Tue Oct 24, 2006 12:17 pm
A Fall From Grace: The Career of Mike Tyson Through the Eyes of Former Team Tyson Member Steve Lott Part ll
Interview by Geno McGahee-October 23, 2006
Photos courtesy of Steve Lott
?No hospital has ever reported Robin (Givens) being pregnant, and it is obvious that there is something that is miscue there to get Mike to marry her.?--Steve Lott
Mike Tyson became the biggest name in boxing and became the Undisputed, Undefeated Heavyweight Champion of the World in the process. He was considered an unstoppable force, but a loss to James ?Buster? Douglas, and a new crew of people surrounding him seemed to negatively affect his career, and the alliance with Don King has always been called into question and was never considered to be in Mike?s best interest and many contend that Don King may have been the worst thing for the Tyson career.
Although Don King seems to be universally recognized as the reason that Mike Tyson fell from grace, but Steve Lott points to Robin Givens as the first brick in the road to Iron Mike?s turmoil in his professional and personal life. The Mike Tyson that was loved and adored by the fans was now the convicted rapist, ear-biting, foul-mouthed, thug.
Steve Lott explains the transition from fan favorite to villain, including his rape trial and conviction, the mental breakdown in the Evander Holyfield rematch, and if there is hope for Mike Tyson to redeem himself and become the hero that he once was in the public?s eye, in this second part of this RSR exclusive interview.
GM: Prior to being with Mike Tyson, Robin Givens was reportedly with Michael Jordan and Eddie Murphy. Was there ever a point when some other celebrity came to Mike and said that Robin was going to dupe him and go after his money?
No. In early January, before they got married, I got a phone call from Mike and he said: ?What do you think if I marry Robin.? I was thinking that Mike had always wanted to get married. She?s a superstar. She?s lovely. She?s intelligent. Mike will be better off. I said it was wonderful, but Mike didn?t tell me what Robin had told him. I found that out in the next two days when they finally came to New York. Robin and Ruth went to Bill and Jim and said: ?Robin is pregnant. We demand that Mike marry Robin.? To this day, no doctor has ever reported Robin being pregnant. No clinic has ever reported Robin being pregnant. No hospital has ever reported Robin being pregnant, and it is obvious that there is something that is miscue there to get Mike to marry her. I would like to see a report. I?ve never seen one. No one has either.
So that?s one indicator. You know, prior to the Michael Spinks fight, Robin had me fired. About three weeks before the fight, she wanted me out because I was saying bad things about her, which was true, and she had me fired. Mike fired me, and Bill Cayton convinced Robin and Ruth to bring me back before the fight because it would make Mike happy and when he is happy, under the conditions of the fight, it would make him a better fighter. This fight was very important to win. Money overruled their thinking of getting me out, so I was back in.
The week of the fight, Mike Tyson had this friend named ?Rory Halloway? and he wanted to open a Mike Tyson merchandise business with tee shirts, hats, and caps. The day before the Spinks fight, Mike called Cayton, and said: ?Bill, could you do me a favor?? Bill said: ?Sure, Mike, anything.? He asked if there was any way that Bill could help Rory get into the merchandising business, and Bill said ?absolutely.? Cayton was the master of retail and asked Tyson how he could help. Mike and Rory go over to see Bill at his hotel, and Bill sits Rory down for, not long, maybe a half hour, planning some of the details that they have to go through. Cayton told him that he would help him with the retail and with the production. He said: ?For Mike and you, anything that you need.?
Mike and Rory get up and Mike says: ?Bill, I can?t thank you enough,? and they leave. The next night at ringside, Bill gets this subpoena that says that he is fired as the manager. Do you think that Tyson knew that Robin was going to do that? If he had the balls to bring Rory up to his room, do you think that he knew about the dismissal? It doesn?t make sense. Mike is a tough guy, but he can?t go up to Bill, look him in the face, and thank him profusely, knowing that he is going to fire him the next day. It doesn?t make sense. This is stuff that Robin did behind the scenes. It was all the stuff, carefully and calculatingly done to try to get the money. It failed for a very funny reason. After going through Bill?s books for weeks after the Spinks fight, they realized that Bill, in his accounting for the last six years, actually overpaid Mike. So, they couldn?t get him on that.
