Mark Workman collumn


Published: June 20, 2005

By Mark Workman:

When Mike Tyson stepped confidently into the ring at the Tokyo Dome in
Tokyo, Japan on February 11, 1990 the Japanese public witnessed the
most awesome destroyer boxing had seen in years, decades. Sure,
Muhammad Ali was a better boxer and more loved by the world, but Ali
never brought into the ring that monstrous fear-factor that shrouded
Iron Mike, that dangerous destructive force that exploded when he
entered the ring. Mike Tyson was indestructible in the eyes and minds
and hearts of the Japanese people. To them he was as fierce and
gigantic as their native son Godzilla himself.

More quotes available in the extended section of this post (click ‘Read More‘ below).As the new decade began, most of the world refused to even consider the
mere suggestion that Mike Tyson could lose to a fighter with the
lackluster record that James Buster Douglas possessed. Coming into the
fight a 42-to-1 underdog, Douglas could’ve made every boxing fan on the
planet a pretty penny had anyone the foresight or the nerves to even
bet on him.

But not many did. I didn’t. No one could even conceive of the fact that
a boxer like Buster Douglas could destroy the youngest heavyweight
champion of all time and the era’s most devastating puncher, this
killing machine.

I take nothing away from Buster Douglas. Fueled by the anguish of his
mother’s death, the man came into the ring that day and fought the
fight of his life, beating the ten-count by a second in the 8th round
after suffering a brutal uppercut from Iron Mike, and came back to
produce the biggest upset in sports history. But he also came into the
ring carrying too much extra baggage in his next fight against Evander
Holyfield for the undisputed title and essentially gave it away to
Holyfield, preferring to just fall down for millions in prize money.

On a dreary and rainy day, the Tyson/Douglas fight was being shown on
Japanese television that morning so it would air live in America on HBO
at night. I was in Japan at that time, on tour with the popular heavy
metal band Testament. I was their tour manager and lighting designer.
We had a day off that day, and all we could talk about was the Mike
Tyson fight. We had begged and pleaded with our concert promoter Mr.
Udo to take us to Tokyo to see the fight, but he refused, knowing
full-well that we’d be in no good shape for our first performance in
Japan the next day. He was right because we probably would’ve drunk
every can of Sapporo beer in sight had we gotten the opportunity to see
Iron Mike in the flesh. So we all decided to gather in my hotel room
that morning to watch the fight on Japanese television.

Waking up that morning, I sat up in my hotel bed and looked out the
window, and I immediately felt a strong sense of dread. I will never
forget it until the day I die. Even though Mr. Udo always booked us
into a nice hotel, my room was cold and dank and the day outside was
miserable and rainy. I immediately felt depressed, for some reason
sensing a bad day ahead. Somehow I knew my idol Iron Mike Tyson was
going to lose that day. I just felt it. It just popped into my head out
of nowhere. I just knew something was going to go wrong that day. I
will never forget that moment.

At the time I refused to believe it was even possible for Mike Tyson to
lose a fight, much less to someone like Buster Douglas. It was
inconceivable to me. Hell, if I had placed a hefty bet on Douglas to
win that fight, I would’ve left Japan and retired from the music
business. But the mere idea of Mike Tyson losing that fight wouldn’t
even register as permissible data in my brain. It just wasn’t possible.
I was angry with myself for even thinking the unthinkable. It couldn’t
possibly happen. Or could it?

Rumors had been flying around Japan while we were there that Iron Mike
had been living the high-life during his time in Japan leading up to
the fight when he should’ve been training hard. The word we heard from
our promoter rep was that Mike was more interested in the Japanese
ladies than the man called Buster Douglas who he would face in the ring
at the Tokyo Dome, considering Douglas to be nothing more than a
quick-and-easy payday, mauled and disposed of in the first round. None
of this is new news today. But at that time we dismissed it all as
“gossip” from our Japanese promoter rep and took none of it seriously.
Hell, I wanted to kick his ass for even talking such crap about Iron
Mike. But I needed him for our Japanese tour, so I let him live.

