Memphis, TN (AP) - There is still some badness left in Iron Mike after all.
In desperate need of a devastating win, Mike Tyson got just that Saturday night, flattening Clifford Etienne just 49 seconds into the fight with a savage right hand reminiscent of Tyson in his prime.
Etienne was knocked flat on his back in the middle of the ring and he lay there as referee Bill Clancy counted him out and a fight that seemed destined never to happen came to a sudden end.
"I canceled too many fights in my career,'' Tyson said. "I wasn't afraid. He needed the money. I always need money.''
Tyson then leaned over and helped Etienne to his feet as the crowd of 15,171 at the Pyramid arena erupted in glee at the sudden ending to a fight that seemed like it would never happen.
Fighting in the same ring where Lennox Lewis gave him a beating last June and needing to show he was still a contender, Tyson went right after Etienne, who cooperated by standing in front of him and punching back.
It proved a mistake when Tyson threw a right hand that landed flush on Etienne's jaw and sent him sprawling to the canvas.
While Etienne was laying on his back, Tyson was complaining about his.
"I broke my back. I don't even know how I'm standing. It's a miracle,'' Tyson said, adding that it was an injury from an old motorcyle accident. "The doctor took me to the pain center and I wasn't supposed to fight but what am I supposed to do. I'm going to take care of my family.''
Tyson records his sixth quickest knockout ever. (Showtime)
It was the sixth quickest knockout ever for Tyson and the 16th in the first 1:33 of the first round or less. He needed it badly to salvage his chances of a rematch with Lewis or a possible third fight with Evander Holyfield.
"To be honest I'm not ready to fight him (Lewis) at this time,'' Tyson said. "I need more fights. I don't want to get beat up again.''
Etienne was picked as an opponent because he figured to give Tyson an easy target, and he didn't disappoint.
"I kept my hands up looking for the opening and I got it,'' Tyson said.
Tyson, more animated before the introductions than usual, entered the ring and stood bouncing in front of Etienne before ripping off the towel over his chest.
When the fight began, Tyson came out slugging, landing a few punches before Etienne grabbed him and pushed him into the ropes. The two wrestled and Tyson fell to a knee.
The action resumed and Tyson missed with a left hook before connecting with the punch that ended the fight.
Etienne has a tendency to go down -- seven times in one fight alone -- and was hand selected as an opponent because of his weak chin and his style of fighting right in front of an opponent.
"This was the way I had to fight him,'' Etienne said. "How else could I fight him? I'm OK. He caught me with a good punch.''
With his new tattoo framing the left side of his face, Tyson showed some renewed determination in the ring.
A circus-like atmosphere enveloped the fight in the days leading up to it. Tyson, claiming to be suffering from the flu, canceled the fight on Monday only to wake up feeling better on Tuesday and deciding to fight.
Things got even better when Etienne staged a mini-boycott of his own before deciding that getting nearly $1 million to fight Tyson was too lucrative to pass up.
By fight time, though, the weirdness had given way to a curiosity over how much Tyson had left at the age of 36 after taking a beating from Lewis in his last fight.
Though the public hasn't lost its fascination with the youngest fighter to win the heavyweight title 17 years ago, even Tyson admitted the fight was crucial if he was to make big money again.
He got $5 million for Etienne, money he needs not only to pay bills but to pay his ex-wife, Monica, a $6.5 million divorce settlement.
"This is just what I do for a living,'' Tyson said. "I'm in the hurt business and no one should care if I get hurt or if I die in the ring because this is what we do.''
Tyson's tattoo was prominent on his face, but Etienne never got a chance to hit it. Tyson had earlier called it a warrior tattoo and he seemed to want to go out and show he was just that.
Tyson missed a week of training, and was forced to spar both Wednesday and Thursday to get his timing back -- something unheard of before a major heavyweight fight. He came into the fight 225 3/4, while Etienne weighed 222 3/4.
His trainer, Freddie Roach, worried that Tyson would not be in shape if the fight went into the later rounds. It proved not to be a concern.
After the fight, Etienne whispered some advice into Tyson's ear.
"I just told Mike to stick to business. Stop screwing around and fight,'' Etienne said. "I said if he kept working hard, he could be champion again.''
Tyson was a 4-1 favorite, but in his prime there wouldn't have even been odds against a fighter who learned to box while serving 10 years in prison and had never been in such a big fight.
Tyson needed someone who would stand in front of him, after landing only 49 punches in eight rounds last June against Lewis, who boxed him from the outside and never gave him a chance to land the left hook or right hand that made him such a fearsome heavyweight in his prime.
Still, he said the fight was too short and he was not ready to fight Lewis as both Lewis and Tyson's promoters wanted him to do on June 21.
"I need more rounds. People are excited to see me knock guys out because that's how I made my reputation. But I need more rounds,'' Tyson said. "After a fight like this, 49 seconds, I can't go in there against Lewis, a confident fighter who's accurate. I need to go back to the gym.''
Tyson, who had never lost a non-title fight, won for the 50th time in a career that began 18 years ago. It was the 43rd knockout for Tyson, who has lost four fights and has two no contests.
Etienne, who dropped to 24-2-1, had an altercation with a woman as he left the ring, and appeared agitated.