A SUCKER IS born every minute. And about a week ago, thousands of them filled Las Vegas' MGM Grand Garden to see boxing's version of the Cardiff Giant, the scheduled 10-round, non-title debacle featuring "Iron" Mike Tyson and Orlin Norris.
The Cardiff Giant proved that you can fleece just about anyone with a big lie and the right mixture of hype and chutzpah. Consider this: In 1868, a con man buried a 10-foot-long stone carving of a man on a farm in Cardiff, N.Y. A year later, it was uncovered and the huckster claimed that it was a petrified man. The suckers lined up and paid two bits a peek. The con man made a small fortune.
It is widely believed that the saying, "A sucker is born every minute," was coined by P.T. Barnum. Actually, the words belong to one of the men involved in the Cardiff giant hoax. Today, the saying is boxing's mantra, along with the big lie that Tyson belongs in the ring.
The reality is that Rusty Mike leads with his face, his jab is gone, and he no longer has the skill to slip punches and get inside to punish his opponents. At less than 6 feet tall, Tyson is a stump among the trees in the boxing world. There's truth to the old boxing adage -- "a good big man will beat a good small man." That's why a frustrated Tyson bit Evander Holyfield, a taller man with superior boxing skills.
Tyson's handlers know his vulnerabilities and paired him against Norris, who is also built like a fireplug. For those of you who were fortunate enough to miss their bout, Tyson slugged Norris after the bell sounded ending the first round. The stunned Norris fell to the canvas but got up quickly. He walked to his corner unassisted and in no obvious pain.
The referee, Richard Steele, deducted two points from Tyson. But Norris' corner screamed to have Tyson disqualified. The fight ended when Norris said he could not continue because he had hurt his knee during his tumble. The bout was ruled a "no contest" due to an "accidental foul." Tyson collected $8.7 million.
This may be the first time in boxing history that a punch to the head dislocated a boxer's knee. But please don't fret for Norris, who got about $201,000 for about three minutes work. His contract protects him from Tyson's bad sportsmanship. He is eligible for a rematch and a $2 million payday. Let's see how fast his knee heals.
For much of my life, I've been fascinated by the legend and lore of boxing.
When I was a kid, I loved to hear the barbershop griots describe the epic battles between Joe Louis and Billy Conn, Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake La Motta, Henry Armstrong and Barney Ross, Willie Pep and Sandy Sadler, Archie Moore and Yvon Durelle, and Louis and Max Schmeling.
Boxing has influenced our history and given us many larger-than-life characters.
Joe Louis struck a blow for the free world when he knocked out Schmeling, whom the Nazis touted as a symbol of white supremacy. Ironically, racial segregation was the law of the land in much of America. But Louis paved the way for Jackie Robinson and the other black athletes who followed.
Floyd Patterson was an undersized heavyweight whose life was turned around by boxing. Patterson, a former juvenile delinquent, became an eloquent spokesman for black America in the late 1950s and early '60s.
Rocky Marciano is remembered for his courage. In 1952, Marciano took a terrific beating from heavyweight champion Jersey Joe Walcott, but "The Rock" refused to go down. He lost so much blood from the cuts on his face that his corner threatened to end the fight. Marciano refused to quit and knocked out Walcott in the 13th round.
Muhammad Ali is one of the best-known and most-loved figures in the world. A few years ago, I saw Ali at the airport in Los Angeles. He was surrounded by adoring fans who wanted to shake his hand and touch him.
And what is boxing today? It's a match between Tyson, a convicted rapist and confirmed nibbler, against Norris, a never-was and never-will-be. In other words, boxing is a sick horse that ought to be sent to the glue factory. And that's a fitting destination for the rest of the louts, boodlers and parasites involved in the game.
So suckers of the world wake up. Remember the Cardiff Giant, and the old saying: "A fool and his money are soon parted." The next time you get the urge to go to a fight or purchase one pay-per-view, flick on Classic Sports and watch the bouts from the golden days of boxing. The sport is so shamelessly dishonest today that it's beyond fixing. It's time to let it die.
Mike Adams is the editor of Perspective.