When the fight began on Japanese television, that strong sense of dread
I experienced earlier that morning returned even stronger as we all
realized that the commentary for the fight was in Japanese with no
English subtitles. As we began to watch the fight, and the unexpected
and startling dismantling of a quickly-built ring legend unfolded, a
dark and eerie feeling drifted throughout my hotel room. It was
infectious. The band and crew and I all began to scream at Mike Tyson
to “wake up and fight” as if he’d hear us through the television set
and maybe pay heed to our words. And the fact that we couldn’t
understand a single word of the Japanese commentary made it all the
worse. It made it all seem?unreal.

When Iron Mike Tyson was finally knocked out by Buster Douglas in the
10th round, everyone in my room went wild, breaking lamps and trashing
the room. After it was over, we all went down to the hotel bar to get
drunk and try and decide if what we just saw was real. Oh, it had to be
wrong because we couldn’t understand a single word any of the
commentators had spoken. Surely there must’ve been a mistake and that
image of Iron Mike in the 10th round rolling around on the canvas
drunkenly trying to shove his mouthpiece back into his mouth was surely
the sloppy work of an incompetent Japanese television cameraman. That
was the only logical explanation. So we had another beer and waited to
hear the “truth” from Don King on the news. The truth never came.

Last night I watched the Tyson/Douglas fight again on ESPN Classic
Sports Network, and I can remember that morning in my hotel room in
Japan like it was yesterday. And last Saturday night I was reminded of
that same morning again when a repeat of a lesser magnitude occurred
when Mike Tyson quit on his stool against unheralded journeyman Kevin
McBride. And I felt that same feeling of dread all over again. But this
time it was for a different reason.

This time my feeling of dread was not about Mike Tyson losing the fight
against McBride and fumbling his quest to regain the heavyweight title
but a feeling of dread that he might lose the biggest fight of his
life, the one that really matters: the fight for a normal and happy
life after boxing. The look in his eyes worried me. The way he kept
biting the thumb of his glove during the fight worried me. When I think
of where Mike Tyson goes from here and where he might end up in later
life, that strong and eerie sense of dread that I remember so well from
Japan comes back to me with more potency than ever before.

Make no mistake about it; I’m a Mike Tyson fan. I have been for 20
years, since the old days of smaller network television fights before
he won the title from Trevor Berbick. I’ve followed him religiously for
2 decades, 75% of those 2 decades being post-Douglas and clearly the
worst years of his career. But I followed him anyway because there was
something about him that made you actually forget that crushing defeat
at the hands of Buster Douglas.

When he lost twice to Evander Holyfield, I still had to see him fight
again because I longed for the glory days when he demolished Michael
Spinks in 91 seconds. When he lost to Lennox Lewis, I chalked it up to
age and said “Mike had a bad night, but he’ll be back better than ever
next time. He just needs to get Kevin Rooney back.” And of course the
loss to Danny Williams meant nothing because Mike hurt his leg during
that fight. “Mike will do better the next time,” I said to myself. “I’m
sure of it.” The old days will return.

We will live them once again and scream in glorious triumph as Iron
Mike towers over his fallen and decimated opponent. Kevin McBride was a
fluke and our legend will have his glory another day. I wish all of
that were true. But it isn’t anymore. We all get older and all good
things must eventually come to an end. But many of us kept coming back,
hoping to stand in glory with our champion Iron Mike once again. But
it’s been over for 15 years for Iron Mike, and I’m glad to see him
finally admit it. I hate to see it all end. Now I can only hope that
Mike Tyson will finally truly retire.

When I saw the look on his face and heard him speak during the
post-fight interview after losing miserably to Kevin McBride, I hoped
that he meant every word he said. But I also knew exactly how he felt
when he spoke of how he “no longer had the desire” and was only “doing
it for the money.” 2 ex-wives later, I’ve recently retired from a
21-year career in the music business and am now building a new career
in real estate at age 45. Frightening, but onward I trudge. I, too, “no
longer had the desire” and had only been “doing it for the money”
myself for the past 15 years.

Beating my brains out on the road 10 months out of the year for the
last 2 decades, constantly running away with the circus from demons
that I still need to address, I know how he must’ve felt at that
moment, but on a much smaller scale, of course. When he told us that
this was most likely his last fight, I felt I knew Mike Tyson more than
I’d ever known him before. Yet, I’ve never known him at all, only the
legend, never the man. And I doubt too many people on this planet
really know the man. I wonder if anyone truly does. Yet some people
jump at the opportunity to judge him and rip him apart in public,
especially now. Let him have his dignity. We all deserve that. Only
those without dignity try to rob him of his own.

