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Boxing: Lewis should have died that day. If I'd had the right crew with me, they'd all be dead . . they're punks; SICKNESS IN PARADISE: MIKE TYSON KEEPS BOXING IN THE GUTTER.

Byline: John DILLON

MIKE TYSON was always supposed to be despatched to paradise by the barrel of a gun, the blade of a knife or the bottom of a bottle.

He has got here early, training earnestly for one of the biggest fights of his life rather than prematurely dead as so many predicted he would be - and creating a bizarre and personal little plot of heaven in which to prepare for his collision next month with Lennox Lewis.

It is one of swaying palm trees, gentle waves and a sweet chorus of birdsong where Tyson is relaxing, reading improving books and, secure from the temptations of night-life and the flesh, getting into his best shape for years.

Yet it is also where he is stirring around a deep enmity for Lewis and mixing it with fearful memories of prison and the ghetto in an attempt to reignite his destructive hunger of old.

Really, there could not be a setting more far removed from the gritty sweat-shops of boxing folklore for Tyson to be sharpening his attempt to prise away Lewis's world heavyweight title in Memphis on June 8.

As much as Tyson is luxuriating in the laid-back atmosphere, though, it did not take him long during an extraordinary interview to pour out a torrent of expletive-splattered bile at Britain's champion Lewis, with whom he infamously brawled during a 30-man melee on the stage of a New York theatre three months ago."He should have died that day," Tyson said, the idyllic setting of his white-walled villa by a Pacific beach forgotten as he was consumed by the creed of the tough streets where he grew up.

"It's just that I wasn't with the right crew in that theatre. If I had been with the right crew, all those guys would have been finished right there. They're punks.

"They jumped on me and they should have broken me down and killed me right there. How can they let me get their man and throw him to the floor like I did? I'm just a little guy and they were monsters.

"Lewis thinks I am afraid of him, but I am going to show him differently. It is my time now."

As Tyson went on to declare his desire to kill Lewis, it is easy to see why their meeting will be not only be the richest fight in history, but also one fraught with so much potential for explosion they will not be allowed near each other until the first bell rings.

Tyson has accepted his dual personality of man and monster and is now getting on with the most serious preparation for a fight he has enjoyed for years.

He is fit and trim and the spare tyre he carried at Christmas is long gone. And on this sleepy holiday island, where the hotel bars close at 10.30pm, he revealed: "I haven't been out once in the two months I have been here.

"I like this place. I came here once on holiday when I was married and I didn't like it. Mainly because I didn't want to be married. But why shouldn't I be relaxed? I need stability. Remember, not only do I like to play hard, I like to train hard as well.

"I have been fighting for 20 years. I know everything I need to know for this fight. This is about preparation, psychological preparation - to make me hungry and determined."

Part of that preparation is reading and discussing literature. F Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tolstoy and the Italian political theorist Machiavelli all got a mention from Tyson as his thoughts and ideas poured forth in an animated and sometimes incoherent torrent - along with his dead jail penpal Reg Kray, the Middle East situation, black history, the Prophet Mohammed and Jesus Christ. "I believe he smoked weed," was Tyson's odd assertion, delivered admittedly with a grin.

Yet he then told another story about the bitter relationship between himself and Lewis. Tyson said: "I am a foolish man. Once I was in a place, Crustaceans in Las Vegas, and Lewis was in there.

"I had been drinking. I wanted to harass him. I had two young girls with me and I was a fool trying to attack a distinguished, eloquent champion.

"Another time I saw him I was with my wife - and oh, you know, every time I do something to try to please somebody else, I end up getting f****d, man.

"She said, go say hello. And I said hi and he looked at me, like - m*****f****r, what you looking at me for?

"And I thought, oh shit, and I wanted to punch him. My wife made a punk out of me right there. This guy stared me down like a mad dog.

"From that day on, I felt like my wife took my balls from underneath me.

"She gave this punk-ass m*****f****r my nuts. It made me a punk right in front of him because I wanted to be a nice guy for my wife and I wanted to show that I can change. Basically, that was the end of it with her. I need a woman whose gonna go at him, try to punch him and then I join in. I need a woman like that."

He doesn't have one. Neither, though, does he have any more the notorious, camouflage-clad Tyson camp cheer-leader Steve "Crocodile" Fitch. He was kicked out about the same time as new trainer Ronnie Shields arrived.

Shields and Tyson work daily in a small, converted room at a resort complex up a green coastal mountainside, not long after Tyson has taken a six-mile run along the seaside path which threads through the lush and expensive holiday complexes of Wailea Beach.

Certainly he has been the grunting beast many revile him as. Yet there is another side and he seems here to have come to terms with the pattern of his life. He knows he really can be the beast he has been labelled as well as a man who reads Italian philosophy.

Tyson added: "I come across as rude and crass as a neanderthal and a babbling idiot. I like to be that person and I like to show that person. I am the bad nigger.

"Yet even though I want to kill Lennox Lewis, I also love him. I want to raise hell and kick ass sometimes but also love my children and I want to be loved.

"So are there two Mike Tysons? There are two everybodies. I can't help it who I am. Just don't crucify me because of that and because I tell the world about it. That's just who I am."

CAPTION(S):

WARNED: Lennox Lewis; BRAWL BOYS: The chaotic scenes as a press conference to launch the Lewis-Tyson fight turns into a mass punch-up
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 2, 2002
Words:1146
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