Freddie Roach in Africa talks about Tyson: 'Mike can do it one more time'


Published: May 22, 2004

Trainer Roach says if Tyson can get his head together he is not only the baddest but the best heavyweight around. Trainer Freddie Roach believes Mike Tyson is capable of beating any of the four world heavyweight champions. Roach was in South Africa with Virgil Hill, who fought for the WBA cruiserweight title early this morning.

MIKE Tyson is still the baddest man on the planet – in spite of
medication for his mood swings. When trainer Freddie Roach asked him if
the pills made him timid in the ring, Tyson responded: “No, I still
want to kill the motherf***er.”

That’s the Tyson the world remembers; the Tyson who dominated
boxing in the 1980s, scything through the biggest names in the
heavyweight division. And Roach believes Tyson can fight his way back
to the top by the end of this year. The fighter takes on Kevin McBride
on July 31.

There’s been talk of Tyson competing in the Japanese all-styles
K1 arena, but Roach says it won’t happen this year if “everything goes
according to plan”. After McBride, Tyson wants to face top contender
Joe Mesi, then challenge for a world heavyweight crown before the end
of 2004.

The key to Tyson’s return is conditioning – something Roach
believes was lacking when he was knocked out by Lennox Lewis two years
ago. Roach plans to rectify that.

“Mike likes to be pushed,” says the coach, who took over as
trainer eight weeks before Tyson’s 49-second demolition of Clifford
Etienne early last year. “When you do that, he respects you a lot
more… if you let him be lazy, he will be.”

In training for the Etienne bout, Roach made Tyson sick three
times. On one occasion, Tyson had his handwraps cut off after a few
rounds of sparring and hitting the bags.

Roach asked him what he was doing and Tyson told him he was
done. “You’re not done,” said the trainer, “come on, let’s go on the

Roach, a former boxer, made him hit the hand pads bare-fisted
and pushed him so hard that he vomited in the ring. “After he was done
being sick, I said ‘okay, let’s finish the round’.”

More quotes available in the extended section of this post (click ‘Read More‘ below).

So perhaps it was revenge when Tyson punched him once while
working on the hand pads. “I think it was accidental,” says Roach,
adding with a smile, “I’m not sure.”

It was a right hook that he didn’t see coming. “I was knocked
down in my career a couple of times. Tyson hit me and I didn’t go down,
but everything started going dark. And it was getting darker and

But even so, Roach insists Tyson is likeable. “He’s actually fun
to be around, when he’s not crazy. But he has those moments and he’s a
pain in the ass… he’s strange in some ways, fun in some ways.”

Tyson has an appealing sense of humour. Roach once organised for his mother to come to a training session to meet his boxer.

Tyson: “Freddie, you bring your mother to see me?”

Roach: “Yeah, she likes you, Mike.”

Tyson: “Are you crazy? Black people don’t bring their kids to
meet me because I’m nuts. You must really like me because you brought
your mother.”

On the strange side, Tyson wouldn’t let Roach into his hotel room the day before the Etienne fight.

Then, at 4am, Tyson phoned him and asked him to tape his hands.
Tyson instructed him to wrap his hands just like he would for the

“He says: ‘Is this how you’re going to do it tonight?’ and I
said: ‘Exact same, Mike.’ He says: ‘Okay, you can leave now.’ I asked:
‘Do you need anything?’ He says: ‘Nope, you can leave now.’

“The next time I saw Mike was at the arena an hour before the
fight. I don’t know why he didn’t want me in the room that day, I don’t
know why he wanted me to wrap his hands… it wasn’t normal.”

It is Tyson’s unpredictability that has made him transcend the
sport, although Roach believes the media often try to rile him

“He’s one of the greatest guys I’ve ever worked with, his
personality, conversation, boxing knowledge. I’ve never spoken to
anybody who has more boxing knowledge – he’s a historian, you won’t
find anybody better. He’ll tell you about the 1920s, 1930s; that’s how
he gets ready for fights, he watches films of old-timers.”

Roach admits that Tyson will never recapture his form from 15
years ago, but he still possesses enough skill to dominate the division

“He’s still a puncher, he has speed and power,” says Roach.