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Tyson-Lennox bout a distasteful, money-driven spectacle

By HUBERT MIZELL, Times Sports Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 2, 2002

There are a lot of good reasons to visit Memphis. Paying respects to Elvis at Graceland. Swinging to historic jazz on Beale Street. Stopping at the airport to feel the packaged FedEx pulse. Seeing the mighty Mississippi, glancing across at Arkansas.

There are a lot of good reasons to visit Memphis. Paying respects to Elvis at Graceland. Swinging to historic jazz on Beale Street. Stopping at the airport to feel the packaged FedEx pulse. Seeing the mighty Mississippi, glancing across at Arkansas.

Devouring pork barbecue at Corky's. Memphis is a proud, flowing town that inspired John Grisham, becoming his hot setting for The Firm. Today there are Grizzlies around, attempting pro basketball.

There is, however, no excuse to set a self-respecting foot in westernmost Tennessee for something so cursed by an absence of class as that pig from a less honorable sty, Mike Tyson, executing another of his money-grubbing, heavyweight shenanigans.

Tell me you're stylish enough to not make it to Memphis, to be among ringside suckers. Tell me there's not ample intrigue for this latest Tyson con game, with Britain's seemingly honorable Lennox Lewis as co-conspirator, to motivate the wasting of dozens of pay-TV dollars.

I often work at being unbiased. Not in this case. Boxing reeks with disgust. I loathe Tyson. He would need massive improvement as a human to rank with Tonya Harding.

When did we stop caring about jock character? How is this different than putting Lennox in the ring with a Nile asp? As much as I detest boxing, there has been immense admiration over the years for prime heavyweights.

Muhammad Ali was bigger and more important than anyone. Rocky Marciano pitched a perfect game. Joe Louis was phenomenal. Joe Frazier's zeal so admirable.

But this pitiful blob Tyson, after an impressive beginning, has become cartoonish. Which of Tyson's values would you wish for your child?

I don't want to see him again, hear him or know he is being paid large money for the smallest of contributions. Saturday, for me, will be dedicated to the Belmont Stakes, hoping for a good run at the Triple Crown. A far more sporting aim, don't you think?

Hey, it's a free country.

Sleep well, Elvis. He will soon be gone.

* * *

UPPERCUTS: Because I don't have a Pele tattoo, soccer-zany friends figure I'm anti the world's biggest game, but my mind is attuned as spirited kicking begins in search of Japan/Korea delirium. ... Speaking of continentals, British actor Hugh Grant need not apologize for getting hooked on golf, saying, "I'd hoped I would hate it -- it's so unchic. I wish I'd become a surfer."

Maybe, if Barry Bonds had a chummier attitude, being a legitimate contender for best baseball player ever, he'd get better TV ads than sharing KFC nuggets with Seinfeld has-been Jason Alexander. ... Bruce Crampton, well-known PGA Tour grouch, approached by a woman who paid money to be the Aussie's pro-am partner, would hear her say, "A friend bet me $10 that you wouldn't say five words to me all day." To which the golfer barked, "Sorry, lady, you lose."

Peter Kessler, deposed ace interviewer for Golf Channel, signed with Mark McCormack's International Management Group in search of new links-linked gigs. ... He's rich, famous, handsome, nice and a still-active legend, so why am I feeling sorry for the reeling Pete Sampras? ... Before a Giants game in an indoor stadium, Japanese outfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo was wearing sunglasses. Huh? His interpreter, asked about the shades, explained, "He doesn't like his eyes and doesn't want people to see them." Huh?

READER'S WORD: E-mail from Florence Casey of Sarasota asks, "Who will be the next Vin Scully, Red Barber, Jack Buck, Bob Prince, Harry Caray, Mel Allen or Ernie Harwell? Nobody, I'm afraid.

"I am a lifelong baseball fan, though not so much now. A huge admirer of legendary, traditional play-by-play announcers. Everything has changed, usually not for the better.

"My late husband was a radio sales executive in New York and Boston and I regularly heard the greats. Today, when I listen, the dominant sounds are from smart-mouthed kids on cable TV and talk radio.

"Local sports reports on TV news shows are nearly useless. If they have four minutes, all but 30 seconds is burned on so-called highlight videos that seldom mean much.

"There appears to be little demand for experience, credibility and universal appeal, though there always will be major exceptions like the wonderful, informative Bob Costas and Jon Miller. Too many former players are disgusting flops on the air, though Joe Morgan is really good."

HUBERT'S REPLY: You get heavy agreement here, Florence. Audiences are granted insufficient attention, with program lords pouring the fuel to the "males 18-45" demographic.

Local television has so little sports time, you wonder if those tiny segments will begin to disappear from news blocks. Finding a gray hair among ESPN, Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS and CNN sports yappers is tougher than locating right-wingers on guest lists at the Clintons.

Whatever happened to Tony Kubek?

-- To reach Hubert Mizell, e-mail mmizell02@earthlink.net or mail to P.O. Box 726, Nellysford, VA 22958.

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