Published: March 3, 2006
By Vincent Hogan
I’m waiting for Mike Tyson to answer my call. It’s 8.30am in Phoenix on Wednesday and Tom Pattie’s just gone
to wake him up. A muffled disturbance filters down the phone-line.
“Irish newspaper guy, remember?”
Small rainstorm of unintelligible muttering ends with the primeval
rasp of Tyson at the end of the phone. He had gone for “a nap” when we
tried on Tuesday. Now it felt like we were trespassing on private time.
Am I ringing too early, Mike?
“Well yeah you are. C’mon, what’s goin on buddy (laughing)?”
Want me to ring later?
“No, go ahead, let’s get it over with my friend.”
Can you fill me in Mike on what you’re doing with yourself now that you’ve stopped fighting?
“I’m just fine, just taking it easy right now. Just enjoying myself, relaxing, travelling.”
Did I hear you give speeches as you travel?
“In some places I give speeches, in other places I’m just enjoying my free time.”
Anything you miss about the ring?
“I don’t miss it at all.”
You mean in terms of the hard work preparing for fights?
“I guess I’ve been doing it too long, been preparing too long. And it catches up on you.”
Can I ask you about Cus D’Amato and his influence on you? Given he
died so soon after discovering you, do you look back and think your
life could have been much different if he had lived longer?
“Listen, I don’t want to talk about my past. I’m just gonna talk
about my trip coming to Ireland. Look, my boxing career is over. I
don’t want to talk about fighting no more. You wanna talk about me
coming to Ireland, then that’s great. If not, then I’m gonna terminate
this call. I don’t like talking about boxing no more. If you don’t
Em, so why are you coming to Ireland, Mike?
“Well I’m just coming over to do some fishing and meet Joe Egan.
We’re gonna do this thing and donate some money to charity. We’re just
gonna have fun over there, we’re gonna go to some of the children’s
hospitals hopefully and have some meet and greets. We’re gonna have a
good time in Ireland.”
You sparred with Joe Egan, is he a good friend of yours?
“Yeah I’ve known Joe for quite a long time.”
Can you explain to people what it’s like being so instantly recognisable no matter where you travel on this planet?
“I don’t know. I won the title and I became a world-class fighter.
But I’m just a pretty ordinary guy. You know I like doing the stuff
that most men do. I don’t know. I get in trouble some times. I’m just
enjoying my life. My life is short. I’m 40-years-old. I just want to
live whatever life I have left. I want to live it, em, joyfully.”
But is it difficult with everyone always probing, not least journalists like me asking the same questions day in, day out?
“I wouldn’t be giving any interviews to journalists unless I was
going on these tours and these charitable situations. I stay pretty
much out of it, I don’t want that life anymore.”
Have you kept any friends from boxing. Are there people you stay in touch with? Evander for example? (loaded question).
“No, I don’t hang out with no-one.” (unloaded).
Your life is completely free of boxing so?
“Yeah, I’m finished with it.”
Do you read much these days?
“Not as much as I used to.”
Is that something you’d like to get back into now?
“I don’t know. I’ve got to get, basically, focused on my life
that’s existing at this moment. And then maybe I can work back in
degrees. I’m not reading much. And I’m grabbing books, but I’m not
reading them. Just storing them away. But when I get the time to read
them I’ll (yawns) try to enjoy them.”
What are the things that make you happiest these days?
What are the things in your life that make you happiest now?
“Not fighting (laughs).”
Can you give me your opinion of Kevin McBride, who beat you in your last fight?
“Kevin’s a good man. He put up a good fight on the night. I just wish him the best in life and hope he doesn’t get hurt.”
I understand he still works on the building sites of Boston despite
beating you, so he hasn’t made big money. Is that still the big worry
in boxing that a lot of fighters don’t ever get what they’re due?
“Oh no, I guess I was just one of the fortunate few. Lucky in
certain aspects. The thing is we do the best we can. Some of us make
it, some of us don’t. But the main issue of the situation is that we
give our best.”
In all the hype, is it sometimes forgotten that boxers are human beings too?
“You know we live in a society where guys like myself maybe might
soon be obsolete. People don’t care about the guy who gives their heart
to the thing, to entertain them. Even die for it. They just care about
the people who have the most success, who’s in the best position to
influence them and improve their circumstances. There’s no longer any
thinking about the guy who has substance or character. This guy’s tough
or this guy, he’s not an educated guy but he gives you his life as far
as his dedication is concerned. Those guys are obsolete nowadays.
“All they’re thinking about now is flashing and glittering gold,
big cars, big planes. Who has the most money and who can make the
biggest fool out of themselves with that money. Showing off how much
they have, how big their house is, that’s what this world is about now.
There’s not too much substance going on. If there was, we wouldn’t have
the ordeals that we have and the catastrophes that we’re having in this
Too much greed?
Have you been to Ireland before?
“No I’m looking forward to it very much. They’ve told me about the Blarney Stone.”
You’re going to visit the Blarney Stone?
“I don’t know if I’ll visit, but all my friends tell me about it
and say it gave them great luck. Most of my Irish friends – not many of
them are very lucky (laughing) – but they all said the Blarney Stone
was going to bring them a lot of luck. So I said ‘Okay, let’s check it
I think it’s an old wife’s tale Mike.
“Yeah, you didn’t get the luck either? (hooting with laughter).”
Do you understand the scale and nature of your profile worldwide
and how you might be perceived in a small country like Ireland?
“Hey man that doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is people
respect and understand the fact that I’m just a human being. I don’t
get the star thing. I think that the platform I have will show people
that I’m a real person. That I deal with heartbreaks, I deal with
anger, I deal with love, I deal with all that stuff, confusion. Just
like anybody else. It’s just the life that we live. We live an everyday
life, but we’re under the microscope.”
And your own life has embraced just about every human experience imaginable?
“Right now I’m just trying to live my life in a dignified manner. I
made a lot of mistakes in the beginning of my life. Which is
understandable. Which we all do.
“But I’m just looking forward to the challenge of rebuilding myself as a human being.”
Does it feel like you’re well on the road to doing that?
“Hey give my best to Kevin and those guys will you. I gotta go.”
Thanks for your time Mike.
“The pleasure is mine. Thank you my friend.”