The Sports pages

Sports Pages Extra: Tyson vs. Lewis

Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis rumble in Memphis Saturday night for the heavyweight titles. Tyson has promised to “put a world of hurt on Mr. Lewis in a devastating and spectacular manner.” Mr. Lewis has claimed that Tyson “fears” him. How are the sportswriters betting?

ESPN’s Al Bernstein likes Lewis to win between the third and fifth rounds: “Tyson is not the same fighter he was even seven years ago and I don’t think he ever really wanted this fight.” USA Today’s Jon Saraceno says Tyson will fall in the sixth: “To compensate for his inactivity and lackadaisical training habits, the stocky challenger has worked himself into a frenzy for this fight, so much so that the whispers are that he may have peaked a couple of weeks ago and staleness has set in.” The Philadelphia Daily News has Lewis with an overhand right in the seventh.

The Dallas Morning News’ Calvin Watkins likes Lewis, too, but says Tyson will survive for 12 rounds. Ditto Sports Illustrated’s Richard Hoffer, who gives the fight to Lewis on a decision or disqualification.

The London Sun’s Colin Hart picks Iron Mike: “For me Tyson is still the most dangerous three-round fighter on Earth.” The New York Daily News’ Bill Gallo agrees: “I look at Lewis’ record and those two one-punch knockouts he suffered keep staring at me. That and Tyson’s hammer makes me say, Tyson by KO.”

Other writers wager that Kid Dynamite won’t even make it to the ring. “Until the opening bell sounds, there’s no reason to believe Tyson-Lewis will happen,” the Kansas City Star’s Jason Whitlock writes. “I’m not flying to Memphis to cover the fight until four hours before round one, and I’ll land in Memphis fully expecting Tyson to set off a ringside riot before Lewis gets ready to rumble.” The San Jose Mercury News’ Mark Purdy agrees: “The fight is Saturday night? Sure. You bet. I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Plenty of good seats still available! On May 7, promoters announced that they had sold out all 19,185 seats in Memphis’ Pyramid Arena, netting more than $23 million in revenue. (Ringside seats sold for $2,400; the upper rafters for $250.) But earlier this week, the Associated Press revealed that the “sellout” was a fraud—thousands of unsold tickets remained. When Slate checked TicketMaster’s Tyson-Lewis site on Tuesday, we found available tickets in every price range—including, amazingly, 19 seats together on the lower level (Section 123, Row LL, Seats 1-19; cost: $26,600). Expect plenty of empties Saturday night.

Has Tyson knocked out Lewis before? USA Today’s Dan Rafael recounts the strange history between the two men. Back in 1984, Lewis, 18, mixed it up with the Tyson, 17, during sparring sessions in Catskill, N.Y. Tyson’s handlers claim that Iron Mike knocked out Lewis, and they say they have the photos to prove it. Lewis denies the story. In either case, the two men were friendly and spent the evenings talking and watching old fights together.

Then, 15 years later, Tyson threatened to eat Lewis’ children.

In a related story, Iron Mike chatted with underprivileged kids in Memphis this week. Sample exchange:

Kid: “How long have you been strong?”Tyson: “Muscle or smell, which one?”

Is the fight fixed? The fix-is-in rumor swirls around every championship fight, but it really picked up steam in Memphis as the week progressed. The Boston Globe’s Ron Borges reports that Panama Lewis has appeared in Tyson’s camp. Lewis was last seen rigging another fighter’s gloves, which landed him in jail for a year and got him banned from ever working as a corner man again. columnist Wally Matthews says that after the fight, Lennox Lewis’ promoter, Gary Shaw, plans on leaving the Lewis camp to form a partnership with Tyson’s manager. So, gee, wouldn’t it be in Shaw’s best interest for Lennox to drop the bout? The Memphis Commercial Appeal’s Michael Katz hears the same rumor, and points out that Shaw approved all three fight judges. Shaw is also the referee’s former boss.

Memphis has seen worse: Finally, the Memphis Commercial Appeal’s Geoff Calkins ranks the city’s five greatest bouts. Among them: Elvis Presley vs. a filling station attendant, and singer Al Green vs. his girlfriend.

Read a good column lately? Post a link in “The Fray.” The best entries will be mentioned in future columns.