By Sammy Rozenberg
The Mike Tyson "World Tour" has officially begun. Tyson-mania took Youngstown, Ohio by storm as nearly 6,000 fans filled up the Chevrolet Centre to watch Tyson face heavyweight Corey Sanders in a four-round exhibition bout.
This was not the typical exhibition bout, Sanders came to ring wearing headgear, while Tyson wore none. In the first round, it appeared that Tyson was there to do damage when he landed a powerful right-hand combination that sent Sanders down to the floor. Sanders made it up to his feet, and Tyson uncharacteristically did not jump on him to end the fight. But, again this was an exhibition bout.
The crowd was unhappy with Tyson backing off on his punches. It was more of a sparring session than two fighters trying to knock each other out, which is what an exhibition bout is supposed to be, but the arena fans were screaming for blood. They wanted to see the Tyson of old, the man that would have tried to take his opponent out within the first three minutes.
The fans didn't get the concept of an exhibition bout, which is not the type of encounter where fighters are trying to win - because there are no winners or losers. These are not official bouts that affect the records of the participants, nor are they regulated.
Sanders did absolutely nothing to push the fight forward, and appeared to have been instructed prior to the bout to not to hit Tyson in the face because he was not wearing any headgear and also because the exhibition bout was a showcase of Mike Tyson to fans that have never seen him fight live. The event handlers would not have wanted Tyson to sustain a cut or some form of serious injury that would have postponed their upcoming tour dates.
At the same time, Tyson held back in order to make sure the bout would last the complete four rounds, so fans would not complain about not getting some bang for their buck. A few times Tyson appeared to rock Sanders with a right hand, only to give Sanders a few seconds to recover.
Again, this was an exhibition bout and fans booed often during the four rounds, something never before heard during a fight involving Mike Tyson.
After the bout was over, Tyson appeared to be very calm and pleased with his performance, but admitted that it was harder than he anticipated.
"I had fun, but I didn't expect for it to be that hard," Tyson said.
The Tyson exhibition tour was one of the few routes that the former champion was able to use in order to raise money to pay off the mounting millions of dollars in debt that hangs over his head. Tyson himself knew that if did not find a way to pay off his debt, he would end returning to ring with disastrous results.
"If I don't get out of this financial quagmire there's a possibility I may have to be a punching bag for somebody," Tyson said at a Youngstown media conference. "The money I make here isn't going to help any of my bills from a tremendous standpoint, but I'm going to feel better about myself. I'm not going to be depressed."
The Tyson exhibition tour idea came about when he was training in Las Vegas, and thousands of fans per day came to see him train. Promoter Sterling McPherson immediately saw the potential
"I was training in Las Vegas and 2,000 people a day were there. Why not do an exhibition? [Promoter] Sterling [McPherson] suggested we do a world tour. Once I started training, the stress left. I can't believe I'm not slurring. I'm not angry. Life's lessons are priceless," Tyson said.
Various stops on the tour include numerous locations within the United States, China, Russia, England, Africa and other countries. Hopefully for Tyson, the fans begin to comprehend the concept of an exhibition bout, and don't expect to see Tyson to beat a guy unconscious, something that a lot of the fans in Youngstown had hoped to witness.