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TysonTalk: Tyson: 'My whole life has been a waste'

Posted on Friday, June 03, 2005 @ 17:46:21 UTC by viper
tysoncrazy50 writes

Source: UsaToday
By Jon Saraceno

Mike Tyson swings open a small, wooden door, carefully prodding his feathered friends into a gentle spring breeze. Within minutes, hundreds of pigeons flutter skyward, circling in tightknit loops. The younger birds soar higher; the older ones, particularly those locked up too long, struggle to heights they once conquered.

"This is my next love, after my kids. They're very soothing," the former heavyweight champion says to an old acquaintance after a workout for his June 11 fight against Kevin McBride, a tiny step in what Tyson hopes is a title march.

Almost 39, he is anything but at peace. Confused and humiliated after a decadent lifestyle left him with broken relationships, shattered finances and a reputation in ruin, the fighter cannot hide his insecurities, stacked as high as his legendary knockouts. He frets about his place in the world - where he comes from, where he's headed and how the life and turbulent times of Michael Gerard Tyson will play out.

"I'll never be happy," he says. "I believe I'll die alone. I would want it that way. I've been a loner all my life with my secrets and my pain. I'm really lost, but I'm trying to find myself.

"I'm really a sad, pathetic case."

The divorced father of six is blunt, gregarious, funny, vulgar, outrageous, sad, angry, bitter and, at times, introspective about the opportunities he squandered over the last two decades. He discusses his drug use ("The weed got me"), lack of self-esteem and sexual addiction.

"My whole life has been a waste - I've been a failure," he says.

"I just want to escape. I'm really embarrassed with myself and my life. I want to be a missionary. I think I could do that while keeping my dignity without letting people know they chased me out of the country. I want to get this part of my life over as soon as possible. In this country, nothing good is going to come of me. I'm so stigmatized, there is no way I can elevate myself.

"They would give (the late) Jeffrey Dahmer a second chance before they gave me another one. If you saw a (police) lineup and saw Tyson and Dahmer and they asked, 'Who killed and ate those people?' you would pick me and not Jeffrey."

The complex heavyweight tries to take small steps toward greater self-awareness, at times exhibiting a different side of his outlandish public persona that turned the primordial puncher into a national punch line. When Tyson, often viewed as a social misfit, plastered the left side of his face with a tribal tattoo two years ago, it seemed to signal he had reached bottom as the major freak attraction under boxing's circus tent.

"People put me so high. I wanted to tear that image down," he says.

He settles for small pleasures these days, often his birds or his children. Tyson, single after two divorces, says his relationship is limited with three older offspring, Gena, 16; Mikey, 14; and Rayna, 9. He is trying to be a better father to Amir, 7; Miguel, 3; and Exodus, 3 months. When it comes to parenting, the fighter appears equally as comfortable with his birds.

Each day, he carefully rousts his adopted "family" members from their coops by waving a pink flag. He knows their names, lineage and health status. He has been enamored of pigeons since growing up in New York City when hoodlums bullied him into cleaning their bird cages. These days, he willingly feeds and tends his precious flock. This week he asked the City Council in Phoenix to not impose a limit on the number of pigeons kept on residential premises that would reduce his flock to 40 from 350.

On this day, he gingerly moves an adult bird from a nest to reveal fuzzy chicks. "I raised these. They are my babies," he says proudly. "This one here was just born."

As a breeder, Tyson prizes his "deep rollers," the kamikaze-style pigeons who tumble with slight drops, then execute breathtaking dives. Those birds fly miles overhead, then nose-dive into a death-defying deep roll, hurtling their bodies downward before safely pulling out at the last moment - or slamming to the ground.

Huge highs and lows

Tyson understands their thrill-seeking and self-destructive tendencies. So does the 69-year-old woman who wants to help the rambunctious fighter.

"The deep roller is what Mike Tyson has been," says therapist Marilyn Murray, who first met him while he was in intensive sex therapy in 1999. His friend and mentor is a peppy, positive, self-described "emotional heart surgeon."

For years she worked inside the Arizona prison system, specializing in childhood abuse and repeat sexual offenders. She points out that Tyson's low self-esteem manifests itself in cross-addictions, i.e., drugs, sex and spending sprees. The ex-champ grossed an estimated $400 million in his career but declared bankruptcy two years ago (though he still owns at least one Rolls-Royce and is building a multimillion-dollar home in suburban Paradise Valley). Tyson once owed $50 million to creditors, a sum he has reduced to $10 million.

"Addicts use those things to cover up pain," Murray says. "They also use it to get a high and bring them out of their boredom, depression and miserable existence."

Flying ... and then falling.

"He's a guy who just doesn't take the normal tumbles like the average person," Murray explains. "He gets real high, then crashes. The difference is that the bird has been bred and can't do anything differently. I've told Mike, 'You're a human being - you have choices. You can continue to do this and literally die. Or you can lock yourself up, become a hermit somewhere and never let yourself fly. Or you can learn to fly high and enjoy life.' That has really connected for him."

At 20, Tyson soared to uncommon heights as the youngest heavyweight champion in history. He won his first 37 fights before Buster Douglas shocked him with a 10th-round knockout in 1990.

