|ON THE ROPES...|
What's your ruling on the Tyson bite?
July 15, 1997
Other questions asked in this forum:
How have the characters of fighters changed over the years? What is the historical link between the lower/working classes and boxing? Why is boxing's fate linked to Mike Tyson? What is beautiful and intriguing about boxing?
June 30, 1997:
Paul Solman examines the Tyson bite and the effect it will have on public support for boxing.
The NewsHour's sport coverage.
Excerpts from Joyce Carol Oates on Mike Tyson.
Mike Tyson's record.
Evander Holyfield's record.
A question from Ginny Lambert of Portland, Oregon:
I can't believe that Tyson wasn't disqualified when he was convicted of rape. What if he had raped a man? I just feel that the world of male sports continues to obliquely condone violence and disrespect towards women. What kind of sporting body would allow such a criminal to be a role model for the sport-would the NFL or American League?
Professor Gorn responds:
Part of the reason Tyson wasn't disqualified is that boxing really doesn't have a central regulating agency like the National Football League, or the National Basketball Association. It has always been something of a social outlaw (the sport was illegal until the end of the ninteenth century). Some people argued that Tyson was punished sufficiently by the state, and that while he was in prison he couldn't fight anyway, which served the same purpose as a suspension. Clearly some men do not consider rape a serious enough crime to deserve a lifetime suspension. Finally, boxing is so dependent on charasmatic individuals, on great champions, that the sport can hardly afford to suspend its best athletes; that is if it hopes to still attract large numbers of fans.
Joyce Carol Oates responds:
Boxing is the least regulated of major sports, with no central governing board. Its history has been one of protracted contamination by organized crime. It's the "outlaw" sport, perhaps not a sport at all. Boxers like Tyson, and previously Sonny Liston, another ex-convict, constitute its "dark" side, not unlike the melodramatic polarities of so-called professional wrestling. In his time, after he'd won the heavyweight title, Jack Dempsey was the boxer the crowds loved to hate, and it seems that, convicted rapist, disqualified contender, Tyson will inherit this dubious mantle. Abuse of women seems to have added to his dark appeal; as one of his trainers wittily said, Tyson is no longer perceived as a young, boyish hero, so it's as if "Heidi" and "Godzilla" have melded. Apparently, this sells tickets. (Though I wouldn't buy one, myself.)