instead of the exception. It's incredibly common for a legendary boxer to lose fights to sub-par boxers at the end of his career. That includes Muhammad Ali. That includes Sugar Ray Leonard, who actually retired a grand total of seven times according to PTI's count. That includes almost every single heavyweight champion in the history of the sport, with Rocky Marciano being one of the only exceptions. A former champion retiring as a shell of his former self is nothing new in boxing.