MEMPHIS, Tenn., Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Just 24 hours after saying he wasn't going "to live by Mike's rules," Clifford Etienne agreed Wednesday to meet Mike Tyson Saturday night at The Pyramid.
Etienne's decision came on the heels of another wild 24-hour period in the life of Tyson, the former undisputed champion. With promoters citing "reported" illness, Tyson pulled out of the fight on Monday, only to change his mind after waking up Tuesday morning.
"Mike called me this morning and told me he's ready to go," said Tyson's advisor, Shelly Finkel, Tuesday. "He told me, `I can beat Etienne,' and that's what he intends to do."
After Tyson said he was ready to go, Etienne then said he was not prepared to fight, a move some felt was a financial ploy by "The Black Rhino."
Both fighters will attend a news conference Thursday morning. The weigh-ins are slated for later that afternoon. If Tyson is going to beat Etienne, he will have to do so without full preparation. Tyson skipped his workouts for three days, got a large tattoo up the side of his face and around his eye socket, and missed two flights to Memphis.
He is coming off the worst beating of his career, an embarrassing eighth-round knockout at the hands of IBF and WBC heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis on June 8.
Ironically, Lewis may be best served by Tyson winning impressively. Not among the most popular heavyweight champions, Lewis has spoke about a rematch with Tyson, although there are several other more deserving challengers.
After the loss to Lewis, Tyson 36, appeared uncharacteristically contrite, leaving some to wonder whether he would retire. Tyson is 49-4, with 43 knockouts and two no-contests.
Etienne, known to have a weak chin, is the heavyweight champion of the virtually disregarded IBA, and the No. 8 contender in the IBF. He is 24-1-1 with 17 knockouts, with his last fight a 10-round draw against aging Francois Botha in July.
Between having his license suspended for 15 months for biting the ear of Evander Holyfield and being jailed for assaulting a pair of motorists in Maryland, Tyson stopped Botha in five rounds on Jan. 16, 1999 in Las Vegas.
Until the knockout at the hands of Lewis, Tyson had not lost in six bouts since his suspension.
In 1986, a 20-year-old Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in history when he dropped Trevor Berbick in the second round. He held the title for nearly four years before being knocked out by Buster Douglas in a stunning upset in 1990.
In 1992, Tyson was found guilty of raping a beauty pageant contestant in Indiana, and spent 3 1/2 years in prison. He has been married and divorced twice. One of his wives was actress Robin Givens.
Terps, Blue Devils meet again
DURHAM, N.C., Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Duke and Maryland, the schools who won the last two NCAA title in college hoops, square off again Wednesday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Maryland is the last visiting team to win at Cameron, and the 13th-ranked Terrapins will try to halt the Blue Devils' 25-game home winning streak.
Maryland (16-6, 8-3 ACC) is in first place in the conference, one-half game ahead of Wake Forest and one game in front of Duke (17-4, 7-4) and North Carolina State. However, the defending national champions have had their preparation for this game hindered by the huge winter storm that blanketed the greater Washington, D.C.-area earlier in the week.
Steve Blake scored 21 points and Drew Nicholas added 19 Monday as Maryland took over first place in the ACC with a 90-67 victory over Wake Forest in a game postponed one day by snow. The Terrapins also got 13 points and 13 rebounds from Ryan Randle, and cruised in.
Duke's last home loss was a 91-80 setback to Maryland on Senior Day during the 2000-01 season. The Blue Devils' 99-78 rout of the Terrapins in Durham last season ended a two-game home skid in the series.
Nicholas scored 24 points and Randle collected 15 and 17 rebounds as Maryland ended Duke's 12-game winning streak to start the season with an 87-72 victory on Jan. 18. The Terrapins converted 29-of-31 foul shots in that contest, but hardly can expect such a friendly whistle at Cameron.
This is the 17th straight game between Duke and Maryland in which each team has been ranked. The Blue Devils have won 11 of the last 16.
