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Mike Tyson Fighting to Pay $38 Million Debt - 2004-07-29

Former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson of the United States fights journeyman Danny Williams of Britain Friday night, in a comeback bout in Louisville, Kentucky. Tyson is not fighting to win a title, but to pay off part of his estimated $38 million debt.

The 38-year-old Tyson was once a rich man, having earned a fortune of some $400 million dollars during his professional career. But he squandered it on a lavish lifestyle that included a number of mansions, a fleet of luxury automobiles, expensive jewelry, multi-million dollar divorce settlements and even a $2 million bathtub.

His fight against Williams, 31, is part of a bankruptcy reorganization plan that calls for him to fight seven times in the next three years. Most of the money he earns will go to pay off his creditors. But despite his age, Tyson believes he can win.

"It's as if 38 is a death sentence," he said. "I feel like, God, like I'm Methusalah over here. He's 31! When I was champ he was 13."

For his part Danny Williams, who is a 9-to-1 underdog, says he knows he was brought in to be "a knock-over fight" for Tyson. But the British heavyweight says that sort of thinking is "a big mistake." Williams has enough confidence in his abilities that he believes he can derail Tyson's comeback before it begins. But he acknowledges that the man once known as Iron Mike will be a tough opponent.

"I believe when he was like 20 or 21 he was invincible," he said. "But he has gone backwards a lot since then. He's still a great fighter and that's why it is so hard to beat him."

The last time Tyson was in the ring was 17 months ago, when he defeated little-known American Clifford Etienne in just 48 seconds. Before that, British boxer Lennox Lewis stopped Tyson in June of 2002 in a bout for the heavyweight title. While Tyson may no longer be the threat in the ring he once was, he also seems to be "a kinder, gentler" man outside the ring. Quite a contrast to the fighter who became notorious for biting former opponent Evander Holyfield's ear, serving a prison term for rape and threatening to eat Lennox Lewis's children.

Tyson has been living modestly in Phoenix, Arizona. His entourage is gone and there were no angry tirades at the pre-fight press conferences. Quite to the contrary.

"I'm just very appreciative of the treatment I've received here in Louisville," he said. "It's truly overwhelming, and I'm just? I'm ready."

Mike Tyson said that he is trying to be a decent man and that his future seems much brighter than his past. He claims he is a different man than he was 17 months ago. It should be interesting to see which Tyson steps into the ring in Louisville tonight.