Trainer Bright has ex-champ's trust, confidence TYSON'S CORNERSTONE


LAS VEGAS -- Two news conferences were being held simultaneously in the main ballroom of the MGM Grand.

World Boxing Association heavyweight champion Bruce Seldon was all but ignored while two dozen reporters formed a picket fence around Jay Bright, Mike Tyson's new head trainer.

Fight publicist Mike Marley, noting the slight of Seldon, told the reporters interviewing Bright, "You don't have to rush. The champ will be here for a while."

And so the pecking order was established. For the first time in memory, a heavyweight championship fight -- Seldon vs. Joe Hipp -- is serving as a warm-up act, for Tyson's heralded nontitle comeback match with hand-chosen Peter McNeeley.

Bright is not new to the Tyson mania. In fact, the 37-year-old native of Bayside, N.Y., has probably been associated with the former heavyweight champion longer than anyone on "Team Tyson," including his co-managers, John Horne and Rory Holloway.

Bright was there when Tyson first showed up at the Catskill, N.Y., home of the late Cus D'Amato as a promising 12-year-old amateur boxer with a troubled past. He also was fired and re-hired by Tyson when he was still a low profile assistant trainer.

"I got fired by Mike for telling him the truth prior to losing his heavyweight title to Buster Douglas in Tokyo five years ago," Bright said. "I knew Mike had lost his focus. He was being bored, and that can be a cancer to a fighter.

"I told him to his face, 'You better get down to work or all those title belts on your wall won't help you one iota.' "

Tyson viewed these remarks as an act of insubordination, but Bright was rehired the following day.

"When someone tells you the absolute truth, it's not always what you want to hear," Bright said.

"Still, I was like a voice in the wilderness because most of the guys around him were telling him he could walk on water. . . . Mike's mind the night he fought Douglas was back home. He believed a young lady was carrying his child, and he just sleep-walked through that fight."

When it came time to choose a head trainer to replace Aaron Snowell, the chief scapegoat in Tyson's slide, several big names were mentioned, including George Benton. But Tyson turned to Bright, his longtime friend. Bright was one of his regular visitors .. at the Indiana Youth Center, where Tyson was imprisoned on a rape conviction for three years.

"Trust, that's what it came down to," said Bright. "He knows when he goes back in his corner, that we'll be brutally honest with him.

Eight years older than Tyson, Bright remembers the first time they met in D'Amato's home in 1981.

"I was there the first time he walked in the door and I can still hear Cus saying, 'Mike's got what it takes to be champion of the world.'

"He was basically a street guy from the ghetto," Bright said. "He didn't trust anyone.

"So Mike showed up with layers and layers of calluses on his personality. Cus had to strip away all those layers to get down to the real Mike."

Bright also once harbored ambitions of becoming a professional fighter. He once sparred with then-heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali and, reportedly, held his own.

Bright gave up the dream of being a fighter and earned a drama degree from Bard College. But he soon returned to Catskill and became part of Tyson's training team.

While Tyson was in prison, Bright said, "I wasn't there campaigning to become his trainer. I was basically trying to keep him from getting his throat cut while he was inside."

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