The room is
silent. His wife falls asleep, he stares into the darkness. Please, Cus, just
one more question, the one he never had a chance to ask: What becomes of him if
the beast ever goes away?
An hour before
midnight on June 15, 1976, George Foreman's right foot twitched. Nearby lay Joe
Frazier, victim of a fifth-round knockdown. Arms raised, Foreman stood above
him, aching to consummate his conquest by planting that foot on Frazier's
At that stage in
his life, Foreman often went through two women a day; his need to have flesh
beneath him had become desperate. This urge made him the heavyweight champion
of the world. It also made him ripe to be dismantled. He who needs to dominate
most, most fears being dominated. The two fighters who most graphically
illustrated this in recent history were Sonny Liston and Foreman, one the
1960s' most glowering intimidator, the other the 1970s'. Who could picture
either of them lying on the floor until they were there—both having been undone
by Muhammad Ali.
Six months ago
George Benton, Tyrell Biggs's trainer, had a warm afternoon's dream. He thought
perhaps his fighter could do that to Mike Tyson. Instead Tyson broke Biggs in
seven rounds, made him issue whimpering sounds, as Tyson exulted later,
"kind of like a woman." Benton didn't change his mind. "It's
Katie-bar-the-door when that kind of mind-set gets frustrated," he says.
"It doesn't bend. It just breaks."
But who can break
"It won't be
easy, Tyson's far more polished than he's given credit for," says Atlas.
"There are people talented enough, it just hasn't been urgent enough for
them to do what it takes."
when Tyson hits after the bell, hits him back until they have to pull them
apart. Someone who, when Tyson hits him with an elbow, hits him back with his
elbow, his head, the stool. Someone who makes Tyson think, 'My God, this guy
will do things even I wouldn't do.' Someone not just trying to survive. Someone
trying to win."
Does that man
exist on the heavyweight landscape? Certainly not in Tony Tubbs, who must face
Tyson in Tokyo next week. Michael Spinks? Evander Holyfield? "Sixty to
seventy percent of what he's done in the ring is because of intimidation,"
says Holyfield. "His reputation has his opponents halfway down before they
get in the ring. I met him once, at the Red Parrot in New York. He grabbed my
bicep when we were introduced and tried to crush it. Everywhere I walked, he
wouldn't take his eye off me."
That is fear.
"Mike is absolutely terrified of everyone he fights," says Lott.