Published: June 30, 2005
By Lisa Scott
Photo: Lisa Scott
After his shocking loss to journeyman Kevin McBride three weeks ago,
‘Iron’ Mike Tyson stated that he no longer has ‘the guts for the sport’
anymore. However, rumors have escalated that he will indeed return to
the ring. Fightnews spoke to Kevin Rooney to get his opinions on the
recent events of his former charge, Mike Tyson.
What did you think of Tyson’s fight against McBride?
It stunk! AND… I still can’t believe that the guy who quit on his
stool in the 6th round was Mike Tyson. That’s not the guy that I trained.
I have no idea who that guy was. The guy I trained was a fighting machine!
The Mike Tyson I trained was explosive. He was dedicated. He threw combinations
and moved his head! We were both practitioners of the Cus D’Amato style
and followed it to a tee. The style was perfect for Mike, but he abandoned
it. Now, he’s nothing like the fighter that he was suppose to be.
Did Tyson look to be in physical shape to you?
He looked O.K., but his weight was high. He didn’t look ripped, but
he didn’t look out of shape either. So, I guess you can say that age
is catching up to him.
There’s talk that Tyson could return to the ring again. But
after the McBride fight, he stated that he hasn’t had the desire to
fight since 1990. Would you encourage Tyson to return to the ring?
No. I would tell him to retire. If Mike truly does not have the desire
to fight, then he should definitely quit. If you’re fighting just for
the money, you can and will get seriously hurt. Even though he tore
up his knee in the (Danny) Williams fight, he did show courage by fighting
through the pain. But Mike only fights once a year and he quit on his
stool against McBride. It looks like he doesn’t have the interest anymore.
However, Mike has said a lot of things. After the second Holyfield fight,
he said he was finished. After Lennox Lewis, he said he was finished.
So, who knows what’s really going on inside Mike’s head.
Then again, the last thing to go on a fighter is his punching power.
So, if Mike can dig down deep within himself and resurrect his desire
to win… who knows! He’s still a name. George Foreman came back when
he was 39 years old. So if George can do it, Mike can definitely do
it. Cus always said that many old time fighters can go back to their
prime for one last shot. They get a second wind. They get a final desire
for glory. And that’s what Foreman did against Michael Moorer. He had
that desire again. Archie Moore had that desire too. But the words that
are coming out of Mike’s mouth are that he doesn’t want to fight anymore
and that he’s glad it’s over. Well, if that’s how he feels, then he
should get out. But Mike changes his mind left and right, north and
south… all the time.
In fact, I heard that Mike’s trainer, Jeff Fenech, wants to put him
in a tournament for 4 round fights. What the hell is this 4 round crap?!
You have to fight 10 rounds for any kind of main even fight and 12 rounds
for a championship! Mike isn’t Butterbean! What the hell is he gonna
do? Fight Butterbean every other month? I can’t speak for Mike, but
if he has any pride in himself, he wouldn’t do something like that.
Let’s say Tyson does resume his fighting career. What would you suggest
I suggest he come back to Catskill and give me 6 weeks. We’ll pick up
where we left off. I’d have him training like he used to train. Steve
Lott is still here. The gym hasn’t changed and all of Mike’s press clipping
are still on the walls. I’m old school and I believe you have to work
hard to get results. You can’t cut corners. I have certain techniques
that other trainers don’t use. Techniques that Mike was once proficient
at but he doesn’t use anymore. Of course, I’d get him sparring. But
he’d be sparing EVERY DAY. None o f this one day on and one day off
crap! AND… none of this 1-2 minute round crap either. That doesn’t
help a fighter! I’d have Mike sparring for a full 3 minutes…. every
round! Back in the day, I’d have him sparring 14-15 rounds for a 12
round fight. Just so it’s in his mind that he can do it. Right now,
he looks like a shot fighter after 3-4 rounds.
What type of techniques do you employ?
I have a number system and a heavy bag called ‘The Willie.’ Hitting
that bag is almost like sparring. And, there are ‘The Moves’ that I
learned from Cus. I pass these techniques on to all my fighters. However,
there are fighters who come here that are prima donnas and they’re very
set in their ways. They look upon these techniques and say “I’m
not gonna do this!’ But, for fighters who are hungry and want to learn,
they will eventually see that the end will justify the means. It was
those same techniques that made Mike the youngest heavyweight champ
in history. Same with Floyd Patterson and Jose Torres.
