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Sucker Punch: The Hard Left Hook that Dazed Ali and Killed King's Dream


Intellectual Fraud

Intelligent Design

Mega Fix

Ron Brown

Popes & Bankers

TWA Flight 800





In his new book, Sucker Punch: The Hard Left Hook That Dazed Ali and Killed King’s Dream, Jack Cashill un-tells what may be the most mis-told story of the late twentieth century, the heroic rise of boxer, Muhammad Ali. This retelling sheds bright new light on some slighted boxing greats like Joe Louis, Joe Frazier, and George Foreman and reveals the surprising role that Christianity has played in the sports culture.

8. How Ali’s Legacy
Destroyed Mike Tyson

Promoter Don King had taken Muhammad Ali’s misbegotten racial rap and commercialized it. If Ali was sincere, King was not, and his cynicism made him all the more lethal. Ali abandoned racism as he and the society matured, just as Malcolm X had before him. King and the other race hustlers—Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton among them—had no more reason to abandon racism than they did any other viable promotional gimmick—Christianity, Islam, patriotism, whatever.

Racism still worked. It opened doors. It scared prosecutors. It cowed promoters. It secured contracts. It coerced young men like Mike Tyson into depending on “liberators” like Don King. Under King’s tutelage, Tyson, the man who once transcended race, would soon come to see race as his biggest burden.

“It’s very difficult being black,” Tyson would tell writer Pete Hamill when in prison, implying that his race was the reason he was there in the first place. The absurdity of that notion does not make it any less scary or sad.

Throughout 1989, Tyson was left to train himself, and he did so half-heartedly. The most aggressive workout Tyson would get that year was in the backseat of his limo with his management team, Beavis and Butthead as they were known outside their own circle, procuring the female sparring partners.

“He began to act like a gangsta rapper,” writer Jack Newfield regrets, “instead of Joe Louis.” For all his distractions, Tyson still had stuff enough to dispose of Frank Bruno in February and Carl “Truth” Williams in July. He was not sure who was managing him, and he didn’t quite care.

The one looming fight that did keep Tyson at least halfway focused was with Evander Holyfield, a powerful, unbeaten contender from Georgia. In large part because he did not control Holyfield, King had other ideas. He saw a way to extract a few easy million out of Tyson by sending him to Japan to fight the little-known Buster Douglas. When Tyson protested, King and company leaned on him. “It was as if they held some special power or control over him,” says Tyson friend Rudy Gonzalez, “which could take away his will to resist whatever they wanted to do.”

Under pressure from King, Tyson’s resistance quickly eroded, and Team Tyson was off to Japan. Always alert to the possibilities, King hustled Tyson every which way he could and paid him off in geisha girls. Tyson found little time to train, but that was not a great problem as it would not take much training to dispatch journeyman Douglas. The one Las Vegas bookie that ran any kind of action on the fight had Douglas listed as a 42 to 1 underdog.

Although King had finessed promotional rights for both fighters, he rooted openly for Tyson. But Cus D’Amato now dead, and the rest of his old management team now fired, Tyson had no one to guide him and seemed lost when he fell behind early in the match.

Beavis and Butthead had little advice to offer and even less technical help. They had neglected, for instance, to bring the salve necessary to treat Tyson’s closing left eye.

Still, at the end of the eighth round, Tyson was able to channel his rage and knock Douglas down. Not badly hurt, Douglas slammed the canvas with his fist in self-disgust, followed the ref’s count, and was on his feet and boxing at nine. At the end of the round, King went berserk, yelling at the ref that the fight was over, but it clearly was not.

In the tenth round, Douglas knocked Tyson down, the first time in Tyson’s career. He did not get up. Time magazine called the knockout “the biggest upset in boxing history.” When the fight ended, Ali phoned Tom Hauser, then at work on Ali’s biography, and said, “Do you think folks will now stop asking if I could have beaten Tyson in my prime?”

Part:   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

Next article in Jack Cashill's Sucker Punch series . . .


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