King hogs show — again
Mike Tyson, the focus of Saturday's fight, speaks for just 14 seconds during a lengthy news conference. Opponent Peter McNeeley doesn't get much time either.
By Royce Feour
LAS VEGAS — Don King isn't known as the "King of Hype" for nothing.
The loquacious promoter was on a roll Wednesday at the final news conference for the Mike Tyson-Peter McNeeley fight card on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden.
King, in his typical rambling style, ran the news conference, which started 32 minutes late and ran for one hour and 45 minutes, in a large ballroom at the MGM Grand Hotel.
For all of the time the news conference took, the star of the show, Tyson, spoke for only 14 seconds.
The former undisputed heavyweight champion did take several questions at the end of the news conference, but did not stay around for the usual group questioning after the session.
"I'm just here to do my best, and I plan on doing well," Tyson said in response to a question.
Tyson was polite and patient with a woman from the Dominican Republic who addressed him much more in terms of a fan rather than a journalist.
However, Tyson became very angry when Newsday boxing writer Greg Logan asked him why he had gone back with King and co-manager John Horne and Rory Holloway after he was released from prison when he had said the people closest to him would betray him.
"None of your business," said Tyson.
Tyson said people who ask such questions are "character killers."
After lecturing Logan, Tyson said, "That's the best thing that ever happened to you that I spoke to you, my friend."
King clapped after Tyson made his comments to the writer and said, "That was great."
Boxing news conferences, especially those involving King, are for the purpose of hyping a particular fight, and the long-winded King let it all hang out on Wednesday.
The controversial promoter pulled out his healthy supply of adjectives in describing Tyson's return to the ring for the first time in four years.
"This is an historic moment. We have a great show for you," King said of Tyson's first fight since he was released from an Indiana prison on March 25 after serving a three-year sentence for rape.
"It's no longer a fight," King said. "It's a happening. It's an event."
King rattled off numerous statistics on the magnitude of the fight, such as there being 5,000 media requests to cover the fight.
However, another source put the media requests at less than one-third of what King had claimed. No matter. It's a Don King news conference.
More than 900 media requests were actually approved to cover the fight. That's still an astounding number of journalists.
Dan Wade, president of the MGM Grand Hotel, paid tribute to King's gift of hyperbole.
Wade said it was tough "to follow the great Don King, the greatest describer of words who I have ever seen."
Wade also said the MGM Grand's six-fight contract with Tyson "took a tremendous amount of effort."
"The (MGM) Grand Garden will be celebrated with the greatest event the sports world has ever seen," Wade said.
King was positively beholden to Tyson throughout the lengthy news conference.
"I am ecstatic with joy. I am so very happy and delighted that Mike Tyson chose to select me and resurrect me from the dead and I shall serve the master with all of my heart and my mind," King said.
King referred to Tyson as the "master" on numerous occasions.
"They always say Don King is robbing his fighters," King said.
King then said he was paying Tyson $25 million for Saturday's fight, in addition to $500,000 in training expenses.
McNeeley's purse is $540,000, according to official contracts filed by Don King Productions with the Nevada Athletic Commission. Earlier media stories reported that McNeeley, who will surely earn every penny he gets, was receiving $700,000 and $750,000.
McNeeley set a world heavyweight boxing record for fastest knockout with a 6-second KO in his last ring appearance on April 22nd.
Tyson has not fought since he took a 12-round decision over Donovan "Razor" Ruddock on June 2, 1991, in an outdoor stadium at The Mirage.
This story ran on page 1D of The Las Vegas Review-Journal on 08/17/95
Spunky McNeeley Shows Off Poetry Skills
By Royce Feour
LAS VEGAS — Peter McNeeley showed a pugnacious side to his demeanor Wednesday at the news conference before his scheduled 10-round fight with Mike Tyson at the MGM Grand Garden.
McNeeley, in the fashion of Muhammad Ali, read a poem he had prepared:
"I'm 'Hurricane' Peter McNeeley from Medfield, Mass.
"On Saturday night, watch me kick Tyson's ass!"
After a question was initially addressed to Tyson about what Tyson had to gain by fighting McNeeley, the question was redirected at McNeeley, who said, "I won't accept that question — it's stupid." After a brief pause he added, "Obviously, I have everything to gain by fighting Mike Tyson."
"Keep laughing, keep laughing," the spunky McNeeley told the media, in apparent reference to his huge underdog status.
McNeeley then made an off-color remark.
Finishing his statement, McNeeley said he had been doing a good job in promoting the fight and turned around at the podium and patted himself on the back — literally.