It sounds like it’s more mental than physical for Tyson. What
do you think?
It’s DEFINITELY mental. It’s not physical at all. Your mind controls
the body. After 3 rounds Mike thinks: ‘Ah, why do I have to do this?…
I don’t wanna do this!’ That happens to a lot of fighters. If he really
thinks that, then he should retire. But, you’ve got people who will
keep pushing him to fight… just so THEY can make money. Boxers have
always been the prostitutes of the sport while the promoters and managers
are the pimps.
When did you first detect that Tyson wasn’t doing ‘The Moves’
or training in the D’Amato style?
When he left me after the Spinks fight in 1988. He stopped moving his
head and started grabbing and hugging. That’s the same thing he did
in the amateurs. In the amateurs, I was constantly on him, telling him
not to hold. But it was the ‘fear factor’ in his mind. When you see
a fighter tying up, he’s saying: ‘O.K., you don’t hit me and I won’t
hit you.’ That’s the negative adrenaline. And that’s what happened in
the McBride fight. McBride didn’t do anything special. McBride didn’t
nail Mike with a 3-4 punch combination and knock him out. Mike just
quit. He showed no desire to exchange. He was content to do nothing.
Years ago, when Mike had the positive adrenaline, he would just open
up and knock people out! He knocked a lot of people out in sparring!
So much so, that it got to be a problem getting people to come up and
spar with him.
Just how hard was it to find sparring for Tyson… back in the
On the one hand it was very hard, but we always found someone willing
to come up to Catskill. James Broad was a tough sparring partner and
so was Oliver McCall. We could always rely on those two guys because
they were always ready to go. But, there was another guy. I forget his
name. He was pretty tough too, but Cus got rid of him. The guy went
out on a weekend night and had a few drinks. He came back to the house
at 3 a.m. and was banging on the door, trying to get in. Cus came downstairs
with a rifle and told him: ‘Get out of here or I’ll kill you!’ So, the
guy ended up sleeping in the carriage house and was gone the next day.
Never saw him again.
Recently, Tyson has stated that when you were together… he
felt you went from being a trainer to being an ‘owner.’ What’s all that
I heard that and it’s all TOTAL BULLSHIT! It was NEVER like that. NEVER!
And Mike knows it! That sounds like classic Don King: ‘Rooney thinks
he owns you… Rooney thinks you’re his slave…!’ Look. This is how
the fight game is. When people want to muscle in, they bad mouth you
and spread vicious rumors to get you out of the way. Boxing is a backstabbing
business and everyone is jealous of everyone else’s position.
Cus never had no kids and I always thought of Mike as a brother in the
Cus D’Amato family. All I did was defend Mike! When he married Robin
(Givens), there was all that nonsense going on with the Barbara Walters
interview – where Robin said Mike physically abused her. I was in shock
seeing him sit there like he was all drugged up! If Mike hit her as
much as she claimed, she would have been all busted up and it would
have shown on her physically. So, I spoke up and defended Mike! Boy,
she really give an Oscar performance in that interview!
When they first started dating, Robin would come to the gym and she
seemed like a nice girl. But when she told Mike she was pregnant, I
thought right from the get go that she was lying. I didn’t feel comfortable
telling Mike what I thought because he was so in love with her. It just
wasn’t my place. A few months ago, she was on the Oprah show rehashing
everything – after 15 years – and saying that she still loves Mike.
What an actress!
If Tyson does in fact retire from boxing, is he a shoe in for
the Hall of Fame?
Ohhhh… DEFINITELY! Mike is youngest heavyweight champ ever! He defended
his title… I think it was 9 times. He’s probably the greatest heavyweight
fighter at 20-21 years old. I don’t know of any fighter who could have
beat him – except for maybe Muhammad Ali in his prime. I’m talking about
the Ali who beat Sonny Liston. THAT Ali is probably the only one who
would have presented a problem for Mike. It would have been a tremendous
match up where I could see Ali winning. Yet… I could see Mike winning
Any final words?
Not really. But now that I think of it, Mike’s birthday is tomorrow
(June 30th) and I do wish him a happy birthday. I also wish that he
finds happiness in whatever it is he decides to do. He’s a family man
now. His kids should be a priority. There’s a lot more to life than