LAS VEGAS -- Mike Tyson's new handlers, manager Shelly Finkel and promoter Dan Goosen, have been trying desperately to make the former heavyweight champion more civil in his dealings with the media leading up to tonight's comeback fight against Francois Botha. But judging by results, the spin doctors are losing control.
Each day, Tyson seems to say something more outrageous that only confirms he is not the least bit interested in changing his public image as a human time bomb bent on self-destruction.
Yesterday, in an interview with Showtime's Jim Gray, he was asked about his past relationships with promoter Don King and co-manager John Horne, both of whom he is suing for $100 million for mismanaging his financial affairs.
"They're animals disguised as human beings," he said. "If it wasn't for my wife and children, I'd have killed these guys. I'd kill anyone who stole money from me."
Asked for a self-analysis, Tyson said, "If I die today, they'll say I was the greatest fighter who ever lived. Or they'll say he could have been, but he screwed up."
Maybe the public is finally getting turned off by Tyson's uncontrolled rage. That, at least, is reflected by the slow ticket sales for the live event at the MGM Grand and the lagging pay-per-view buys of the bout at $45 a crack.
Waitresses in the hotel coffee shop said they were being offered $200 tickets for $14. The attached 16,000-seat arena had been scaled down to 14,000 seats, and MGM marketing executive Don Welsh said, "If we're lucky, sales will hit 12,000."
Showtime executives have been reluctant to discuss the number of buys thus far. A source said it was hovering between 700,000 and 800,000, a far cry from the 1.58 million buys for Tyson's hotly anticipated comeback fight against Peter McNeeley at this same site in August 1995, after he had spent three years in prison on a rape conviction.
It had been popularly advertised that Tyson was to receive more than $30 million for this 10-round non-title bout. The official contract filed with the Nevada State Athletic Commission reveals that Tyson is getting only $10 million. But a fight source said $13 million had already been taken from his purse by the IRS to settle a lien.
Tyson hand OK ,trainer says
Trainer Tommy Brooks said there is no truth to rumors that Tyson is suffering from an injury to his left hand. Brooks confirmed that Tyson felt some pain in the hand a couple of weeks ago while sparring. But a physician said Tyson's hand is fine, Brooks said.
Brooks, meanwhile, on Botha's chances: "Slim and none."
Wire services contributed to this article.
Pub Date: 1/16/99