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Tyson sluggish, sullen in Tokyo gym workout

Tyson sluggish, sullen in Tokyo gym workout


TOKYO — Talking the talk, world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson did not walk the walk Saturday in sluggish sparring sessions with two opponents who outsped Tyson in drills for his Feb. 11 title bout with James "Buster" Douglas at the Tokyo Dome.

He and Douglas appeared in public workouts at Korakuen Hall, just next to the great stadium nicknamed the Big Egg.

IN ONE OF his last gym jousts before he wraps up training Wednesday, Tyson looked, in a word, bad.

Glistening with warmup sweat, wearing black trunks and a sweatshirt of executioner red, Tyson was asked how he felt. He responded with an upthrust thumb and a confident smile.

For Tyson, that was the equivalent of an eloquent speech.

Greg Page, who had earlier knocked Tyson down in a sparring match, was turned loose in the rope cage first. The 23-year-old champion tore in tigerishly, but Page covered well — catching Tyson with a sharp inside uppercut and a breakaway left. In an on-the-ropes exchange, Tyson was knocked away from Page, stumbling uncertainly and shaking his head.

Phillip Brown, another head-taller sparmate, adroitly twisted away from Tyson lunges and tagged him with long counters and stinging lefts. Trainer Jay Bright implored Tyson to get under Brown's spidery arms and go for the body. Tyson's response looked lethargic and spiritless.

"You aren't yourself," a spectator shouted as time was called.

"This all?" Tyson asked.

Bright nodded shortly and Tyson muttered and paced, looking unhappy with himself. Another trainer, Aaron Snowell, put catcher's mitts on both hands and drilled Tyson in close-exchange crouches. The champion went into that low, fight-poster posture familiar to all — threw tight combinations and looked better, drawing some applause.

There was more clapping as the session ended, but the sullen Tyson didn't appear lifted by it.

Bright insisted this was the workshop, not the sales counter, and said he never expects robotic perfection as Tyson trains.

"He's always learning," Bright said. "As long as he corrects what he does wrong, it's all right. A dumb fighter goes in and does the same thing wrong again."

Snowell added: "We're not looking to leave Mike's fight in the gym."

Douglas, 29, came in with more hype and noise, moving in easy stance and stride as a loudspeaker sounded off with crowd noise and the theme from "Rocky IV." But he looked little better than Tyson. Short and powerful sparmates who moved like convincing counterfeits of the champion got under the rangy challenger's reach, buffeting him easily and far too often.

Douglas boxed three of them, two rounds each, and looked sharp and impressive only against the last — former All-Army heavyweight champion Fred Whitaker.

Warmed up, Douglas stapled Whitaker at the end of a long left and kept him there. Moving well, he kept a lot of airspace between his chin and a lashing uppercut, a favorite Tyson finisher.

MANAGER JOHN Johnson said this wasn't Douglas at his best, and deliberately so. Wary of Tyson "spies," Johnson said, Douglas won't take his guns to town until the match next Sunday.

"This wasn't anything today," Johnson said. "Did it look like anything to you? James didn't show anything we've been working on."

Meanwhile, promoter Don King said Saturday that Tyson will receive between $9 and $10 million for the Tokyo fight, and Douglas will receive about $1 million.

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