After talking the talk, Tyson, Lewis are set to walk the walk

THE BALTIMORE SUN

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - After weighing in on an a faulty scale Thursday, Mike Tyson broke silence with the media as he spoke about tonight's heavyweight title bout against Lennox Lewis. It seemed like the happiest Tyson had been all week. He seemed happy to get a chance to hurt someone.

"I'm not the fighter I was 14 years ago, but I'm sure he's not the fighter he was 14 years ago," said Tyson, who will be in his first title bout since losing by disqualification in 1997 after twice biting Evander Holyfield's ears.

"I'm from Brownsville [in Brooklyn]. I'm not afraid of anyone in the ring or out of the ring, whether they have a gun or a knife. I'm anxious to show the world who the real champ is," said Tyson, speaking to an ESPN reporter. "I'm just ready to get it on to crush this guy's skull. To be the best fighter of the era. I'm going to try to knock him out in three rounds. He's got to go down."

Tyson will be trying to become only the division's third three-time champion when he tries to lift the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Council titles from Lewis (39-2-1, 30 knockouts) at the Pyramid.

During the month leading up to the fight, Tyson, 35, has threatened to "kill" Lewis, 36, and "smear his pompous brains all over the ring when I hit him."

The fighters will earn $17.5 million each for their efforts.

"This is just a fight. It's just normal to me," added Tyson, who was asked what he had to do in the remaining days before the fight. "Just pray that he doesn't have a heart attack."

Tyson, who is 49-3 with 43 knockouts and two no-contests, had avoided speaking publicly to media members, who number approximately 800 from about 100 countries and as far away as Thailand. He walked out of a workout Tuesday without talking to the press, leaving his trainers to answer questions.

On Thursday, however, he spoke after weighing in at 234 1/2 pounds on a scale believed to be four pounds heavy.

Stacey McKinley, Tyson's co-trainer along with Ronnie Shields, said Tyson really weighs about 229. Lewis weighed in separately at 249 1/4 , but he is believed to be about 245.

"It doesn't matter what Mike comes in at," said McKinley. "He's ready."

As Lewis weighed in, the dark quarter-sized bite he received from Tyson at their Jan. 22 news conference could be seen on his left thigh. Tyson had crossed the podium at the news conference, but he was nailed by a Lewis right hand, after which he chomped on the champ's leg during a scuffle.

"I'm going to insist that he has a big lunch and a big dinner before he steps into that ring," said Lewis, who wears dreadlocks. "But I don't know what else he can do. I'm going to have my hair pinned up so he can't pull on it. I think biting is one of the worst things you can do."

The fighters held separate news conferences and will not shake hands, as is traditional, before the fight. And it is written in the contracts of each fighter that he who fouls owes the other $3 million of his purse.

To prevent them from fouling, 6 feet 4, 245-pound Eddie Cotton was chosen to officiate the bout.

Cotton is no stranger to controversial bouts involving large heavyweights, having disqualified Andrew Golota against Riddick Bowe in the second meeting, and counted out Hasim Rahman when he was knocked out of the ring against Oleg Maskaev.

"This is a big, tall guy who is strong and capable of keeping control in a fight involving large, tough heavyweights," said HBO judge Harold Lederman.

Sources say between 3,000 and 5,000 tickets are available for the fight, expected to be the highest-grossing bout in the history of the sport.

When the fighters step into the ring, it will not be the first time they faced each other. They sparred over the course of a week in April 1984, when Lewis was 18, and Tyson was 17.

Lewis already had won the 1983 junior world championships in 1983 when Cus D'Amato, Tyson's trainer at the time, wanted to test his young fighter against a future Olympic gold medalist.

"We drove up to the Catskills [Mountains] to a little gym like an old fire station. There was a guy there named Mike Tyson," Lewis said. "The first day we stepped into the ring to spar, this cat comes across the ring.

"I gave him my Muhammad Ali impression, and I was dancing around, boxing him," Lewis said. "We went at it pretty good for four days. He gave me a fat lip, but I gave him a bloody mouth, so we were even in that exchange."

The Tyson camp has a different story.

"Mike knocked him out with 18-ounce gloves. He knocked him out with pillows. We have it on tape. We've got pictures," said McKinley.

Tonight, the fighters will be wearing 10-ounce gloves chosen by Lewis and considered "knockout gloves."

"It's going to be the same thing on Saturday," McKinley said.

Tale of the tape

Lewis Tyson

Age 36 35

Height 6-5 5-11 1/2

Weight 249 1/2 234 1/2

Reach* 84 71

Chest/normal* 44 42 1/2

Chest/expanded* 46 44

Waist* 34 34

Biceps* 17 17

Forearms* 15 14

Neck* 18 1/2 20

Fist* 12 12

*-In inches

Fight facts

Who:Lennox Lewis (39-2-1, 30 KOs) vs. Mike Tyson (49-3, 2 no-contests, 43 KOs)

When:Tonight, 11:15 approx.

Where:The Pyramid, Memphis, Tenn.

At stake:For Lewis' IBF and WBC heavyweight titles

Rounds:12

TV:Pay per view

Purse:$17.5 million each

Weights:Lewis, 249 1/2 pounds; Tyson, 234 1/2 pounds

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