Maryland has not earned a regular-season sweep of Duke since the 1994-95 season.
Adding to the drama of the series, six of the last seven meetings have been won by the team that trailed at halftime.
Maryland Coach Gary Williams is just three wins away from 500 career victories, with a career record of 497-277. He is the 20th-leading active coach in America.
Also, Maryland is the only school in the nation that has advanced to the Elite Eight in each of the past two seasons.
The contest Wednesday will be the 11th between the two teams since 2000.
Report: Another ankle surgery for Hill
ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 19 (UPI) -- It appears that veteran guard Grant Hill of Orlando is headed for another operation on his troubling left ankle.
A report Wednesday in Florida Today said Hill now is pondering a fourth operation, which could prevent his return if the Magic qualify for the playoffs.
Hill went to IR on Jan. 18 and has missed 14 games. He is again getting around on crutches and a walking boot.
Hill told the paper that a decision will be made in the next week.
"If surgery will be required, it won't be the same procedure or the same length of time that there was before," Hill told the paper. "It's more to just fix the structural issues than the fracture. This is a little simple procedure that may have been the cause to all of these problems. I use the analogy of a car being out of alignment and the tires keep wearing down and you keep changing them. Well, you've got to fix the alignment, not the tires over and over. I don't know if that makes sense, but that's the kind of what we're dealing with. That's a three-week (rehabilitation) procedure instead of a long-term thing."
When healthy, Hill is averaging 14.6 points per game while shooting just under 50 percent from the field.
He missed most of the last two seasons because of surgeries on the ankle, and started the 2002-03 campaign in impressive fashion before soreness returned in the ankle.
Hill, who is in the third year of a seven-year, $93 million deal, has missed 26 of 55 games this season. He played just four games in 2000-01 and 14 games last season.
He said he was amused at the recent rumor that the Magic might trade him to Philadelphia for Keith Van Horn.
"I've experienced it all and I've heard it all so all I can do is concentrate on trying to get healthy and not worry about rumors and trades or whatever," Hill said. "I just need to worry about getting healthy."
Hill said through it all his spirits still are surprisingly high. He said he's at peace with his injury because doctors finally have determined the source of the recurring pain.
"My spirits are real good," he said. "I feel relieved to know, or at least have a good idea, as to why this thing has occurred. I've never really had that before."
Marlins win Burnett arbitration case
JUPITER, Fla., Feb. 19 (UPI) -- The Florida Marlins Wednesday won their arbitration case with righthander A.J. Burnett, who will receive $575,000 less than he was seeking.
A panel of arbitrators ruled that Burnett, the Marlins' leader in wins last season, will get $2.5 million instead of the $3.075 million he submitted in Tuesday's hearing.
Burnett earned $375,000 last season when he finished 12-9 with a 3.30 ERA in 31 games. He worked 204 1/3 innings, struck out 203 and led the major leagues with five shutouts.
"This is his first time through this process, and there may have been some anxiety prior to the hearing," said Marlins General Manager Larry Beinfest, "but I'm fully confident A.J. is going to move through and be ready for Opening Day."
The Marlins were the only team in baseball to have more than one player go through with an arbitration hearing. They have a policy of not negotiating after the deadline to exchange numbers, but won also won their case against reliever Vladimir Nunez. They lost a decision to starter Mark Redman.
The Burnett case was the last scheduled for this year in baseball. Owners won five of the seven cases.
Blues claim Ryan Johnson
ST. LOUIS, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Ryan Johnson, who never found his groove in 18 months with the Florida Panthers, Wednesday was claimed off waivers by the St. Louis Blues.
Johnson, 26, had two goals and seven assists in 57 games for the Panthers this season. He was acquired by Florida prior to the 2001-02 season but missed most of that campaign with a concussion.
Johnson's best season was 2000-01, when he had seven goals and 21 points in 80 games for the Tampa Bay Lightning. In 257 career games, the six-year veteran has 15 goals and 53 points.
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