PHILADELPHIA -- Word out of Camp Tyson is encouraging. Seems former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson is positively drilling his sparring partners. He started with 12 of them when he began training for his Aug. 19 comeback bout against Peter McNeeley and is now down to four . . . and counting.
"Guys have been going down day after day," said Rory Holloway, who co-manages Tyson with John Horne. "Not a day goes by that one of his sparring partners is not either dropped, knocked out, or hurt badly."
Wrapped in seclusion since his March release from prison, Tyson has worked out since May in Orwell, Ohio, the home of his longtime promoter, Don King. In a teleconference Tuesday with reporters from as far away as England and Puerto Rico, Holloway and Horne agreed Tyson is far ahead of schedule, and is better now than he has ever been in his career. The hype was jet-propelled.
"Mike has a lot to prove to himself," Holloway said. "He has worked harder and is more focused than he has ever been in his whole life. . . . Our biggest problem is slowing him down."
Horne echoed that.
"Mike has redirected himself," he said. "He knows that the world is watching not just what he does, but how he does it."
To hear Holloway and Horne describe it, Tyson is taking his comeback very seriously. He runs daily at dawn, chews up his sparring partners at noon, and then does strength and conditioning work. His weight is down to a trim 219, 66 pounds lighter than he was when he was jailed in 1992 and just where he figures to be when he weighs in for McNeeley.
"You would not know to look at him that he has been gone," Holloway said. "He is in excellent shape."
Yes, but how is he in the ring? The old Mike Tyson was nothing short of a predator. Is this one even close to that? Or is he so covered with "ring rust" that it is too soon to say?
"Each day, Mike seems to get better and better," Holloway said. "The power was still there [when training started], the punches still snapped out, but the whole package is beginning to come together. He will still be an explosive fighter, still have that knockout power, but now he has that knowledge and wisdom to go with it."
You were probably curious: How has Tyson been doing psychologically since his release from prison? The answer is -- what else? -- just wonderful.
"Mike Tyson has had a few ups and downs in his life," said Horne, citing the celebrated divorce from actress Robin Givens and court battles with former manager Bill Cayton. "He has handled this well."
Although it seems certain Tyson will fight for a championship at some point soon, it remains unclear what his plans will be once he finishes off McNeeley. Holloway and Horne concurred Tyson would fight again before the year ends, but neither confirmed rumors he wants to face Evander Holyfield.