TYSON'S LAST STAND...BRAVO! Whew. Exhale . . . and smile. Lewis-Tyson, after all, is off. And with a clean, dominant whipping applied by the champ, it appears Iron Mike has punched his one-way ticket to palookaville. Meanwhile, Lennox Lewis -- now with notches for both Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson on his belt -- has solidified his position in heavyweight history. Maybe not next to Dempsey, Marciano, and Ali . . . but right alongside Patterson, Frazier, and Holmes. I have to confess, last week -- Fight Week as we’ll remember it -- was energizing. From the sightings of each principal, to the celebrity rumors and confirmations, to the dramatically over-hyped press conferences and weigh-ins . . . it was a special week in Memphis history, let alone Memphis sports history. I had all kinds of doubts back in March when the River Bout was confirmed for June 8th in The Pyramid. Most of these had to do with Tyson’s role in the affair, and the element attracted to his profane, destructive presence. All this city needed was a violent exchange outside the boxing ring to further damage Memphis’ image in the eyes of those who refuse to see this town as anything other than the endpoint for an over-the-hill rock star and the spiritual leader of an entire race. Again, exhale . . . and smile. Among the most repeated expressions I heard around my office and neighborhood last week was a high pitched confirmation/inquiry: “You’re going to the fight?! How’d you get a ticket?!” Never has a country club known to man been more exclusive than the set of individuals who were able to answer “yes” to this question last week. And you know what? That’s precisely part of the Fight Week magic. Lewis and Tyson engaged each other for just under 24 minutes . . . but to say you were there for all eight rounds places you firmly on a rather large dot in the Memphis historical timeline. As for me, my role in The Week was vicarious. I hosted a journalist covering the fight for AP radio, a gentleman from Kansas City who makes his living being in the places the rest of us want to be . . . and graciously telling us about them as they unfold. And I didn’t charge him a dime. (Call me a sucker if you choose, but I maintain there still exists the courtesy of a professional favor.) My guest delivered first-hand reviews of the events, merely hours after they unfolded. Did I wish to be alongside for the fun? Sure. Did I wish to share in the over-stuffed media rooms, security checks, and media shuttles? Put it this way: I relished seeing the Belmont Stakes live (a gallant run, War Emblem), and you only have so many Saturdays with a three-year-old daughter. (I was actually convinced the Belmont would take longer than the fight. Again, happily incorrect.) So here’s a tip of the cap to the movers and shakers who put this epic sports happening together. And happening it was. When radio chatter, store-front signage, local television, and water-cooler chit-chat all target the same subject . . . you’ve got a happening. And, particularly since last September, how pleasing that the happening merely involved a pair of prize fighters. I’d like to think a large part of the Memphis boxing legacy will now be as the venue where Mike Tyson made his last stand, where he was summarily beaten by a superior pugilist, and packed on his way to B-list bouts, if not even further off the sports world’s radar of pertinence. The daily newspaper’s front-page image Sunday of Tyson supine on the ring floor belongs in the category of “good over evil” . . . once again. Right here in the Bluff City. A colleague shared with me what I consider the corniest, most over-the-top celebrity remark from Fight Week. Said this high-profile Memphian, “You know who will win the Lewis-Tyson fight? Memphis!” Corny, maybe. Seems to be right on the mark, too.


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