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Announcers Buy Into Tyson-Seldon Fix Hysteria

September 9, 1996

The crowd screamed ``Fix!″ and that was OK. Under the circumstances, what could you expect them to scream? ``We want our money back?″ They know that won’t fly in Vegas.

But when Jim Gray, Bobby Czyz and Steve Albert, the three announcers doing the Mike Tyson-Bruce Seldon fight on pay-per-view Saturday night, bought into the hysteria, that was inexcusable.

Gray was the worst, and although he should have known better, he apparently couldn’t resist the flow of emotion from the fans. And Czyz? He’s a good one to talk. He’s under investigation for quitting a fight.

His house better not have many windows in it.

Tyson stopped Seldon 109 seconds into their fight on KingVision-SET, Showtime’s pay-per-view arm. Most of the viewers who plunked down $39.95 for the show knew what they were getting _ a short fight.

But when Gray came out to interview Seldon afterward, he looked stunned _ like a blue-haired old lady had just clocked him with a roll of nickels for moving in on her slot machine.

Gray stuck his chin out defiantly and asked Seldon: ``OK, what happened?″ He looked like a guy who had money on the loser.

Seldon said he wanted to win, and Gray interrupted: ``There would be those who would question that. The whole audience is yelling `Fix!′ It didn’t look like you were hurt that badly.″

Again, Seldon tried to explain, and Gray burst in: ``You seem all right now and you were just knocked out a few seconds ago. You seem all right now!″

Seldon again pleaded his case. ``I’m a professional fighter,″ he said. ``I had the heavyweight title,″ he said. ``I went against the baddest man on the planet,″ he said.

Unable to brow-beat a confession from Seldon, Gray tried referee Richard Steele, who had just rescued a rubbery-legged Seldon from sure disaster. No confession there, either.

If he wanted to do a full reporting job, maybe Gray should have explained that fighters who get knocked out early quite often recover quickly because they haven’t taken much punishment. Maybe he could have explained that when a punch spins a fighter’s head around like the kid in ``The Exorcist,″ they often go down and stay down. Instead, Gray took the cheap way out.

At that point, Czyz turns to Albert and says: ``I know he has a bad chin and he probably didn’t want to take a beating. I don’t think he was hurt as bad as all the staggering and wobbling he did.″

Now, there’s some expert testimony. Czyz is under investigation by the New York State Athletic Commission after quitting a fight against Evander Holyfield last May 10 under mysterious circumstances, claiming Holyfield had rubbed a foreign substance into his eyes.

At least Seldon admitted he got beat up.

``I think the screaming fans have a legitimate gripe,″ Albert said. ``There are those who are displeased and some will feel there’s something amiss, something awry.″

If there was anything amiss, it was that this was a mismatch. Maybe Tyson should get some credit. Remember, there is a huge difference between a fighter going down and staying down because the other guy hits too hard, and a fighter going down because somebody paid him to do it. That would be a fix, and that can get you thrown in jail.

Tyson was a 17-1 favorite, meaning you had to wager $17 to win $1. Why would anybody fix that fight so Tyson wins? Why fix a sure thing? Why bother?

OUT TAKES: Showtime expects a little more than 1 million buys on the latest Tyson fight, which would put it close to $40 million gross. Tyson’s previous pay-per-view fight, against Frank Bruno, was purchased by 1.4 million.

Part of the decline in the buy-rate probably is due to a postponement of the fight from its original date of July 13. Cable operators who failed to promote the fight a second time apparently experienced most of the dropoff, while those who promoted it again had about the same numbers they did for Tyson-Bruno. More complete figures are due later in the week. ...

Chris Berman of ESPN is one TV guy who is glad the refs aren’t watching during NFL games.

``I have never been a fan of instant replay,″ Berman said.

On paper, parts of it look good, he said, ``but I’m just not convinced.″

``When you watch an NFL game, there are so many commercial breaks, you can say that the momentum already is ruined,″ Berman said. ``But whatever momentum can be gained, in let’s say a well-conceived drive _ well, I think the negative of stopping it for instant replay outweighs the positive.

``I don’t like it. I agree they shouldn’t give up on it forever, but I didn’t really like what I saw.″

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