The crowd began leaving right after the first round.
BY KATIE LIBECCO
YOUNGSTOWN -- A flier for Mike Tyson's fight at the Chevrolet Centre on Friday heralded him as "the most talked about fighter of his generation."
And it didn't take long for people to start talking.
Before the bout between Tyson and Corey Sanders even began, many in the crowd booed and taunted Sanders for wearing headgear. Others chanted negatively once the fight began for the performances of both fighters.
After the first round of Tyson and Sanders' four-round bout, a small crowd began to leave the arena. The numbers leaving increased between rounds. After the fight, the remaining crowd hardly resembled the one that welcomed Tyson to the ring.
At the end, the night's announcer, Seat Williams, announced that Sanders won the fight.
"But this is unofficial, there was no official score," Williams said.
Williams had stressed in a press conference earlier this week that Tyson is a "retired fighter" appearing in exhibitions. Seeing an old sparring partner in the ring with headgear made that reality clear.
Near the end of the third round, there was no question that Iron Mike was a different man. Tyson held up Sanders for a large portion of the third round. At the bell, Tyson grabbed Sanders' elbow, the two made eye contact and paused, briefly speaking, before Sanders nodded and walked away.
The legend many were expecting to see, the former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, was definitely gone.
During the earlier press conference, Tyson responded modestly when asked if he thought was the best boxer of all time, at some point in his career.
"It doesn't really matter to me," he said. "I don't think I'm the best fighter in the world."
Brent Gambrel, 35, owns the International Fighting and Boxing League, or IFBL, and said while Tyson wasn't the best, but he "was a great fighter."
"Never, not even close," Gambrel said. "He's one of the greats, but he's nowhere near [Muhammad] Ali."
Gambrel said one reason Tyson was so unique was the way his style changed little between opponents.
"Mike is Mike, no matter what, from bell to the bell," Gambrel said.
A Cleveland native currently living in Warren, Gambrel also fights professionally in full-contact events. When speaking of Tyson's boxing career, Gambrel continually referred to Tyson's legacy in the past tense.
"He had a big impact. I remember many moments of Tyson's career when I was growing up. I was a big Tyson fan," Gambrel said. "Now, Mike is Mike."
Gambrel referred to Tyson as a "Godfather of Boxing," with "a lot of ups and downs in his career."
"He's just staying in the spotlight and getting some fights," Gambrel said. "Which is good, because he deserves to make a little bit of money from his career."
It was Tyson's fearlessness that made him a great, Gambrel said.
"There will never be anyone just like him. He had such a combination of skills and consciousness and how to use them," Gambrel said. "He was born with no neck, a pretty good jaw, great strength and great speed. It was no secret to what he was gonna do to you."
But others would disagree, considering Tyson to be the greatest fighter of all time.
Wayne Mackey recently moved from Warren to Columbus, but still trains at Club Ronin in Niles. He drives to the Valley every weekend to train, fighting full-contact events about every two months. Mackey described Tyson as a "one of a kind" fighter and "inspiring."
"He's probably the greatest and most exciting fighter ever, and unfortunately he became a freak show in the media," Mackey said.
Mackey said he learned a lot about fighting when he was younger from watching Tyson fight.
"It's inspiring. I strive to be like that, to dominate every opponent they put in the ring with you," Mackey said.
Mackey's cousin, Rocky DeFrank, 29, also was inspired by Tyson. DeFrank has been boxing for about 13 years and trains at the Downtown Boxing Club, where he is preparing for his first full-contact fight. DeFrank said that from the time he was 15 years old he has followed Tyson's career.
"He was my favorite boxer of all time," DeFrank said. "He's action-packed. He was the greatest fighter in the world."
DeFrank said he felt Tyson's career began to decline as a result of the deaths of those close to him, his salary and women. He said he's learned a lot from following Tyson as a fighter and then as a celebrity.
"I learned to put my family first and my career second," said DeFrank, who is married and has kids.
Mackey said he's also sympathetic to Tyson's personal life outside the ring.
"I feel bad for the guy. He's a very gifted and phenomenal fighter. I think he got a bad rap. He just surrounded himself with the wrong people," Mackey said. "He seems miserable and that sucks, because he was such a great fighter."
But Gambrel said he really didn't care what Tyson was like as a person.
"I'm more interested in what he did in the ring than what he did outside the ring. You know, obviously, there's been a lot of turmoil," he said.
Because he never knew Tyson personally, Gambrel said he wouldn't judge his personal affairs.
"That's pretty much how I feel about most people that have been put in the spotlight. I just concern myself with what they do in the ring. I don't really care what they do in their personal lives, no matter what area they're in."
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