- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 12, 2005

ATLANTA — It will be Ichiro vs. Iron Mike on June 11 in Washington.

As Apollo Creed said, that sounds like a Japanese monster movie.

The same night Mike Tyson fights Kevin McBride at MCI Center, the Washington Nationals play the Seattle Mariners and their international star outfielder, Ichiro Suzuki, just down the road at RFK Stadium.

“With Ichiro in town, Tyson doesn’t stand a chance,” Nationals manager Frank Robinson said jokingly before last night’s game against the Atlanta Braves.

It will be June in Washington, and there will be a big heavyweight fight and a major league baseball game taking place on the same night in the city.

When is the last time that happened?

Although this isn’t a heavyweight title fight (then again, neither is John Ruiz vs. James Toney or most of the other farces that pose as heavyweight championship bouts these days), two heavyweight title fights have taken place in the District: Joe Louis vs. Buddy Baer on May 23, 1941, and Riddick Bowe against Jesse Ferguson on May 22, 1993.

Both took place at a ballpark, Louis-Baer at Griffith Stadium and Bowe-Ferguson at RFK Stadium, so there was no major league baseball being played that night in town. (Obviously, there was no baseball even here in 1993.)

Things have changed. Big town. Big time. Big night.

Did I mention that the NBA Finals will be starting that week as well?

All of a sudden, a sleepy June night in the District will become electric, with MCI Center and RFK Stadium both generating excitement from something other than a rock concert or ice skating show.

When informed about the two events happening the same night, Robinson said, “What do you want me to do, leave town? What are you trying to say, D.C.’s not big enough for the two of us?”

It is now.

Interleague play will be making its debut in Washington during fight week, too. Oakland comes to town for a three-game series starting June 7, and the Mariners arrive for their three-game series June 10. With Washington being such an international city, the presence of Ichiro should be a big event.

Kevin McBride also contributes some international flavor as an Irish heavyweight. He will not likely be any Cinderella Man, but after Tyson lost to British journeyman Danny Williams last July, you won’t find many people willing to say the sacrificial stiff doesn’t have a prayer. We all said that in Louisville, and Williams made us eat our snickers.

So while Tyson’s advisers didn’t pick McBride so he could actually beat Tyson, they didn’t pick Williams for that purpose either, and look what happened.

That said, if Mike Tyson can’t beat Kevin McBride, he should perhaps stick to his day job.

I don’t really want to know what that is.

That same June night, the Nationals will play their 62nd game of the season, barring rainouts, and they are hoping that they are neither Mike Tyson (washed up) or Kevin McBride (rallying to be a journeyman). What they appear to be so far is a scrappy welterweight that can’t afford to get hit too many times by the big boys in the division, like Florida and Atlanta.

It is conceivable that a Washington sports fan could see the hit king that night at RFK (Suzuki broke the 84-year-old season hit record last year with 262) and the hits later on at MCI Center. The starting time for the ballgame is 7:05 p.m., and it is likely the Tyson-McBride Showtime pay-per-view event won’t come off before 11.

Nationals outfielder Terrmel Sledge is intrigued by the idea. “I might try to get over to see that,” he said. “He was such a fearsome fighter. I used to love watching Mike Tyson fight.”

Robinson — a big fight fan — isn’t interested in making the doubleheader. It was a Tyson fight he attended that soured him on heavyweight boxing.

“The last two heavyweight title fights I saw were his last two [Evander] Holyfield fights [at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, including the rematch when Tyson bit Holyfield’s ears],” Robinson said. “I haven’t been back since for a heavyweight championship. It’s not the fights that turned me off — it is what he did that turned me off.

“I don’t care who he is fighting. Tyson can’t fight anymore. He never could fight. He had a punch. He’s getting knocked out now because nobody’s scared of him, and he doesn’t have the punch.”

Sounds like fighting words to me. My money’s on the manager.

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