Tyson Changes His Mind, Will Fight After All

Mike Tyson suddenly changed his mind Tuesday, saying his fight with Clifford Etienne is back on.

The unpredictable former heavyweight champion chartered a private jet to fly to Memphis, Tenn., and planned to fight Etienne as scheduled Saturday, manager Shelly Finkel said.

"He woke up today and called and said, 'I want to do it,"' Finkel said. "He's leaving today."

The decision came less than 24 hours after Tyson's camp called off the fight.

Tuesday's news was the latest in a series of bizarre twists.

Tyson's handlers waited days for him to give them some sort of signal on his willingness to fight Saturday. They decided to pull the plug on the bout after the boxer missed a flight to Memphis for the second day in a row Monday.

The official word was that Tyson was too sick to fight. But even before he became ill Friday, Tyson got a large tattoo on his face and then left trainer Freddie Roach waiting for him at the gym for three straight days.

Even Monday's press release announcing that the fight was off had hedged on why, saying Tyson "reportedly came down with a severe case of the flu."

Tyson's change of heart not only stunned fight promoters, but it came as a real shock to Roach.

Tyson called the trainer Tuesday morning to say he was going to fight.

"I told him, 'Mike, as your friend, I don't think you're ready for the fight,"' Roach said. "He said, 'I'm going to knock him out, are you going to be with me?"'

Roach said he told Tyson he would be there if the fighter was going to Memphis to win. Tyson hasn't trained in a week.

"We'll get a couple days in, the best we can, to get him back" in fight shape, Roach said.

Etienne hadn't been expected to present much of a problem for a fit Tyson. Tyson was a 7-1 favorite over a fighter who was handpicked by promoters for his willingness to stand in front of Tyson and trade punches.

Once the most fearsome heavyweight around, Tyson has shown little inclination to fight in recent years and has lost three of his last nine fights, two by knockout.

Tyson has fought an average of only five rounds a year in the last 5 years -- and eight of those came while he was taking a beating in his fight in June against champion Lennox Lewis.

"Everybody should just throw up their hands and let this guy live whatever life he has. Forget about putting him in the ring," rival promoter Bob Arum said. "It's almost cruel now."

But Finkel said Tyson remains a big attraction.

"In the crazy world of Mike Tyson, one thing you have to know is Mike Tyson will always be in demand," Finkel said. "He's still a star -- he's the star. He won't be hurting for places to fight."

The bout with Etienne has been planned both as a comeback fight and a tuneup fight for a possible June 21 rematch with Lewis.

Brian Young, one of the local promoters, said 10,700 tickets had been sold for the fight, but that ticket sales dried up over the weekend as speculation mounted that Tyson would not fight.

The Showtime cable network is using the fight and a concert by rapper Jay-Z as part of a big promotional night.