DOLLAR-DRIVEN TYSON REACHES END OF THE LINE

Can we end it now, this infatuation with a washed-up fighter named Mike Tyson? Can we finally, admitting our own foolishness, put this ugly story in the shredder?

Perhaps after Saturday night in Memphis, Tenn., when he offered virtually no resistance to Lennox Lewis, when he barely threw more than one punch at a time, when after eight lopsided rounds, he finished on the canvas, on his back, toes up, blood dotting his eyes and his forehead — perhaps with that ugly image in mind, we can wave good-bye to the charlatan of chaos.

And never watch him fight again.

“I want to thank Lennox for the chance and it was a great payday for me,” Tyson said immediately after the fight ended. “And if he would be so kind to give me another fight, I would really appreciate it.”

There it was. After all the noise and all the hype and all the $54.95 pay-per-view tickets, there it was, the ridiculous cherry atop the ridiculous national sundae we’ve been pigging out at for weeks. Tyson begging like a kid with a UNICEF can.

This, after promising to “put my fist into (Lewis’) brain,” after telling a female reporter he wouldn’t talk to her unless she slept with him, after telling the world he wanted to “crush the testicles” of children. Finally, here was Tyson, 35, donning the only costume left in the closet.

Nice guy.

“Lennox is a splendid fighter,” he said.

Splendid? What is this, “Gosford Park”?

“I love him and respect him.”

Right. That’s why you bit his leg.

Please. Mike Tyson this morning is no different from Mike Tyson on Saturday at 11 p.m. What he wants out of all of this is money.

He just got $17.5 million to be a punching bag.

Now he wants more.

Hyped-up Mike

“Some of the punches he took, I was shocked,” Lewis said, after landing 193 of them, versus Tyson’s harmless 49. “Some of them, I felt them right through to my hand.”

Well, what did anyone expect? Tyson had boxed only 18 rounds in the last five years, all against B-level opponents. He had lost the previous two times he’d fought for the linear heavyweight championship. The last time he even looked strong as a fighter was more than a decade ago.

So where did all this silliness come from, people predicting a Tyson victory? Evander Holyfield, who lost a piece of an ear to Tyson, said Iron Mike would win big. Maybe Tyson’s chompers got a piece of Holyfield’s brain, too.

How about the well-known boxing writer who penned this the day before the fight: “Judging from what I saw at Tyson’s weigh-in . . . the heavyweight title is about to change hands. And probably quickly.”

Only if Lewis switches the belt from his left to his right.

Tyson was never going to win this fight, because he’s a shot fighter and Lewis is not. How did so many overlook the obvious?

Because in this hype-soaked country, people actually believe that if you show enough old videos of a fighter, he becomes that fighter again. Tyson was supposed to come out and take Lewis down in the first round?

Sorry. Maybe Tyson in 1988. You know. Back when people thought Internet stocks were a good idea?

Looking for a payday

The sad truth is, Tyson should never have gotten this fight. Several states turned him down. Take your pick of reasons. His rape conviction. His biting Holyfield. His numerous run-ins with the law. Even at an early press conference for this fight, Tyson raced across a stage and attacked Lewis, biting his leg.

Boxing’s response? Tyson had to pay Lewis $335,000 of his purse.

Which tells you all you need to know. The business of boxing (let’s not call it a sport) judges and weighs and decides everything everything — by money.

But we don’t have to. We can smarten up, remember Tyson’s pre-fight words, not his postfight act. We can replace the mental images of a young Tyson barreling into opponents with the picture of the old Tyson, flat on his back, bleeding with his eyes swollen shut.

And we can finally understand that a guy who mostly used his power to harass, rape, intimidate and disgrace, finally, at the end, was reduced to begging for more of it, because that power comes only from people willing to pay to watch him.

Do him — and all of us — a favor.

Shut it off.

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