Holyfield's gloves held an answer to a prayer


On Sunday, I awoke to the joyful news that the Good Knight, Sir Evander of the Holyfield, had the previous evening vanquished by technical knockout that mean, nasty scamboogah of a Bad Knight, Sir Mike of the Tyson.

Oh, happy day!

As a rule, I try not to make morality plays of prizefights. It's a sordid business with all sorts of sordid characters. But there's an exception to every rule. The Tyson-Holyfield fight was not so much a triumph of good over evil as it was of class and dignity over the lack thereof.

Tyson, you may have with piercing perspicacity concluded by now, is not my favorite person. My disdain started years ago during his marriage to actress Robin Givens. I found myself defending Givens from charges -- mostly from women, ironically -- that she was a conniving hussy scheming to rob Iron Mike of his money.

"You can't possibly believe that their marital problems can be summed up simply by concluding that Robin is Ms. Bitch and Mike is Mr. Nice Guy Victim," I'd tell naysayers, suspecting that Tyson may have had some faults of his own. My admonitions went for naught. Tyson was just then beginning to benefit from the "Tyson-as-victim" mentality that would soon afflict many of his fans -- and that segment of black America that sees all whites as evil and all blacks as good (with the exception of Clarence Thomas, of course).

Sure enough, no sooner had Miss Black America beauty pageant contestant Desiree Washington charged that Tyson had raped her in an Indianapolis hotel room in July 1991 than his fans were proclaiming his innocence. Tyson was once again the victim of some scheming shrew out to get his money. He would be exonerated, they declared, and then go on to brutalize Holyfield in their match, originally scheduled for 1991.

Not likely, I told the guys I worked with. Holyfield was a better fighter, and besides, Mike was going to jail.

"Jail!" they would invariably protest. "Mike Tyson ain't going to no jail! He didn't rape that girl!" This was usually followed by fits of harrumphing and grousing bordering on apoplexy.

"I want you to do two things for me," I'd answer. "The first is to calm down. The second is to read my lips closely: Mike ... is going ... to jail."

Mind you, the guys defending Tyson were the same ones who believed that he was a serial bun-grabber who had fondled women in nightclubs and discos across the land. They believed he could commit a fourth-degree sex offense but would never, never dream of committing a first-degree one. Go figure.

So in 1995, Tyson was released to the cheers of a misguided rabble convinced that he is a black hero who was the latest victim of white injustice. It strikes me that Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Larry Holmes are just as black as Tyson but never had rape or lesser-degree sex offense charges filed against them. Even Sonny Liston -- who had a passion for criminality so ingrained that it inspired him to pummel a cop and toss him into a trash bin -- avoided legal problems once he became champ.

Another man who is just as black as Tyson is Holyfield, who has somehow managed to avoid being a "victim of white injustice." Perhaps he's done it by being a righteous and religious man who simply avoided the pitfalls Tyson seemed magnetically drawn to. While Tyson was in nightclubs and discos on one of his notorious fondling sprees, Holyfield was being true to his God. While Tyson was inviting Washington to his hotel room for a one-night stand, Holyfield was probably at home deep in prayer.

That's why a statement attributed last month to John Horne, a Tyson co-manager, about Saturday's Tyson-Holyfield fight was particularly crude, offensive and infuriating.

"Mike Tyson never raped anybody," Horne told us for the umpteenth time. He could have stopped there, but felt compelled to add, "The only rape is going to take place Nov. 9." Tyson, by not immediately banishing Horne to the unemployment line for uttering such a callous and stupid remark, showed that he hasn't changed much, his conversion to Islam notwithstanding.

When I read Horne's quote, I managed to dredge up what little religion I have to offer a prayer that Holyfield would knock Tyson flat on his ashcan the night of Nov. 9. Sometimes God will indeed answer prayers, even from those of us drifting into terminal curmudgeonhood.

I think I'll go to Mass this Sunday.

Pub Date: 11/13/96

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