LOUISVILLE, Kentucky, AP
Danny Williams knows his place in a Mike Tyson fight.
He’s the opponent, brought in to give Tyson a round or two before the inevitable happens and a Tyson left hook or right hand ends his night.
“I’ve been brought in as a knockover fight for Mike Tyson,” Williams said.
Until fight time Friday night, Williams will play the role. When the bell rings, though, he has other plans.
“They’ve made a big mistake,” the British heavyweight said. “I believe in my abilities and I’m relaxed and can cash in on my abilities.”
That’s big talk for a big man. Williams, after all, got the fight only because he would take half the money — US$250,000 — that the fighter Tyson’s handlers first wanted was to get.
Williams has fought only once in America, and never fought anyone with Tyson’s name or reputation. Williams admits he sometimes cries in his dressing room before fights, mainly because he gets overcome with the moment.
But in his biggest moment, Williams says he has enough talent to derail Tyson’s latest comeback before it ever begins.
“I’ve never had so much pressure in my life, but for some reason I’m more relaxed now than when I defended by British Commonwealth title,” Williams said.
The fight is only the second for Tyson since he was stopped by Lennox Lewis in June 2002 for the heavyweight title, but it’s in big contrast to his February 2003 fight with Clifford Etienne that was bizarre even by Tyson standards.
Tyson partied his way through training for that fight, then took the week off before the fight to get his face tattooed. He threatened not to fight, but when he did he stopped Etienne in only 48 seconds.
“I don’t even know how I made it to the fight,” he said.
Williams is hardly a step up from Etienne, in fact he’s probably a step down. Even the British bookies don’t think much of the 31-year-old journeyman.
“He’s very powerful and can take you out at any time,” Williams said of Tyson. “But I don’t believe he’s the threat he used to be.”
Tyson doesn’t appear to be the personality he used to be either.
There’s no entourage, no angry tirades and no bizarre new tattoos. Tyson is coming back once again, but this time he’s aging, broke, and seemingly determined to show his gentler side.
On the verge of his fight with Williams, Tyson can’t even bring himself to say anything bad about his opponent.
“I’m trying to be a decent man,” Tyson said Wednesday.
Some might say it’s way too late for that after years of watching Tyson self destruct. In a larger than life career, he’s become notorious by biting ears, serving a prison term for rape and threatening to eat Lennox Lewis’ children.
Tyson returns to the ring Friday night for the first time in 17 months more a freak show than serious heavyweight contender. But, perhaps knowing his time is running out at the age of 38, he seems determined not to blow this chance.
“My future seems so much brighter than my past,” Tyson said. “I’m a different person than I was 17 months ago.”
So far, at least, Tyson has been just that. Even Kentucky’s governor and Louisville’s mayor, who didn’t want him here, can’t complain about his behavior leading up to the first big heavyweight fight here in 37 years.
Before arriving in Muhammad Ali’s hometown this week, Tyson trained three months in Phoenix. He believes he can still fight, and hopes people still care.
Many still do, as evidenced by the crowd of 5,000 or so who showed up to watch Tyson work out Tuesday at a downtown entertainment complex. Some are also buying tickets for the fight, though it’s highly unlikely Freedom Hall will be anywhere near sold out despite the addition of Laila Ali to the card.
The fight will be televised on Showtime pay-per-view, and if enough people buy it, Tyson will be able to pay off some of the US$38 million he owes to various creditors.
They won’t be paying to see a heavyweight contender, though it’s likely Tyson could be one in a few fights. They’re paying to see the circus and potential train wreck that now surrounds every Tyson fight.
“It’s the theater of it, the drama,” Showtime executive Jay Larkin said. “He’s a very compelling, dramatic individual.”
Tyson didn’t seem all that compelling Wednesday during the prefight news conference, unless you were the fan who walked around without his shirt on so everyone could see Tyson’s face tattooed on his back.
Instead, he was reflective, without trying to make sense of what became of a career during which he once reigned as the baddest man on the planet.
“I let the past die. I can’t dwell on the past,” Tyson said. “If you dwell in the past you’re going to be miserable.”