- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 22, 2003

I don't know what the big fuss is over Mike Tyson getting a tattoo on his face before his fight tonight with Clifford Etienne in Memphis, Tenn. It's not as if this is something new. The last time he fought in Memphis, he had Lennox Lewis' gloves tattooed all over his face.
Tonight the freak show takes center stage again, and maybe we'll see something new, such as Jeff Gillooly passing Tyson a baton to crack over Etienne's head. (It wouldn't take much of a baton, because Etienne's weak spot is the top of his head. When he fought Fres Oquendo, he was knocked down seven times, most of the time from getting tapped on top of the head.)
Then Tonya Harding could come running up from the locker room, jump in the ring and finish the job by slamming Etienne with a hubcap.
Let's face it, tonight's boxing event in Memphis might as well be called "National Enquirer Presents." Not only is there the Tyson attraction, but you have Tonya Harding making her professional boxing debut.
In yesterday's USA Today, Harding told columnist Jon Saraceno that she would be willing to take a shot at Tyson for the right amount of money. Don't believe it. That's a plant. She'll be in there tonight passing foreign substances or whatnot for Tyson to use in the ring against Etienne. Freaks stick together.
Or maybe tonight's main event could be an episode of "National Geographic Explorer" because Tyson is facing a fighter known as "The Black Rhino."
Tyson has some trouble with those zoological fighters. He was once nearly beaten by "The White Buffalo," Frans Botha, before finally knocking the Buffalo out with 10 seconds left in the fifth round.
There's a good chance tonight may go the same way. The Black Rhino goes down a lot more than the White Buffalo. In fact, the Black Rhino and the White Buffalo fought each other in July 2002, and it seemed as if the Buffalo would triumph when Botha put Etienne down twice. But the Rhino, despite having the head of an egg, has the heart of a lion and gets up when he is knocked down. He kept getting up against Oquendo, and he got up enough against Botha to fight him to a draw.
If he gets hit by Tyson like he did by Botha and Oquendo, the Rhino will become extinct. That is why he was hand-picked to be Tyson's opponent tonight. He is easy to hit.
The problem for Tyson, though, could be that the Rhino will hit him, and he brings more firepower and boxing skills to the fight than any of the tomato cans (Julius Francis, Lou Savarese, Andrew Golota, Brian Nielsen) Tyson fought in his last comeback before facing Lewis last June. And if Tyson gets hit enough or things don't go his way for a moment or even if he simply offended by the Rhino hitting his African tribal tattoo Tyson could flip out and do something stupid, reacting much differently to getting hit than he did in the Lewis fight.
There is a school of thought in boxing that Tyson was heavily medicated for his fight with Lewis, right up to the moment he stepped into the ring. That would explain why he was much more docile than normal and seemingly willing to take his beating without incident. Promoters and others with stakes in the event coming off without a catastrophe knew Tyson would get beat, medicated or not, so why risk another debacle like the bite fight with Evander Holyfield five years before? It is not an unreasonable school of thought.
Based on his erratic behavior leading up to tonight's fight the tattoo, pulling out of the fight for a while it appears Tyson has been unleashed this time, taken off his medication as he had been for most of his other fights. Unless, of course, Tonya pulls the old double cross and is really in cahoots with the Black Rhino and slips something into Tyson's water bottle.
Anything is possible at the freak show.


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