Tuesday, February 9, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Mike Tyson In Prison: One Year Later -- Marking Time -- The Former Heavyweight Champion Whiles Away His Days Behind Bars, But Many Seem To Await His Return To The Ring

Newsday: AP

INDIANAPOLIS - Behind these walls he is no longer Mike Tyson, former world heavyweight champion, but inmate 922335, locked away in an 8-by-10-foot cell.

The days crawl by for Tyson, just like anybody else in prison: the same chow, the 65-cents-a-day wage, the censored mail.

A year after his conviction on rape and other charges, Tyson spends his time in the Indiana Youth Center working six hours a day as a recreational aide at the prison gymnasium, sweeping floors and re-racking weights.

He gave up on high-school equivalency classes after six weeks but spends a lot of time reading books on "history, philosophy, religion, all kinds of things," according to promoter Don King.

"Like I did, Mike Tyson is making time serve him," said King, who was imprisoned four years for manslaughter in the 1970s.

Daily runs and workouts have brought Tyson's weight down from 272 to about 224, just a few pounds over his fighting weight. Sometimes he shadow-boxes in his cell.

Friends say Tyson is holding up well despite mood swings, notably around Christmas and when his father, Jimmy Kirkpatrick, died in October.

The Rev. Charles Williams, a friend of Tyson, has seen a change in the 26-year-old boxer. He says Tyson has become more introspective and religious, often comparing himself to King David, who overcame many obstacles.

"The trial was kind of a turning point in the sense that I think Mike now is more focused on who he is," Williams said. "His salvation, his peace of mind and his relationship with God are the most important things to Mike Tyson right now."

But even locked away from the outside world, Tyson cannot escape his celebrity status. He gets plenty of attention - visits from celebrities such as Whitney Houston and her husband, Bobby Brown, and sacks of letters - but no special privileges.

"The fewer exceptions we make for him the better," said Phil Slavens, assistant superintendent for operations.

Tyson gets as many as 100 pieces of mail a day, all of it subject to searches and restrictions. For example, Tyson is not allowed to have the many pieces of women's lingerie sent by fans because it could create jealousy among inmates.

Tyson was convicted of raping Desiree Washington, a Miss Black America Pageant contestant, in Tyson's Indianapolis hotel suite in July 1991.

Tyson's attorneys maintain the former heavyweight champion could be only months away from freedom. They base their hopes on an oral argument for a new trial scheduled to go before the Indiana Court of Appeals on Monday.

Since the conviction, Washington has returned to Providence College, still hounded by publicity. She has declined interviews except one in which she said the appeal and publicity made her feel as if she were the one convicted.

"Every day I am constantly reminded of an incident that ruined my life," she said. "Now my whole life is destroyed. It was taken away in one night."

Tyson's life? Ten months after beginning his six-year sentence at the facility just west of Indianapolis, King says, "Mike Tyson is bigger than life."

In his absence, the heavyweight title has changed hands. Riddick Bowe is the new champion, though Great Britain's Lennox Lewis has the World Boxing Council's share of the title.

"When Mike thinks about boxing, he thinks it's a joke," said Tyson's friend and camp coordinator, John Horne. "That's probably why we hardly ever talk about it."

Tyson doesn't need to worry about being replaced in the ring, said promoter Bob Arum, who has promoted fighters such as Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. None of the current fighters matches Tyson's skill or his celebrity status.

If Tyson were to serve his complete term, he would be 31 years old when he got out of prison. Arum said that is young enough to regain the heavyweight title.

"If he comes back and goes right into a title fight, I think there would be very high interest," Arum said. "The public would be fascinated to see him fight the current champion."

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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