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BOXING Tyson's return on hold



Published: Fri, February 21, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Mike Tyson's handlers were forced to cancel his fight for Saturday in Memphis.

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Mike Tyson's comeback is on hold, and so is his boxing future.

Tyson's handlers have to figure out when -- and if -- the former heavyweight champion can fight again after he pulled out of a comeback bout with Clifford Etienne that could cost him millions.

After waiting days for Tyson to give them some sort of signal on his willingness to fight, Tyson's handlers finally pulled the plug on the scheduled Saturday fight after the boxer missed a flight to Memphis for the second day in a row Monday.

The official word was that Tyson was too sick to fight. But even before he became ill Friday, Tyson had left his trainer waiting for him at the gym for three straight days and had gotten a large tattoo on the left side of his face.

Even the official press release announcing the fight was off hedged on just why, saying Tyson "reportedly came down with a severe case of the flu."

There were no immediate plans to reschedule the bout.

Promoters waited

The cancellation came even as local promoters in Memphis were waiting for Etienne to arrive Monday night and hopeful that Tyson would soon follow. They weren't alone in being kept in the dark about the fight, with Tyson's own trainer left out of the decision.

Trainer Freddie Roach said he talked briefly to Tyson on the phone Monday, who told him a doctor was at his house examining him. Roach has not seen Tyson since he began skipping workouts last Wednesday, the day after he got his new tattoo.

Promoters in Memphis said approximately 10,700 tickets had been sold, and the Showtime cable network was using the fight and a concert by rapper Jay-Z as part of a big promotional night.

"I'm sorry to let down all of my fans in Memphis and around the world, but I am not at 100 percent and I do not want to perform at less than that," a statement quoted Tyson as saying.

Losing interest

Once the most fearsome heavyweight around, Tyson has shown little inclination to fight in recent years and has lost three of his last nine fights, two by knockout.

Tyson has fought an average of only five rounds a year in the last 5 1/2 years -- and eight of those came while he was taking a beating in his fight last June against heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis.

"Everybody should just throw up their hands and let this guy live whatever life he has. Forget about putting him in the ring," rival promoter Bob Arum said. "It's almost cruel now."

But Finkel said Tyson remains a big attraction, though he conceded Showtime may lose interest in him because of the fight being canceled. Still, he said, there will always be a market for Tyson.

"In the crazy world of Mike Tyson, one thing you have to know is Mike Tyson will always be in demand," Finkel said. "He's still a star -- he's the star. He won't be hurting for places to fight."




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