Like an overhand right, the numbers have a stunning effect. When Mike Tyson, the undefeated heavyweight champion, holder of the garish belts of all three divisive divisions in boxing—the World Boxing Association, the World Boxing Council and the International Boxing Federation—meets Michael Spinks, the undefeated challenger on June 27 in Atlantic City, N.J., it will be the richest prizefight in history. Tyson, 21, will collect at least $21 million and may earn up to $6 million more from closed-circuit and pay TV revenues. Spinks, 31, is guaranteed $16.3 million. Last week, as they prepared for their bout billed “Once and for all” in boxing’s tradition of unselfconscious hyperbole, both men fought for control of the spoils of their efforts. The fight itself will be much shorter, and perhaps less interesting, than the struggles outside the squared ring.
Tyson has had few problems while wearing his trademark black trunks and black boots without socks. In winning all of his pro bouts, he has rendered 30 of 34 opponents unconscious or incapable of continuing. “I am a gladiator, stripped down for battle,” he said. “I want to drive the bone in his nose up into his brain. I want to make him cry and beg me not to hit him anymore.” But during a recent news conference, it was Tyson who cried.
He broke down while talking about Cus D’Amato, the legendary trainer who died in 1985 and who had become Tyson’s legal guardian in order to free him from a reform school when he was 13. Then, in 1982, D’Amato adopted Tyson after his mother died. D’Amato, his friend Jimmy Jacobs and Jacobs’s partner, Bill Cayton, controlled Tyson’s career and business affairs. Jacobs died in March, a month after Tyson had married TV starlet Robin Givens, 23, of the program Head of the Class. With the funeral and the nuptials, the struggle for Tyson’s millions began.
Don King, the fightand self-promoter with a coiffure like an abused Brillo pad, started his campaign through Givens and her mother, Ruth Roper. Roper recently settled out of court with New York Yankee outfielder Dave Winfield who, she claimed, gave her an undisclosed sexually transmitted disease (Winfield denied the charge). Cayton, who is white and has Tyson under contract until 1992, said of King, who is black, “He is winning Tyson with the theory that blacks should stick togeth-
er.” And shortly after the wedding, Givens and Roper insisted on a complete accounting of Tyson’s finances.
Cayton, whose contract calls for a third of all Tyson’s earnings, bridled at
the implication of impropriety. Cayton showed Tyson the books, but Tyson told The New York Times: “I’m not that sophisticated to comprehend. So I said to myself, ‘Don King knows what’s going on.’ But by no means do I trust Don King.” The jousting continues.
And Tyson’s trials have become increasingly public. In May, driving to his new $5.5million mansion in Bernardsville, N.J.—called “the house that Ruth built” by those in Tyson’s camp who dislike Roper —Tyson cracked his $220,000 Bentley into a parked car. A spokesman for Tyson said that the fighter had swerved to avoid hitting a cat.
But other accounts said that he had been dodg-
ing the fists of his bride sitting beside him. In any case, Tyson gave the car to the two police officers who investigated the accident, because, he said, it brought him bad luck. It had the same effect on the policemen. They were disciplined for accepting it.
Usually highly disciplined himself, Tyson reported to train for the Spinks fight almost a month late, carrying 237 lb. on his five-foot, 10inch frame, fully 19 lb. over his usual fighting weight. He had been with Givens in California where she was making a movie. The extra weight, combined with his other problems, has lowered the odds favoring a Tyson victory to 4 to 1 from 5 to 1.
Spinks, accustomed to the role of underdog despite his record of 31 wins, no losses and 21 knockouts, has problems of his own. Last week, Hilton Hotels Corp. sought a court order to o set aside $9.7 million of o his prize money. In a g suit that is scheduled to g go to trial on July 25, 3 the company claims that it lost that amount when Spinks withdrew from a bout last year that Hilton was to host.
For now, the six-foot, two-inch Spinks—who at 175 lb. held the world light-heavyweight title—is concentrating on perfecting a secret strategy. His camp officials say that they have detected a weakness in Tyson’s style that the now210-lb. Spinks can exploit. Awkward and unpredictable, but an intelligent and skilled boxer, Spinks should be Tyson’s most troublesome opponent. Ironically, given their problems, it may be a relief for both men to finally climb into the ring and get on with their business.
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