You're Mike Tyson. Many boxing fans predicted you would be the greatest heavyweight champion of all time. You had talent, speed and power. You displayed great courage in the ring.

For a time, you dazzled crowds the way the young Muhammad Ali did. You were undefeated and people said you packed a punch as powerful as a young George Foreman. In the ring, you were an awesome and destructive force. Sportswriters considered you unbeatable.

That time is past. Even though you already have made more than $20 million, it can't help you now. Even a defense lawyer as expensive and effective as Vincent Fuller won't create a miracle this time.

You're mere inches away from a long prison sentence that could last the rest of your natural life. All you have left is an alley fighter's desperate, squirming instinct to retain your freedom.

Every day, cameras flash as you stride with your unmistakable rolling gait into that Indianapolis courthouse.

Crowds line the building's corridors. They stare as you pass by. The sight of you both fascinates and repels them. Your bodyguards, fearful of the unexpected, keep them at bay.

You're Mike Tyson and all of this is your own doing. Every bit. You created this air of uncontrolled and unpredictable violence about you. No one knows when you will erupt again or what form it will take.

Any day, this jury hearing your rape trial could return a guilty verdict. Court observers all over the country expect it. When it happens, the sentence of the trial judge will be harsh. It will almost certainly end your boxing career.

The testimony against you in court has been convincing. The 18-year-old beauty contestant says you raped her, and she was a believable witness. She stood up well under three hours of cross-examination. During that time, you never raised your eyes to look at her.

What damages you most is your own public behavior over a period of years. You have become known as a violent, erratic man, a bully and a womanizer.

Three books have been written about you in recent years. They all contain lurid tales describing your depraved lifestyle.

They are Phil Berger's Blood Season, Peter Heller's Bad Intentions and Jose Torres' Fire and Fear. All record instances of your frightening violence toward women.

Most convincing of the three is Torres'. He is a former light- heavyweight champion turned writer.

Torres, who is much older than you, was also managed by Cus D'Amato, the great boxing teacher. D'Amato discovered you in an upstate reform school. Torres has known you since you were a teenager.

Remember the time Torres asked you about the best punch you ever threw in your life?

Torres expected you to tell him about an incident in a heavyweight title fight with Larry Holmes or Michael Spinks or Tyrell Biggs.

Instead, a big smile came over your face and you told Torres about the night you smashed your ex-wife, Robin Givens.

"Man, I'll never forget that punch," you said. "She really offended me and I went `bam.'" You demonstrated to Torres by throwing a quick, hard backhand right into the air.

"She flew backward, hitting every wall in the apartment," you boasted. "It was the best punch I ever threw in my life."

There was more. Another day you boasted to Torres of the time you had sex with 24 women in a period that ran from five until eleven in a single night. They were all prostitutes. Each was paid in full, you said.

And there was the time you told Torres about your philosophy of lovemaking.
"You know something?" you said. "I like to hurt women when I make love to them. I like to hear them scream with pain, to see them bleed. It gives me pleasure. I am that way, and I don't know why." People who have known you best are terrified and mystified by your sudden mood swings.

"You'll never know what sets him off," one friend said to author Peter Heller.
"He loves to damage things in the house for no reason. If he feels like kicking in the TV set, he'll do it. If he feels like punching a hole in the wall, he does it. If he feels like hitting you, he does it." There was a time when people were willing to make excuses for you. No more.

Old Cus D'Amato is dead. Perhaps his philosophy of life predicted your fate.
D'Amato said, "No matter what anyone says, no matter the excuse or explanation, whatever a person does in the end is what he intended to do all along." You're Mike Tyson. You could have been the greatest boxing champ of them all. It's just that you always intended to be something else.

"She flew backward, hitting every wall in the apartment," you boasted. "It was the best punch I ever threw in my life." You could have been the greatest boxing champ of them all. It's just that you always intended to be something else.