This story ran on page 5D of The Las Vegas Review-Journal on 08/17/95
Flamboyant King has media eating up mismatch
By Jim Fossum
"How big is it?" Don King asked, knowing full well the answer but feining ignorance. "I don't rightly know."
Yeah, and there's a good chance Mike Tyson will be beaten by Peter McNeeley in his return to the ring.
The annoyingly indomitable King, never at a loss for words, let alone answers, stopped short Wednesday of pinpointing the magnitude of the event he is about to stage Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden. But he did yield enough to spew forth the following fact:
Mike Tyson, five months removed from serving three years behind bars, is guaranteed a record $25.5 million.
For what, may I ask?
Four world championship fights will be staged Saturday and Tyson-McNeeley is not among them. Still, King offered highly exaggerated estimates that 5,000 media requests were issued to document the proceedings, and that a viewing public of more than 2 billion will witness the rapist's return to the ring.
Neither accounts in the usual King drivel disguised as dialogue are anywhere near accurate, but when has anyone in boxing been accused of practicing any sort of integrity? Fact is, however, they are, or will become, records.
How big is Tyson-McNeeley, then?
Let's just say pretty damn big.
A better inquiry might be, why?
Jim Hunter, a boxing publicist for 21 years in Las Vegas, says the unparalleled intensity surrounding the ex-champion's return is largely due to an unprecedented influx of electronic media. That, Hunter says, is the greatest difference between Tyson-McNeeley and the two biggest events he has previously been associated with — Muhammad Ali-Larry Holmes in 1980 and Holmes-Gerry Cooney two years later.
But why Tyson, boxing's youngest heavyweight champion ever and, some say, its all-time best, vs. the formerly unknown Fighting Irishman?
McNeeley is relatively inexperienced and untested at this stage of his career. The opposition he has faced thus far in no way prepares him for the likes of Tyson. Indeed, McNeeley's opponents own a combined 204-441-21 record, prompting King to cover-up, comically, with, "Few have fought lesser opponents with greater skill than Peter McNeeley has."
"Keep laughing. Keep laughing. With what I've been doing the last three months to get ready for this fight, if you don't respect me you have a big dump in your pants."
Ah, boxing! Now you know why not all of us are so eager to tumble headlong into this Tyson thing.
"Mike Tyson has always been a draw, much like Ali," explained Hunter. "That's not to compare the two, but Mike has always drawn well and now he's been away for four years. People are interested in how strong he'll come back."
I can buy that. It will be extremely interesting to see what time away from the fight game has done to Tyson's boxing skills. Have they eroded measurably or has the hiatus improved him in any manner? What, indeed, will the effect of jail time have? Is he, as commonly reported, a changed man?
McNeeley can't be blamed for taking full advantage of the opportunity that has been presented to him. He's been the one talking to the press and a lot of people seem to really like McNeeley. That doesn't mean they think he's going to actually win the fight, but there is little doubt that millions of people would be thrilled should the unthinkable happen.
What's hard to stomach, though, is that the feeding frenzy for stories related to Tyson's ring return has reached such ridiculous extremes TV stories were being compiled Wednesday on the day in the life of a boxing photographer and the media room's fruit basket line. Basically, the media crush is indescribable, surpassing that of a Super Bowl or Final Four.
This is not Tyson's fault. From this corner, the man has every right to return to his livelihood. His debt to society served, he nonetheless carries with him the title of rapist — not alleged, but convicted.
Still, Tyson has a right to fight, and we justly possess the right to be keenly interested. But to call it, as an MGM official sanctimoniously did, "The greatest event the sports world has ever seen," is an insult to the sports world's intelligence.
Even Tyson, who squirmed uneasily in his chair throughout Wednesday's one-hour, 45-minute shenanigans, seems to recognize this. He does not appear confortable with the fact a mere boxing match, a non-prize fight at that, can be so highly anticipated.
The fight is not "so mind-tingling that the sweat will drop off of you," as King proposed minutes after making Biblical references comparing his own return to prominence in the fight promotion business to the resurrection of Jesus.
And, just as inexcusable was this from World Boxing Council president, and King ally, Jose Sulaiman:
"Justice will be restored on the Saturday coming."
Accept Sulaiman's slap at the American justice system or buy into the pompous promoter's propaganda as you wish. King did at least offer one point that hit home like a Tyson uppercut.
"This is no longer a fight, it's a happening," he said.
Jim Fossum is sports editor of the Review-Journal.
|These articles appeared on pages 1D and 5D of The Las Vegas Review-Journal on 08/17/95|