Latest New Mike Tyson May NOT Be the Same Ol', Same Ol'

By
TysonTalk

Published: July 11, 2004

Mike Tyson was disappointed with himself, but not about squandering his money or about a wasted career. Less than a half-hour after writhing on the canvas in the back pain that had abruptly ended his third sparring session in almost a year and a half, he was seated in the women’s room of the Central Boxing Club gymnasium in Phoenix, apologizing for not putting on more of a show for a couple of visiting writers from Vegas.

Maybe he didn’t in the ring, after feeling a twinge in the back that he first felt earlier that day, during his morning run. But the Tyson who confronted us patiently and jovially from behind a towel was wildly entertaining.

Tim Dahlberg, the distinguished Associated Press boxing writer, wanted to know if Tyson were still visiting the strip clubs in Phoenix. Mike gave one of his “ah shucks” type of faces and said, funny, he had been thinking about it for his 38th birthday two days ago, but then thought about his five kids.

“I’ve got a new vampire cross, ‘What is your kid going to think if you do that?'” He said that thought has helped him ward off evil, helped him act like a grownup, though at the same time he let it slip that he does not appreciate being talked to as if he were still the little kid attached to Cus D’Amato’s genius.

Reminded that he was not the first man to have problems with women, he grinned and replied, “I added more to the game..What NOT to do.”

He gave me a high five. Or something.

I joked about him living in a cardboard box. He seemed unconvinced when I said one of his fellow Brownsville heavyweights, Shannon Briggs, said he used to sleep in subway stations. He mentioned that he and Riddick Bowe went to the same school. They weren’t in the same class, he said. “I’m a year older,” he explained, then thought about it.

Of course, he said, back then it would not have been unusual for a guy of 20 and another of 12 to be in the same class.

I mentioned he was 38 and reportedly owed $38 million and “wait till you get to be my age.”

He said “I don’t care how much money I blew,” and it certainly was not as much as the gross figures for his fight purses that have been bandied about – $300 million, maybe $400 million. Those figures didn’t take out for managers, trainers, Don King and the United States Government.

“If I fight for a year,” he said, “I’ll get something like $80 million. All I have to do is fight.”

Can he? Can he stay undefeated for a year, cashing in on a wide-based popularity that defies his actual accomplishments over the last 14 years? As Tyson sparred with an undefeated young 220-pound fan of his from Uzbekistan named Timur Ibragimov, I quietly asked Shelly Finkel, his advisor, if he had a “disaster plan” in case Mike was upset by Danny Williams on July 30 in Louisville.

“Mike is not going to lose,” said Finkel.

Finkel had upgraded the opponent considerably from the hapless Kevin McBride to the former British champion, and said there would be a major step up following Louisville. He mentioned Antonio Tarver and Lamon Brewster. Tim Dahlberg, the Associated Press boxing writer, asked about Tyson’s faded old nemesis – and presumably still huge payday – Evander Holyfield.

Finkel made a face. Tarver and Brewster, he repeated, not his former cruiserweight champion.

The chameleon that has been Mike Tyson seems to have changed for the better again. Maybe it’s smoke and mirrors. Deep down, I suspect he is part con, but for the first time in a long, long while, there is a sliver of self-respect, an indication that more than Zoloft has mellowed Mike. Maybe he is growing up at age 38. And, while saying he was not up to all the responsibility of being Mike Tyson, “there’s too much pressure, I feel obligated to be on my best behavior.”

Look, the fight is on. In just four weeks, back spasms permitting, the world will get to see Tyson in the ring for the first time since he gave us all of 49 seconds against Clifford Etienne almost 17 months ago. In Louisville, Ky., where Funny Cide and Smarty Jones became folk heroes, Tyson will make what figures to be his final stretch run at greatness.

The heavyweight division is a four-headed monster that scares no one. Freddie Roach, Tyson’s trainer again, said, “there’s not a champion out there (Vitali Klitschko, Chris Byrd, John Ruiz and Lamon Brewster for those of you keeping score) Mike can’t beat.”

Larry Merchant, the HBO commentator for whom the word “astute” was created, noted recently on this web site that Tyson hasn’t beaten a real fighter in well over a decade (no one counts Frank Bruno II or Bruce Seldon, of course). But it should also be noted that there probably isn’t a real fighter out there in the heavyweight wasteland.

You can’t tell much from sparring, of course. Over the years, we’ve seen Tyson look good in the gym – throwing his underrated jab, moving his head to be “elusive” as taught by D’Amato – but after usually remembering his lessons for a round or two in a real fight, he would revert to that ugly peek-a-boo stance and try to throw bombs, one at a time.

But in the first round against the Uzbekistan kid, Tyson was doubling his jab, and was bending nicely at the waist to get his head out of the way of Ibragimov’s return messages. But as the rounds passed, Tyson became more and more rigid. The trunk-like thighs still moved with surprising quickness, but underneath the sweatshirt, Tyson looked much slimmer than he has in the recent past. He said his timing was off, not because of age-reduced reflexes “but inactivity.”

As the rounds went on, Tyson began more and more to fall into his old habit of loading up on single punches. Combinations were still as rare as fighters in Don King’s fan club. After three rounds with Ibragimov, Tyson worked three with David Bostice, who looked a bit larger than his usual 250 or so pounds. It was after two minutes of the third round with Bostice that Tyson suddenly stopped, acting as if he suddenly had a cramp or stitches in his side.

Finkel said the back “locked up on him in the fourth round,” saying it was maybe why Tyson began slowing down. Roach, who says he has never seen Tyson work harder, even in morning runs, said he wished he had known that the back was bothering him, “I wouldn’t have pushed him.”

“He doesn’t like to complain,” said the trainer, who knows he has a much happier camper this time than he did for the Etienne fight.

“He’s a much happier person,” Roach said. “Used to have to wake him at 5 to get him to run, now he’s up at 4. I think he sleeps better at night without all that entourage around him.”

The entourage, of course, has disappeared with the money. Tyson said Crocodile would still be around, which may not thrill too many writers in Louisville. But for the first time in a long time, I am curious enough about Tyson and the outlandish chance of him becoming a champion again 15 years after his prime that I am looking forward to even Steven Fitch’s mantra.

It would, in a real sense, be even more impressive than George Foreman’s return to the title. George was away from the game for 10 years. Tyson has been away, really, for 15.

In future pieces based on this same interview, we’ll get Tyson’s take on his rape trial, the disappointment that his six-year-old son, Amir, is a Republican and some neat insights into his old buddy, Teddy Atlas. Best though is when Gary Randall starts putting together the video.

But enough for now. Enjoy America’s birthday weekend.

by Michael Katz

Source: maxboxing