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T-Rex on Mike Tyson

Believe it or not, there's some weirdness attached to Mike Tyson's exhibition tour, which starts this weekend. I know, crazy, right?

Tyson's fighting Corey "T-Rex" Sanders in Youngstown, Ohio on Friday night, and maybe beyond. Gary "Digital" Williams has been all over this story, and has posted photos of T-Rex from some pre-fight promotions. Thing is, it looks like the dude has no left eye. Kind of gruesome. Digital has also done a podcast in which he says "there's no way in the world" T-Rex should be fighting, calling it a "ridiculous situation."

Before I saw those unsettling photos, I talked to T-Rex, last night. He's a local boy; grew up living in Sursum Corda, the D.C. project that Marc Fisher has been writing about for years. He was all-DCIAA three times in football and an honorable mention all-Met lineman at Theodore Roosevelt High, and he earned a scholarship to Virginia State, which he turned down in order to pursue boxing. His career has taken him to Russia, Germany, New York, Las Vegas, and, just last weekend, to Trinidad, where he fought and lost in front of about 250 people in a soccer stadium for about $12,000, which he still hasn't received.

He said he met the Tyson camp in 2000 and has sparred with Mike before three of his fights, and that he's heard of the possibility of an exhibition tour for about a year. He'll get about $25,000 per four-round exhibition, and has heard talk that he could be featured in up to eight of these fights. His family and friends have excitedly called after seeing his face on ESPN--"That's what I got in this sport for, right there," he said--and while he's not really trying to accomplish anything by fighting Tyson, the notoriety and the money convinced him to agree to the exhibition. As for his career, the fight in Trinidad last weekend was the last straw; he said he dominated and even knocked his opponent down, but that he lost, and by a wide margin.

"After that, I said, 'You can't win, so I might as well just give it up,'" said T-Rex, who is now 31. "My boxing career's pretty much over with. This is just something to keep me in the sport."

But later he said how much he loves the sport, and how he's not ready to leave. He's already fought Andrew Golota and he knocked out Oleg Maskaev, currently the WBC heavyweight champion. But his left retina was detached in the Golota fight, and he didn't get surgery promptly, and his eye hasn't been right since.

"It's good," he said when I asked about the eye. "I can't see everything, it's not like it used to be, but it's good enough for me to box."

There was talk of wearing headgear for this Tyson bout, since it's just an exhibition, but Tyson said no, and so T-Rex--all 6-feet-6-inches and 334 pounds of him--also said no.

"I don't want to wear no head gear if he don't, it makes me look like I'm copping out or something," T-Rex said. "Every time you step in that ring, it's serious. When we get in there he's gonna be trying to knock me out, and I'm going to be doing the same thing, just like when we spar. When me and him spar, it's just like being in a real fight, and neither of us want to wear headgear."

After the exhibition tour, Sanders isn't sure. He has a wife and three kids in Capitol Heights. His brother lives in D.C. too, and drives a Metro bus. T-Rex is thinking about trying to become a local promoter, to get behind young D.C. fighters. He says he doesn't regret his boxing career, and that he wouldn't tell his kids what to do with their lives, but that he'd prefer if they find a career outside the ring.

"See, I got into it so they wouldn't have to do something like this," he said. "I want them to do something better. Boxing is a rough sport, for real. People get killed in this sport, and I don't want my kids to wind up like that."

As for other key questions....unlike Tyson, T-Rex will not be choosing sides in the Maryland Senatorial race; he said Tyson's "a real good guy" and that the strange behavior results when outsiders agitate him; and he said he missed the Redskins game on Sunday because he was in Trinidad.

"Tell me tell me tell me Brunell wasn't quarterbacking," T-Rex said. "They need that boy Campbell to quarterback. Joe Gibbs should give Campbell a chance."

I asked for a prediction for Friday's fight, if such a thing even makes sense for a four-round pay-per-view exhibition against Mike Tyson.

"Somebody gonna go to sleep," T-Rex said. "I'm gonna do good, and make D.C. proud of me."

By Dan Steinberg  |  October 18, 2006; 10:59 AM ET
Categories:  Fighting Sports  
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