As expected, Mike Tyson steamrolled through walking heavybag Julius Francis, knocking Francis down five times in four minutes. It's difficult to draw conclusions from such a short contest, and maybe Team Tyson would prefer it that way.

Tyson began the fight swinging wild combinations that missed the lumbering Francis. Although not yet hitting his target, Tyson was already displaying a repair of one of his biggest weaknesses: loading up on the single bomb. However another Tyson weakness remains, as Francis had no trouble tying up Mike when he got close and then walking him backwards.

Francis threw a perfunctory jab that landed on Tyson and amounted to his only offense of the night. Coming in behind a left jab of his own, Tyson eventually found his range with widely thrown body shots from both sides. These crunching blows sapped Francis immediately, and a double left hook to the body followed by a crunching uppercut sent Francis down with 15 seconds remaining in the opening stanza.

Francis managed to beat the count, getting up on the count of nine. Tyson came at him, missed a few more wild shots, and then knocked Julius down at the bell with a simple jab to the chin. Sprawled on his back, Francis made it to his feet at seven, and shuffled over to his corner for a brief rest.

Tyson had asserted his dominance already, and ending the fight was simply a formality. 15 seconds into round two, Tyson again crunched Francis to the body with a left hook. The punch slumped Francis back into the ropes, and he bounced off into a missed Tyson right hand that was followed by a landed Tyson right elbow. Dropped on all fours, Francis insisted on continuing and again rose to face the inevitable.

Another 15 seconds elapsed before Tyson slipped a jab, stepped around his opponent, and fired a huge uppercut to Francis' chest as he leant over. A second uppercut from the left followed, catching Francis on the temple and resulting in the fourth knockdown. Francis was again dropped to all fours before falling over to his side. Francis looked completely spent, yet earned points for courage by rising again before the count of ten. The fight resumed, and Tyson threw a left hook that was blocked by the glove and a right uppercut that missed. Didn't matter. Francis was dazed, and even the force of the blocked hook was enough to send him slumping to the canvas for the fifth and final time. No count necessary, the fight was waved off immediately.

So what can we draw from this encounter? Not much. On the bright side, Tyson (47-3-1NC/41) did show decent head movement, slipping a few jabs and ducking under a couple of Francis' roundhouse rights. He also showed improved footwork, as Tyson frequently got within range, then stepped around his opponent before launching his power shots. When he did so, he was quite effective. Clearly the Tyson power remains, and when he can land he can hurt.

However, Tyson critics will have plenty to support their side as well. Easy to tie up, wide open for counters when he throws, and lacking the phenomenal handspeed of his youth, Tyson correctly noted that he has "a long way to go". Tyson also needs to get close to do his best work, missing by a mile when he launched combinations from a distance. It remains to be seen whether or not Tyson can get close enough to some of the division's bigger names to land his effective uppercuts or body blows.

Finally, there is the choice of opponent. Beating Francis (21-8/11) is little to brag about. As a confidence booster for Tyson, this fight served it's purpose. Yet fighting such unworthy competition leaves the biggest question of all unanswered: "What happens when you hit Tyson back?" It's unlikely that Lou Savarese and Shannon Briggs, the leading candidates for Tyson's next fight, will be able to provide an answer. They may, however, give Tyson more rounds than Francis did, and that alone will may fill in some of the blanks about Tyson's latest comeback.

.....Chris Bushnell





















© 2001 Chris Bushnell. All rights reserved.

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