During the Spinks episode, Don King of course, had his own attention with Mike. He went to Mike and gave him a contract?an exclusive promotional contract, knowing that, perhaps, Robin could break Mike away from Bill, he, Don King, would have control of Mike Tyson. Mike, being a loving husband, didn?t want to have anything to do signing a contract without Robin?s permission, brought the contract to her. Robin takes the contract to her lawyer to review it. Robin?s lawyer reports back to her: ?Robin, this is the most one-sided contract that we have ever seen. If Mike signs this thing with Don, he will end up with nothing.? Now, what bothers Robin about that is that if Mike ends up with nothing, that means that she ends up with nothing. She told Mike that he is not to speak with Don King. For the summer of 1988, Don couldn?t get a phone call through to Mike, until the Barbara Walters Special, and the break up. Boom, it gave Don the shot to jump back in.
GM: There was also some talk of Robin attending and graduating from Harvard Medical School, and some say that that is nonsense. What do you think about that?
That, I don?t know. No matter where she went prior, if she had done things for Mike that were in his best interest, I don?t care if went to the school of mechanics in Chicago, she?d be a plus. It doesn?t matter where she went. She was the reason that Mike fell prey to Don King. All her credits out the window, and that?s what happened: her credits went out the window. She caused that wedge between Mike and us. It gave Don the open door to get Mike on his side.
GM: After the James ?Buster? Douglas defeat, there was a lot of talk of a Mike Tyson and George Foreman bout, which would have probably been the biggest bout in history. The people that I have spoken with have stated that Mike Tyson didn?t want that fight because he was fearful of Big George and that stylistically, it was a bad match for him because of the Foreman uppercuts. What are your thoughts on that?
Of course, I wasn?t around. I would have no idea what Mike thought at that time. I can only assume, based on my time with Mike, what I think he would have said about a match up with George. That is that Mike would have trouble with anyone that is very, very, very, very fast. Larry Holmes, Mitch Green?that type of fighter. When he?s fighting somebody slow, that stands in front of him, his eyes would light up. George never ever moves his head, ever. Cus would say that it was a lantern in a storm. I don?t think that Mike would be very intimidated or scared or worried about fighting Foreman at all.
GM: Before Mike Tyson was convicted of rape, Don King seemed to really hurt the case by bringing Luis Farrakhan and putting across that Desiree Washington, victim or not, it was her fault because she should have known that Mike Tyson has no control of himself. Then when we go to the case, he brings in Vince Fuller, and Fuller does a horrible job, putting Mike Tyson on the stand, and basically getting it across that he?s an animal and what do you expect from him? What do you think of Don King employing Fuller as Mike?s lawyer, and bringing Farrakhan in as a spokesman?
It is typical of the way that Don King does things with the strong arm approach. He figured that if he brought in a guy like Farrakhan with all that boisterous stuff, he?d scare the people and put everyone on the defensive and have the case dismissed or whatever. That is the way that Don operates. He comes on strong. He is not smart enough to know that this is homeboy territory. This is all white America. This is not downtown, Washington, D.C. It was a huge blunder.
The biggest blunder was Fuller, as you mentioned. Here?s a lawyer that is out of his domain, coming in to defend Mike. Now, how?d that happen? Probably because Fuller and Don had some sort of financial agreement between them that said Fuller would get X amount of dollars, and then there would be a huge kickback to Don King in some way by having the case done?Mike freed. Don probably said: ?Are you sure that you can get this kid off?? Fuller would say: ?No problem. There is no evidence.?
Don would never hire a lawyer that he could not control. That?s not Don?s style. He has to have a lawyer that he can control. So, the two big errors were, and you are right, were Farrakhan and Fuller. The exact opposite of that, just so you will know what real thought process is. When Mike Tyson got into that street fight with Mitch Green. The next day, there is an APB on Mike and Mitch Green files a lawsuit, and Mike has to come into the station house to be arraigned.
Mike?s in the office and gets Robin on the phone, and asks her what?s going on. She says: ?I?m here with Donald Trump and his lawyers and they say that you have to go to the station house or there will be a lot of trouble.? Donald Trump?s lawyers probably wanted their picture in the papers too. Bill Cayton looks at Mike and says that he is going to handle it. He calls Mitch Green?s mother. ?Mrs. Green, this is Bill Cayton. I?m here with Mike Tyson. There was a horrible problem last night. I would like you to consider something if you would. Right now is not a good time for Mike or Mitch, but let me ask you something. If you would consider speaking to Mitch and having him drop the charges, I will put him on the under cards of Mike?s fights, giving him a lot of exposure. If he wins 2 or 3, he will fight Mike for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Would you consider that?just to have everything done? Mike doesn?t want these problems and you probably don?t want these problems.? Boom. Done. History, the case is over. Now, that is what you do.
Whenever a decision is made, you have to think what is best for the fighter?not for me, not for you, not for King, not for Robin or Ruth, or Shelly Finkel. It has to be what is best for the fighter. That is what Bill, Cus, and Jim always thought of. That is not what Don thinks. That?s not what Shelly Finkel thinks. Whomever is with Mike now, that?s not what they think. They think about their own pocketbook first. The result is obvious. The case with Green was history. In Indiana, it was the blunder of the century.
