- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 9, 2005

With all the talk about how Mike Tyson has mellowed — much of it from Tyson himself — and how he has embraced fatherhood and a quiet, simple suburban life in Arizona, shed most of his demons and quelled the anger and criminal urges that plagued him outside the boxing ring, it is somewhat reassuring to know the old rage still flickers not far beneath the surface.

Witness an exchange at yesterday’s Howard University press conference to hype Tyson’s heavyweight fight against Kevin McBride on Saturday night at MCI Center. Other than a little trash-talking from Laila Ali, who appears in the so-called co-main event, it was a mostly civilized, placid affair. Goody Petronelli, McBride’s veteran trainer, even told a story about how nice and polite Tyson was as an amateur fighter.

Clearly the proceedings, emceed by agent, manager and man-about-boxing Rock Newman, a Howard alum, were veering off course. It was not supposed to be this congenial. Then Rich Cappiello, who calls himself an adviser to McBride, decided to push a few buttons. Presto! The Iron Mike everyone knows and loves magically reappeared.

Talking about Tyson’s many comebacks, Cappiello, in a crisp New England accent, told a roomful of journalists, fight people, boxing fans and gawkers, ‘I don’t think he’s coming back. I’ve got a great amount of respect for him. He was great in his time. But I think this is ou-ah time now.’

Tyson, seated on a dais, interjected, ‘You’re gonna get Kevin killed.’

The pro-Tyson crowd loved that.

‘Go sit down,’ Tyson urged.

Cappiello refused and pressed onward. ‘I’ve been working with Kevin for 21/2 ye-ahs,’ he said. ‘I’ve never seen him pre-peah himself like he has [for this fight].’

At this point, Tyson said, ‘I’m gonna gut him like a fish.’

Bigger cheers.

Tyson is past threatening to eat an opponent’s children, as he did with Lennox Lewis. (With his own children and ex-wife/current business manager Monica Tyson, looking on, such statements would have seemed extra unseemly.) It is good to see him happy and contented, reflecting on all the mistakes he has made and how he has changed internally. Still, it is also good to see that what made Mike Tyson Mike Tyson still exists, sublimated and repressed though it may be.

‘Please sit down,’ Tyson urged Cappiello. ‘You’re making it hard on him. Please sit down.’

Cappiello persisted. Remember, the fight is still not sold out, and an infinite number of Showtime Pay-Per-View buys are waiting to be snapped up.

‘And he pawsitively believes he can knock out Mike,’ Cappiello said. ‘He’s a 6-foot-6, 270-pound …’

‘Tomato can,’ Tyson chimed in.

Cappiello finished up to hoots and jeers and sat down.

‘The person that never throws a punch always talks the most [stuff],’ Tyson said.

In a previous press conference, McBride, a k a ‘the Clones Colossus,’ talked big about what he would do to Tyson, prompting Tyson to call him ‘cute.’ When McBride brought that up, calling Tyson ‘cute, too,’ Tyson said, ‘Well, OK. You’re not gonna be so cute after the fight.’

Decidedly lower-key now, the 32-year-old McBride, who trains out of Brockton, Mass., noted that he told his late father it was always his dream to fight Mike Tyson.

‘On June 11, I’m gonna shock the world,’ said McBride, who fought for the Irish Olympic team in 1992. ‘I’m a contender, not a pretender.’

Tyson, who turns 39 in three weeks, takes a 50-4-1 record against McBride. But he lost his last fight, a fourth-round knockout by the unknown Danny Williams in July. Tyson suffered an injury to his left knee and later underwent arthroscopic surgery.

Tyson’s self-awareness, however, never has needed repair. He knows he probably remains the biggest name in heavyweight boxing. Referring to purportedly being called a circus attraction, Tyson looked out at the crowd and said, ‘These people are not here because I’m a circus. They’re here because I’m an icon. I’m an international star.

‘Please forgive me if this sounds somewhat egotistical,’ he said. ‘I’m just defending myself and setting the papers straight. … If anybody doesn’t know my name, they’re from another planet. And I will give you a great show on Saturday night. Of course, for Kevin, it won’t be a great show.’

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