MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Like Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali before him, Mike Tyson has discovered he is no longer invincible.
All three were the idols of millions for their power and charisma as heavyweight champions. And all three were beaten badly late in their careers, their mystique taking a hit along with their bodies.
Tyson's beating came on a steamy Saturday night in Memphis, where Lennox Lewis turned boxing's scariest force into a mortal whose legacy, already tarnished, was further darkened by his clear inferiority.
Just as Larry Holmes pounded Ali for 11 rounds in 1980, and just as Rocky Marciano dominated Louis in an eight-round bout in 1951, Tyson received eight rounds of punishment from Lewis in a brutally one-sided fight.
Tyson bled from both eyes, his nose and his mouth during the first six rounds alone.
"That was probably one of the most thorough and systematic beatings a heavyweight champion has ever given to a legitimate challenger in the history of boxing," said Lewis' veteran trainer, Emanuel Steward.
"I think fans will appreciate (Lewis) a lot more after this performance. He fought such a beautiful, systematic fight. He should have knocked him out earlier, but I'm satisfied."
With eight rounds of technical brilliance and raw power, Lewis reduced Tyson to a palooka who could take a punch well, but couldn't deliver a winning combination at any point, let alone the one magical punch many thought could knock out Lewis.
Of the professional athletes, actors and millionaire businessmen who crowded The Pyramid, many came to see that one punch. Instead, Tyson landed just 49 punches all night -- no more than a handful doing significant damage.
Lewis put on a clinic, throwing hundreds of tactical punches that reduced Tyson to nothing. Lewis retained his WBC and IBF heavyweight titles by dropping Tyson in the eighth with a crushing right hand.
"What more do you guys want me to do?" Lewis asked afterward when facing a media contingent that has doubted him at many stages of his career.
Much of the criticism leveled against Lewis concerns his lack of theatrical flair. Tyson may have been responsible for much of the atmosphere in Memphis, but Lewis provided the thrills.
"Definitely, it was my most exciting fight," Lewis said. "I think it wasn't what many people expected, but it was exactly what we expected. I knew he couldn't stand up to my jab, so I just kept working at him and hurting him until I got the chance to end it."
The result wasn't surprising for those who realized Tyson hadn't fought at this level in nearly five years. Perhaps the most remarkable part of the fight was Tyson's conciliatory, deferential attitude afterward.
Tyson stared menacingly at Lewis over the wall of security guards separating them in the ring before the match, but he hugged the champion after it was over.
"I was actually surprised," Lewis said. "I thought he was going to start swearing at me or something."
Instead of being remembered as a great champion like Louis or Ali, Tyson seems headed toward the category occupied by Sonny Liston or Jack Johnson -- menacing fighters who ended their careers with more bad memories than good ones.
That shouldn't stop him from picking up many more paychecks, however. Tyson's popularity won't die quickly, and he desperately needs the money to keep his recklessly expensive lifestyle.
"If the price is right, I'll fight anybody," Tyson said. "I'll fight a lion."
"Mike Tyson is still a beloved champion of the people," said Stacey McKinley, Tyson's trainer. "When he's ready to fight again, his fans will support him and buy tickets and pay-per-views to see him."
But even McKinley all but admitted that Tyson doesn't have what it takes to be a champion again. There's almost no hope he could ever beat Lewis, who will relax for at least two weeks before deciding on his next destination -- a fight with WBO champion Wladimir Klitschko, perhaps, or even retirement.
McKinley, who repeatedly called Lewis a coward, said the champ had "fought the perfect fight" against Tyson.
"In order to be a great fighter, you have to beat a great fighter," McKinley said. "He did it, and he deserves all the credit for that."
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