GM: When Tyson was released from Prison, he went and won some bouts against guys like Bruce Seldon and Frank Bruno, but went on to lose against Evander Holyfield. Now, the rematch would go down in history as the most infamous boxing moment of all time with the ear biting incident. Now, does it bother you that the press seems to focus on Tyson?s fouling, and never really address Evander Holyfield?s constant use of his head as a battering ram?
Holyfield, in my opinion, had nothing to do with what Mike did in that fight. Holyfield could have hit Mike with 6 baseball bats, 3 slingshots, and two bows and arrows, and it had nothing to do with Mike biting him at all?zero. That is the thing that the boxing press never delved into, nor would they think of it. If they did, it would be a reason to show a side of Mike that they really don?t want to show?a sensitive side. They want to show Mike as being a thug, a killer, a beast?whatever, and that fight showed it. He bit Evander. He?s a killer?a beast?Evander is butting him, so he is going to avenge himself by doing this. That butting had nothing to do with the biting.
When Mike used to walk into the ring with Kevin Rooney, he had the love and adoration of the crowd. You could kick Mike in the nuts and he?s not going to do anything improper because he?s happy. Now let?s take a look at the era with Don King, specifically, the second Evander Holyfield fight. Mike trains for the fight and all these articles are saying that he?s a bum and a loser and how he got knocked out in the last fight. Every interviewer was like: ?Mike, Evander beat you the first time?Mike the rape conviction?Mike this?? Everything that he is hearing is driving him crazy. He walks down the street in Las Vegas and hears: ?Mike you bum! You piece of crap! Go back to prison you rapist!? Now he?s got the rape conviction hanging over his head, all the Holyfield pressure, and all of the stupid things that he?s saying, and he?s got all of these jerk offs around him, and he knows that Don King is giving him one tenth of what he deserves. He?s realizing that he?s a rapist. The press conference takes place and that rape conviction comes up again. And now, Mike is going crazy even more. He hears it again at the weigh in. He is now getting *Censor* off with all of this stuff.
He is so upset now. He?s like: ?I should be happy now. The weigh in was the best part of the fight sequence because I knew that the fight was going to come soon.? He is dying inside. The arena, the night of the fight, he walks down to the ring, and hears: ?Mike, you piece of *Censor*! You jerk off!? He thinks: ?Why are people yelling at me?? He gets into the ring and looks at Evander, remembering that he was beat the last time and everything is negative in Mike?s mind in happening under the pressure of the moment.
When the fight took place, he quickly realizes that he?s not going to win. He cannot win, and that his life is in ruins. What happened at that moment in the 3rd round is exactly what could happen, on a much lower scale, to anyone. Geno, you have a report due, and you?re under pressure and it has to be out right away. You?re writing it, and the phone rings, and you tell them that you cannot talk right now. You?re writing and Joe comes to the office, and says: ?Geno can I get that article?? You lash out and yell: ?Don?t you see I?m busy?!? You blew up because of the moment. It had nothing to do with Joe. It had nothing to do with the guy calling you on the phone. It has to due with the fact that you are under pressure to get this article out. Multiply that seventeen trillion times. That is what Mike felt in that arena. It had nothing to do with Evander. It had to do with the weight of the world on Mike?s shoulders, brought upon him by himself, allowing Don to manipulate him. Round one, round two, he?s dying more. Round three, he blew. He just couldn?t handle the pressure.
GM: Jim Jacobs and Bill Cayton were considered two of the most honest men in boxing. You have Don King, considered to be totally opposite of that. Now, around the same time of the ear biting incident, we had Oliver McCall breaking down in the ring against Lennox Lewis, and also, Henry Akinwande holding on for dear life and disgracing himself against the same, Lennox Lewis. There were a lot of Don King fighters that were not coming off as professional. What is it about Don King that does this to fighters?
Some can handle it emotionally, and some can?t. The ones that can?t, like McCall and especially Tyson in that episode, had to do with the weight of his mistakes on his shoulders, breaking him down emotionally. There is a lot of pressure on these guys and some cannot handle it.
GM: What do you think of Mike Tyson?s exhibition tour?
Good question. Now, I don?t have a perfect memory, but when he was with Bill and Jim, and I?m trying to think of the many decisions that they had made for Mike. There were hundreds of decisions: fights, promotions, sparring, press conferences, endorsements?I?m trying to think of one decision that they made for Mike that resulted in something negative. I?m hard pressed. I can?t even remember one.
