Published: July 11, 2004
I have been searching for part 1 of this series and have not come across it yet. But I thought you might want to at least see part 2.
LAS VEGAS – The five kids are growing, the eldest is 15, and Mike Tyson, who said he wouldn’t mind having maybe ten children, seems to finally realize that the sins of the father are going to be tough on the heirs.
For the moment, Tyson doesn’t have a lot to leave his kids except his reputation. It is not a rich inheritance. The millions are gone, but the burden can not be measured at $38 million of debt.
“How do you explain that rape shit?” he said.
He was sitting in the women’s room of the Central Boxing Club, still in his trunks, toweling the sweat from his shaved brow. There are furrows now on his face to remind you that this is no longer the 20-year-old wunderkind who became the youngest heavyweight champion in history.
His thoughts, his demeanor are more pleasant surprises that, at least on the day after his 38th birthday, Mike Tyson may have grown up before his children did. Too little, too late? There is ample cause for cynicism. Tyson has teased us, himself, often in the past. He can exhibit extraordinary charm, tell us what we want to hear, and then at the first sign of pressure, snap into his persona of Mad Mike.
What makes me suspect that this time is different? Wishful thinking? Maybe the cynic is the last one to lose hope. Without allowing for growth, we are all doomed. The Tyson saga started out warm and cuddly – the little monster no one could tame until he was discovered by the old man, Cus D’Amato.
There have been a few detours and while it is true that he was the victim of some, he can not escape the prisons of his own making. For two hours, we talked. It was more of a genial chat than an interview at times.
He said again he never raped Desiree Washington. Only two people know what happened in that room at the Canterbury Hotel in Indianapolis. But a jury of 12 peers should never have found Tyson guilty – maybe he was not innocent, but there was no forensic proof or witnesses to say he was guilty. It was a he-said-she-said case and Tyson’s own lawyer, supplied by Don King, made the fighter out to be an animal and she should have known what she was getting into when she went up to his room and if you’ve ever seen a fixed fight, you had to have suspicions about this trial.
I asked Mike if he was wearing underwear, as she testified he was when she came out of the bathroom. Mike’s longtime chauffeur and valet, Rudy Gonzalez, had long ago told me he never packed any underwear for the trip to Indianapolis.
“I seldom wear underwear,” Tyson said.
Then maybe she was lying? She was not cross-examined on this minute point. At least it seemed that King and his lawyer wanted Tyson put away so, as Gonzalez theorizes, the fighter didn’t leave him. It was at a time, remember, when King wanted Tyson to fight Razor Ruddock a third time while Harold Smith was advising to forget that and go after Evander Holyfield and get his title back. Tyson had forced King into dealing with Dan Duva, Holyfield’s promoter, when he was rushed off to Indianapolis.
Tyson shrugged at the possible scenarios. He has settled his $100 million lawsuit with King for $14 million – or $8 million up front and the promise of $3 million each the following two Januaries. He’d better not spend that $6 million yet.
He said he didn’t like to dwell on the past. Hell, he said “I hate watching my tapes,” even those when he was a brilliant “elusive” and fierce fighter. He never did like looking in a mirror, almost as if he were afraid at what he might see. He would put himself down worse than his harshest critics. Even now, he says he’s “the biggest fool in the world.”
But there’s something different now. For the first time, it seems, when he looks in the mirror he is not horrified. This man who has been convicted of rape, who did time for a road rage incident where he attacked two small and elderly men after a fender-bender, who grew up mugging little old ladies, and never mind his criminal behavior inside the ring, has begun to realize that he no one is perfect – and he certainly is not perfectly evil.
I asked if he could control his rage, if he needed anger management lessons. He said it wasn’t that, “It was me thinking the whole world was against me.”
He said, “People are not convicted for what they do, but for what they might do.” Jailhouse wisdom, I believe.
I brought up the Maryland road-rage incident, when the car his then wife Monica was driving was rear-ended and he went out and attacked these two guys who looked as if they were residents of a jockey’s old-age home.
“I’m guilty on that,” he said.
He has said that, as part of his reparations for mugging elderly women as a kid, he would give away $100 bills to the homeless. He has done some very charitable things that most people don’t know about. He really is a shrink’s dream subject.
Teddy Atlas, his old trainer back in the Catskill days, always put down Tyson as a “shooting star,” someone who flashed brilliantly across the sky and died out. Deep down, Atlas always said, Tyson was unsure of himself, did not know who he was. To a degree, of course it is probably true about all of us. Tyson carried insecurity to great depths.
Tyson could not resist taking a shot at Atlas and his ilk: “They’re not psychoanalysts, these guys are barely fight trainers. How does he know who I am?”
He said Atlas talks “a lot about what he did when I was 15 (pulling a gun on Tyson when the young fighter made a pass at the trainer’s 11-year-old sister-in-law). Like he’s a tough guy.”
But, nah, he does not hate Atlas, he doesn’t hate even King. Mellow, maybe. For the first time since I first was introduced to him by D’Amato about 22, 23 years ago, Tyson has begun to see some light at the end of the mirror: “I’ve come to the conclusion I’ve had a bad psychological opinion of myself. I never realized how many people were pulling for me, who wanted me to do well. It was too much pressure on me. I didn’t know how to handle it. I wanted people to think I’m a normal guy. I’m a maniac, but I’m a good guy.
“I’m feeling pretty good about myself and when I do become successful, it will be the most successful boxing story in the world,” he said, envisioning himself accomplishing, in essence, an even greater feat than George Foreman’s comeback.
But his success, he should understand, does not revolve around beating Vitali Klitschko or Lamon Brewster. Oh, it would mean a lot to boxing history if he could reestablish himself as a dominant heavyweight so many years after going into decline. He cares about boxing history, but I think he’s beginning to see more important things – like that “vampire’s cross” he now has to ward off evil thoughts.
“I’m trying not to say bad things about anybody, or use bad language. It’s part of my habit of trying to be a good person,” he said.
The man who says he was “addicted to chaos,” is now talking about a new habit. How long has it been?
“This is new,” he said, laughing, “very new.”
And so we wait for another chapter in the Mike Tyson saga. The boxing portion of his life is obviously near the end. But with Lennox Lewis enjoying fatherhood (at last, there is a Lewis child for Tyson to eat), he might be able to launch one final rocket.
But his brightest prospects lie elsewhere, with his children. Next: A brief summation, but I must confess that I didn’t take notes when we were talking about smoking pot.
by Michael Katz