tightly controlled, is great strength, a cold, hard wrecking ball deep inside a
fighter. One flicker of doubt, and the cold ball turns molten, rages through
the rib cage, incinerates him.
Perhaps no one
can bring about the flicker. Perhaps no one will. Tyson's invulnerability
through 33 fights has preempted any true emotion in his audience: He isn't
loved, like Ali, or hated, like Ali. He is gaped at.
"One-hundred-and-oh," muses his trainer, Kevin Rooney. "He can do
most difficult to maintain will be his emotional state," says Atlas.
"To put yourself into that state of mind that often...."
Men who have
fought with violent imperative, constant aggressors in the ring, rarely have
endured as champions. Jack Dempsey defended his title only five times before
losing it. Rocky Marciano did it six and retired. Joe Frazier lasted for nine
title defenses, four if you don't count his New York State Athletic Commission
title. The flame that consumes their opponents consumes them, too. "It
requires such a tremendous amount of physical and mental and emotional energy
to fight that way that very few men can sustain it," says HBO analyst Larry
Merchant. "Unlike Ali or Holmes, they must put their whole selves into
every moment in the ring. Usually they are people who live fast and die
Just now, a dream
awoke him. I've lost! These dreams come all the time—I've lost the fight, I've
lost! He kicks the sheets away, scrambles to his feet, dodges a jab, rips the
darkness with uppercuts and hooks.
The fight draws
nearer. Please make it come soon, it's like a scream stuck inside, please let
it come out. He drops to the floor—push-ups, sit-ups—lies back in bed huffing
and snaps on the TV. Without a human voice in the room, he can't fall
An hour passes.
At 4 a.m., without an alarm clock, he awakes, laces on his sneakers and heads
outside. It is darker and colder and earlier than when the other fighter, his
opponent, runs—another small fresh kill, a little nibble for the beast.
Please make it
come soon, please let it come out. Daylight arrives. Outside again, he dips
into a shop, buys a piece of bread and shreds it. The pigeons come to him to
feed, his hand snaps out, grabs one, brandishes it, flings it over his shoulder
high into the sky.
He let go of the
hawk because it was so beautiful, says one friend.