On the other side of the coin, everything that King has done, Finkel has done, and now McPherson, I?m hard pressed to come up with one decision that was right for Mike. Everything around Mike has resulted in something negative. The press and the papers response to his exhibition tour is horrible. They?re shocked. I have a Miami tape here that somebody sent to me that says that this is a disgrace that somebody is doing this to make money. Once this was announced that this was going to be done, I wrote a retort to some of the websites, stating that Mike should be doing exhibitions, but not for money, but for free, at every Army base in the world, especially the Middle East.
Not only should he do it for free, but he should permit some of the troops to box him. Each guy gets 30 seconds in the ring with him. Now, a Mom or Dad in the United States, who are scared to death for their son living on the edge of life and death every day, get a call from them jubilant beyond belief: ?Mom, I just boxed Mike Tyson!? Day after day. Week after week, Army bases around the world, then police stations, and then fire departments. In about six to eight months, when all of these stories hit the newspapers and photographs get circulated around the world, all of a sudden people begin to say: ?Wow, OK Mike we will give you a shot to come back.? At least it wouldn?t be what he is getting now. He is getting killed in the press.
You have to remember that everything that went on with Mike under Jim and Bill had to do with the thinking process of Jim and Bill. Mike had to show up at the fight and fight, but everything around him was Jim and Bill. Everything around Mike now is coming from the people around Mike. In the thinking process, you have to wonder if these people are for real. The decisions they make are not in Mike?s best interest. It is in the interest of their own pocket. That results in something that is horrible for Mike. No matter how they pitch it. No matter how they sell it, it is horrible for Mike. No one member of the press in any newspaper or magazine, television, or radio has said: ?Oh this is a wonderful idea for Mike and the boxing world.? Not a shot. I feel sad for Mike.
GM: Do you see any kind of happy ending for him? Do you think that he will eventually redeem himself in the press?
I would love to think that the answer is yes. One day, he will be able to gather himself enough to call Jose Torres and say: ?Jose, what do I do?? Or his friend in New York, Brian Hammill, to find out what to do. Or his good friend, Bill Gallo of the Daily News. I don?t think that he can do that. The reason why is so unbelievably embarrassing to be where he?s at and to ask for help. Remember now, he had 12 years of Don King saying: ?Don?t go crawling back to the white guys on your hands and knees like a dog. Don?t go crawling back Mike! You?re the man?you?re the boss. Don?t go crawling back.?
To this day, he never calls Kevin or me. He?s never called Loraine Jacobs. Not once. Now, that tells me, he cannot even bare the thought of hearing her voice on the other end of the phone. It would be too painful for him. Even though she would not admonish him in any shape or form, and would love and adore him for ever, but he knows, that she knows that he has been the disappointment of the century. He can?t bare that. That is why he never calls me. It is much easier for him to just ignore it, and hang with the bums that feed him whatever it is that he wants to be fed, and that?s how he?s going to go on. So, a good ending? Not with the creatures that he?s with now. He?s gone from Don to Shelly to McPherson. This is a guy, McPherson, that in 1986-87, Mike wouldn?t let him shine his shoes, let alone be responsible for any promotional tour.
The other guys around him like Tom Patti?he?s another guy. Bill Cayton, Jim Jacobs, Jose Torres, Brian Hammill are substantial people, and that?s one thing, but the people around him now?not only the people around him, but if he was never the superstar that he was, they would say: ?Hey, who cares?? To go from being handled the way that he was to the way that he is handled now is a big mistake for him.
I always like to talk about the mistakes that I made. Whenever somebody gives an interview, they say that: ?I did this right and I did this right,? and I did a lot of stuff wrong, and I always want to say what I did that was wrong so that the press understands that I?m not perfect. In 1983-84, we had Edwin Rosario, and I was talking to Jim about something and I said something really stupid about Rosario should be handled. Jim looked at me and said: ?Sit down Steve. Rosario is like having a Ming Vase. If you have a Ming Vase, you want to show it to somebody. You very carefully pick it up and bring it over, and then put it down lightly and say, how do you like it? You don?t pick it up and throw it at the person and say, here, catch! Do you understand Steve?? And I understood.
Rosario was a Ming Vase. Now if that is how they thought about Rosario, imagine how they felt about Tyson. You don?t show that to the fighter. You don?t make him feel that he is a Ming Vase. Jim and Bill handled Mike like a Ming Vase. King, Finkel, McPherson, are the guys that scream: ?Here, catch!? That is why Mike is in the hole he?s in. It?s the thinking process around Mike. It?s from the sewer?from the streets.
Joined: Nov 20, 2005
6-9 ; 2 KOs