Kimbo the Next Tyson (Fox Sports Article)

Edited to add that I should have added a "?" to the title. Sorry.

Found this on Fox Sports' website.,-that's-the-idea

I think that its a much less biased story than the article by Dan Wetzel over on Yahoo.

I gotta love Shaw's comment on James Thompson... "The guy's a white debt collector from England."

And I think that Kimbo's trainers are being very realistic about his abilities, even if EliteXC is not... "He's not in a position to fight a top-10 fighter right now." - Randy Khatami.

STUDIO CITY, Calif. - For those of a certain age, those who can still recall the ancient analogue ways, the image seems incongruent: Kimbo Slice, a gold-toothed former bodyguard for street pornographers, appearing at an interview podium with Bill Paley's seal of approval.

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That CBS eye remains the Tiffany network's imprimatur, still regarded in many quarters as the gold standard in network programming. But the world has changed. Unique users have replaced Nielsen points as a barometer of relevance. And you can only give people -- particularly males between the ages of 18 and 34 -- so many repeats of "CSI" and "NCIS" and "Criminal Minds" on Saturday nights. Enter Kimbo Slice, who will appear this weekend as the featured fighter in mixed martial arts' debut on network prime time, "EliteXC Saturday Night Fights."

His given name is Kevin Ferguson, once a football player of modest renown at Miami-Palmetto High School. In the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, Ferguson entered the ranks of the homeless. Down to little more than his natural skill set -- "been fighting since I was 13," he says -- he found a way to make ends meets as a bouncer and a bodyguard. With the requisite aura of menace, he served as an escort for the aforementioned producers whose videos sought to bring an illusion of prurient realism (ie. desperately hot mommies) to the masses. But his big break came as a street fighter, having administered spectacularly brutal beatings in backyards, alleys and garages.

"On private property," Mr. Slice hastens to add.

Actually, it was his great good fortune that these unsanctioned bouts turned out to be anything but private. Filmed on hand-held cameras -- a video porn man's weapon of choice -- his beatdowns became YouTube sensations. "I had no idea it would take off like this," said Kimbo, 34, a father of five who reportedly does not own a computer.

"Ten million unique hits," shouts EliteXC president Gary Shaw, who made his bones as a New Jersey boxing promoter.

In fact, 10 million seems like an understatement in assessing this bloody body of work. More certain is this: CBS has never had a leading man like Kimbo Slice.

"I don't like it," said Sumner Redstone, when asked of his network's foray into mixed martial arts.

But Redstone is a businessman. His objection to mixed martial arts -- once famously disparaged by Sen. John McCain as "human cockfighting" -- is conditional. He'll like it just fine if hits translate into ratings. Saturday night's card includes some good fighters, like Robbie Lawler, and some interesting ones. There's Gina Carano, cast as the hottie with vicious skills, and Phil Baroni, who acts like Andrew Dice Clay on steroids (in fact, Baroni was suspended for six months by the California State Athletic Commission for using Boldenone and Stanozolol). But the real attraction here, the main event, is Kimbo Slice.

"He might be the perfect confluence," said David Dinkins of Showtime (owned by CBS), a veteran producer of televised boxing. "He has a compelling back story. He comes from the Internet. He's in a sport, mixed martial arts, that's ready to explode."

It is commonly supposed that boxing's severely atrophied state is a result of corruption. That's nonsense. Boxing was always corrupt. What decimated boxing was falling from network favor. The media calculus may have changed, but there's still no substitute for network TV.

Can Kimbo Slice make mixed martial arts a network winner? (Stephen Shugerman / Getty Images)

What Shaw envisions for Kimbo and Co. is a new kind of fame. The biggest pay-per-view audience represents a tiny fraction by the standards of prime time. "This is probably the biggest thing ever to happen to MMA," Shaw says. "These fighters will be like the people on 'Survivor' and 'American Idol.' They'll be recognized at airports and Burger Kings."

If nothing else, Shaw understands that reality TV has nothing to do with reality. The challenge will be for the broadcasters. Can they teach the masses to appreciate a ground game that too often looks like dry-humping? "America has to understand the jiu-jitsu," says Gus Johnson, a very capable basketball announcer who will serve as the lead play-by-play guy for EliteXC on CBS. "The beauty and the brutality of the sport is on the ground. If boxing is the sweet science, then this is physics."

How much of this science street fighter Kimbo has mastered is still anyone's guess. He has been working with Bas Rutten, a former MMA champion, and trainer Randy Khatami for the past year and a half. "We had to clean up his punches," Khatami says. "And his ground game has come along tremendously. Bas works with him for two hours every morning. If you're a striker like Kimbo, you don't want to go to the ground. But we're very confident in his ground game."

Nevertheless, Khatami adds, "He's not in a position to fight a top-10 fighter right now."

It's not like he'll be matched with one Saturday night. His opponent is James "The Colossus" Thompson. "I don't know anything about my opponent," says Kimbo.

What's to know?

"The guy's a white debt collector from England," Shaw says.

Besides, the crucial part of this equation isn't a fighter's merit. It's show business.

"Tyson," says Gus Johnson. "You know what I mean?"

Of course. People forget that Mike Tyson was conceived by network programmers as an attraction for Saturday afternoons. Tyson had a palpably ferocious aura. He also had a look.

Kimbo Slice has at least that much. He's big (250 pounds), bald, and bushy (his beard would be the envy of most Hasidim in Borough Park). His teeth are gold, his toenails painted black. More than that, though, is his video archive, spectacularly theatrical evidence of his capacity for violence.

Bill Paley would bet on it, just as Sumner Redstone's minions have. They're businessmen. They're banking on Kimbo Slice finally claiming that long-vacant title, Baddest Man on the Planet.