Tensions are running a little high as we get closer to the Mellow Mike Tyson-Irish Kevin McBride fight tomorrow night at MCI Center.
Not between the fighters, mind you. Mike is still mellow, and Irish Kevin is still catatonic, though he did show some emotion yesterday with a shake of his fist and a "yes!" after surviving a staredown following the weigh-in at Howard University's Blackburn Ballroom for their scheduled 10-round heavyweight fight.
But those people around the edges and inside the circle of the Mellow Mike business are getting a little steamed. There are many agendas in an event like this -- a major heavyweight fight that has, given the state of today's dismal division, every bit as much juice as a title fight.
For instance, I was discussing the merits of believing anything about Mellow Mike's preparation for this fight with a longtime boxing observer before the weigh-in, and I reiterated what most boxing writers have said about any Tyson training camp: None of the hype about preparation and rededication is believable because it has been proven false so many times before.
A black man in a white robe who was listening in stopped me and asked, "Why does white America hate Mike Tyson?"
I said, "What?"
He said, "I heard what you were saying. Why does white America hate Mike Tyson?"
I said, "I don't hate Mike Tyson. I just don't believe he trained any harder for this fight than any of the others he has blown off before."
He said, "Why do you hate him so much?"
I said, "I don't hate Mike, but I gotta tell you, I'm not too crazy about you right now."
Irish Kevin doesn't seen to hate Mellow Mike, but he also doesn't seem scared of him either. Unlike Wednesday, when he wore sunglasses during the staredown with Mellow Mike at the press conference, the 6-foot-6 Irish Kevin went face to face yesterday with the 5-10 Mellow Mike with nothing covering his eyes, and there didn't seem to be any fear there. If he can sustain that courage between now and when the bell rings tomorrow night, that's half the battle in a Mellow Mike fight.
"[McBride] seems to be pretty confident to me," said heavyweight contender Hasim Rahman, who is an analyst for ESPN for this fight.
Irish Kevin is a pretty big boy as well, weighing in yesterday at 271 pounds, the most of his 13-year pro career. Mellow Mike weighed in at 233, the same weight he carried into the ring when Danny Williams beat him up in four rounds in Louisville, Ky., in July.
The weigh-in for heavyweights is ridiculous because there is no weight to make. But they became events during Muhammad Ali's day and are still treated as such, although most now are as benign as yesterday's.
Mellow Mike was certainly on friendly ground, greeted by a roomful of fans who cheered as he stepped on the stage, took off his pants to reveal white briefs (as if the trousers would have made a difference) and was introduced by the promoter, Rock Newman.
Actually, Newman, a former District fixture and now Las Vegas businessman who was former heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe's manager, isn't the promoter for the fight. I just wrote that because it seems to upset a lot of people.
Newman is a consultant to the promoters, but he has been the one doing all the front work -- the introductions during the press conference Wednesday and the weigh-in yesterday. So some news outlets have referred to him in their stories as the promoter, which made the actual promoters for the event so unhappy that the public relations staff was ordered to threaten to revoke the credentials of reporters who continued to refer to Newman as the promoter.
That's what happens when you put your money and reputation on the line and someone else gets the credit -- you get a little testy. Given that context, it was funny when Newman pointed out that among the crowd on the weigh-in stages were the two promoters, Darryl Stuckey and Marty Wynn. Newman declared, "Identify yourselves," but it's a little too late for that.
The promoters should take a page from Mellow Mike, the former two-time world champion who didn't get testy at all this week until Rich Cappiello, Irish Kevin's promoter in New England and an adviser of his for this fight, got up at the press conference Wednesday and started mouthing off about how everyone has heard the stories of Mellow Mike coming back and recapturing his old glory before only to find they were fairy tales -- just like I was saying yesterday.
But Mellow Mike didn't ask Cappiello why he hated him. He made fun of Cappiello's pinky ring and told him he wasn't helping his fighter with all the talk. Then, while Cappiello's was singing Irish Kevin's praises, Mellow Mike declared, "I'm going to gut him like a fish." And when that sound bite went all across the country on radio and television and was written up in newspapers, hundreds of tickets were sold and thousands more pay-per-view buys were made.
You know who the promoter is for this fight? Mr. Pinky Ring, Rich Cappiello.