Mike Tyson deserves to be in the Boxing Hall of Fame. His record speaks
for itself. And yes, he did this and he did that. But what does that
have to do with what he accomplished in the ring? If we kicked out
every person in boxing with a suspect past there’d be no one left but
the vendors selling beer and no one to induct into the BHOF.

If we can all just give the man a break for once and let go of the
past, Mike Tyson might actually surprise all of his detractors and do
great things with his “life after boxing.” More times than not, we get
what we expect from people. Or everyone can just continue to never let
him live down his mistakes or what the public perceives as
mistakes–although mistakes he’s clearly paid for–and call him a
low-life monster until the day he dies. I hope not.

Don’t misunderstand me. I hate a lot of things about the sport of
boxing, but I’m one of the most hardcore fans on the planet. And I’ll
defend it against anyone who derides it. But in the end, it’s still a
business selling sports entertainment. Mike Tyson fights his fight. We
pay to watch it. After that he owes us nothing. Even exchange. But we
could offer some respect for the entertainment he’s given us for 20
years. Hell, he might even return the favor. After all, like every
boxer, he puts his life on the line to entertain us.

He gave us, for a brief time, the opportunity to stand with him in true
glory. Some of us long for those glory days and that’s why we continued
to pay to see him fight for 15 years after his career ended in Tokyo.
Mike’s not been the same fighter since Tokyo, but he’s been one
helluva’ entertainer in the ring with exciting glimpses of the past
surfacing from time-to-time. And that was enough for me each time I
paid that $50.00 pay-per-view bill. I relived those days-gone-by, if
only for brief moments. It was worth the money to me.

His career is now over, as long as Iron Mike never allows those who
only care about money to talk him into one more embarrassing travesty
such as the McBride fight. Mike Tyson is one of the most famous faces
on this planet. If allowed to do so, Mike could help to do great things
for people in need around this world, just as Ali does. Mike, so many
people in this world will only remember you by the McBride fight if you
let them. It’s not what you did in boxing that will determine how
people truly remember you; it’s what you do with the rest of your life
after boxing. Great things await you, things so much bigger than this
great sport of boxing.

If we can just allow our minds to “mentally wash away” this dirt that
so many people see smeared all over Mike Tyson–some of it by his own
hand and some that we have smeared there ourselves–we might allow this
man to accomplish great things in his future. We might allow his record
in the ring to speak for itself when it comes to boxing and his actions
in the future to speak for his life when it’s over. And the mistakes
he’s made and paid for should rest where they belong?in the past.

We’ve all made mistakes in our lives. Who are we to constantly judge
Mike Tyson? None of us is without sin. Our sins just aren’t plastered
across the front page of every newspaper because we’re not famous. We
laugh at him because he lost to a fighter like Kevin McBride. But we
all grow older sooner or later and our skills eventually erode. But we
don’t laugh at each other like we laugh at Iron Mike. Why, because the
media doesn’t give a damn about us because we don’t sell newspapers.
And no one tunes into CNN or ESPN to hear the latest privacy-invading
garbage about us. And they probably never will. So we should consider
ourselves to be a lot luckier than Mike Tyson.

We can only truly judge someone if we’ve lived in their shoes. And very
few of us have ever walked the long mile that Mike Tyson has walked.
Oh, we fantasize about it. But most of us don’t have the balls to walk
that mile or even attempt the journey. It’s so much easier to sit on
our butts and rip someone apart as if we know so much. Trying to
understand takes time and effort, but we’re too lazy for that. We just
see some famous guy and hate him for being famous because we’re not.
We’ve all made mistakes and we’ll keep making them until the day we
die. But the world doesn’t know about our mistakes because we’re not
one of the most famous men on the planet. We’re not Mike Tyson.

Mike, you will always have my undying admiration and respect,
regardless of your past that many won’t ever let you forget. And I will
always live the glory days by watching your fights on video. But what
you do from this day forward is all that really matters to me, not
mistakes from the past that are really none of our business, anyway.
But as a long-time Mike Tyson fan, the only thing I hope in return from
you is to know that you grow old with your children with a smile on
your face.

Let it go, my friend. Let it go. A whole new better life awaits you?if you’re only willing to walk that next long mile.

I shall cheer for you, gladiator.