Over time, Tyson spiraled downward with a devastating one-two punch of indifference and self-indulgence. While the stocky slugger tries to shoo away the demons that have dogged him since his childhood in a Brooklyn slum, he has reunited with Murray. It is an important relationship for Tyson, who, after a lifetime of betrayal, genuinely trusts only a few people, including ex-wife Monica Turner.

"Part of it is that Mike finally has decided it's time to grow up," Murray says. "One of the most powerful influences in his life are his children. I'm always challenging him with, 'What kind of legacy are you going to leave them?' "

Harwood Hamilton, who operates the Central Boxing Gym where Tyson trains in Phoenix, finds the fighter to be "an inspiring story - if you want him to be." Tyson's former wife describes her ex as being in a "better personal space than he's been in a long time."

"I am so proud of the way he has decided to refocus and reprioritize his life," says Turner, a pediatrician in Washington, D.C. "He sees now what's really important."

While Tyson values his relationships with Turner and Murray, he exhibits some ambivalence regarding their sphere of influence.

"People are trying to force me to redeem (myself) - certain women, certain mentors," he says. "Nobody's going to change me. I'm going to fight that. You can't change me; you can't tame me. When you say that, I'm going to bite you even harder. I'm more ferocious, more complicated. I'm not going to let anybody win a popularity contest off my conduct.

"You have to understand. It is a pervasive (belief) that I'm an animal - undomesticated as well. But regardless of the bizarre (stuff) I've done, I'm a very rational individual. But everybody still thinks I'm crazy and stupid because that's what they want to believe."

Murray explains Tyson's conflict: "With a guy like Mike, as soon as he feels somebody's pressuring him, there's a part of him that says, 'Screw you.' That's the old Mike talking - 'I can never change.'

"I'm not God, and he's not God. I can't wave this magic wellness wand. He's going to have to do a whole lot of work."

In his quest for self-improvement - "I need some discipline over myself; I need some emotional intelligence" - Tyson has doubts and questions beyond legacy. He is angry that he still doesn't know the identity of his real father and perplexed about the diminution of his sexual desire.

"Sex is not a great issue with me anymore," he says. "I'm just guilty about my sexual conquests when I was younger. I'm no longer a threat to white society, black society."

But his biggest dread is this scenario: "My biggest fear now is to go to a New York state penitentiary - then I'll see all my demons," he says. "My family, people I know, put me in that den of iniquity. I could easily be right there with them because, really, I am one of them."

He has settled in the desert, where Murray is trying to build a support system for him. Tyson exhibits a pattern typical of people who were traumatized at an early age by cir*****stance and environment, she says: "You can't point to one thing and say, 'OK, this is what made Mike Tyson who he is today.' It is many, many, many things."

Tyson, she says, "is a classic case of a child who grew up in a destructive, dysfunctional environment." He watched as multiple boyfriends beat up his alcoholic mother, Lorna, who died when Tyson was 16. Three years earlier, he was sent to reform school in Upstate New York, where he met trainer Cus D'Amato, who died before Tyson became champ.

"He talked to me about my (eventual) downfalls," Tyson says. "He told me, 'You're the type of guy who has to be hurt to learn.' I'm pissed off today because he was right about everything."

His 1988 marriage to actress Robin Givens was scuttled after a year (she later accused him of domestic violence; Tyson denies it). His overpowering ring style was matched by an equally reckless personal life, one exacerbated after he lost confidant and co-manager Jimmy Jacobs, who died in 1988. The fighter's complicated, contentious 10-year business relationship with Don King ended when Tyson sued the promoter for fraud and settled for $14 million last year.

"If you lay down with dogs, you get fleas," he says of King. "I associated with a lot of dogs. That's why I carry the weight of a fool alone."

A life of depression

Tyson's career disintegrated in the 1990s after Douglas upset him; suddenly, he became better known for his notoriety. At one time uncommonly fast and powerful in the ring, he exchanged the Spartan gym for the high life - buying mansions, including one with 38 bathrooms. He collected white Bengal tigers, expensive jewelry and dozens of exotic automobiles - when he wasn't getting drunk or high or carousing with strippers.

By 1992 he was convicted of rape. Tyson served three years in prison, regained the heavyweight title in 1996 (and lost it the same year), got married to Turner (and divorced again). He quickly gained a reputation as a serial biter - first Evander Holyfield's left ear, then Lennox Lewis' right leg.

After Tyson's shocking double-bite of Holyfield in their 1997 rematch, he underwent psychological and neurological exams. Tyson told psychiatrists he had felt depressed his entire life, that he was uncomfortable with celebrity.

Doctors reported that his emotional swings were triggered by his belief that he is "being used, victimized and treated unfairly." Murray says every prisoner is victim and victimizer but that you "don't pop out of the womb a victimizer."

"Children are like white sponges. If you pour a lot of darkness into that sponge and squeeze it, darkness comes out. Mike had a lot of darkness poured into him."

Doctors said Tyson was not what he believes the public views him - "psycho." No major mental illness or personality disorder was reported, but he was found to be chronically depressed. He manages to retain a humorous, healthy sense of the absurd about his sordid past.

"One of my friends once saw another guy's (criminal) record and said, 'Look, this guy is a born troublemaker, just a loser.' I had to tell him, 'No, that's my record - and it doesn't include my juvenile history.' I'm supposed to be a quote-unquote 'superstar.' But look at my record. Oh, damn. I'm a super jailbird in super-max."

Now free to fly, Tyson must decide where the wind will take him.

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