But only for one night
By Charles Hallman
Once known as “The Baddest Man on the Planet,” former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson was in town last week. The 5’-10” Brooklyn-born Tyson turned pro at age 18 in 1984, and two years later he became the youngest boxer to hold world heavyweight championship belts, fiercely defending them nine times before getting knocked out by Buster Douglas in 1990.
After that, however, his life went into a freefall, including three years spent in jail for a rape conviction. Following his release from prison, Tyson got back in the ring and fought several times. He still was a top draw.
He won both the WBC and WBA titles in 1996, but lost the latter title later that year to Evander Holyfield and was stripped of the former title. He fought for the title again in 2002 but lost to Lennox Lewis and retired in 2006 after suffering defeats in consecutive bouts.
Named the 14th greatest puncher of all time by The Ring magazine in 1998, and the number-one “hardest hitter in heavyweight history” by ESPN.com, Tyson’s reputation often precedes him wherever he goes. HBO in November premiered Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth, a one-man autobiographical show filmed live by Spike Lee, who co-produced the special along with Tyson and his wife Kiki Tyson, who wrote the script.
The former boxer openly reflects on his life both on stage and on film. Tyson told a Las Vegas newspaper that seeing Chazz Palminteri do a similar one-man show in 2009 was his main inspiration to do something similar.
Now the 47-year-old is a boxing promoter. His Iron Mike Productions brought several boxers to town last week for the January 3 card at Target Center, which Tyson co-promoted with Warriors Boxing. “Minneapolis is a great city, and it’s about to become the center of the boxing universe, if only for a night,” said Tyson in a press release.
Former IBF Junior Lightweight Champion Argenis Mendez is among his stable of fighters. Mendez lost his belt last Friday to Rances Barthelemy in a controversial second-round knockout; the winner hit his opponent after the bell to end round two but wasn’t disqualified.
Warriors COO Luis DeCubas, during a January 2 pre-fight press conference in downtown Minneapolis, said he has known Tyson since 1986. He called the former champ “fresh air — the best thing to happen to boxing. It is great to have Mike involved in promoting boxing. He wants great fights.
“Mike knows more about boxing than anybody in the world,” boasted DeCubas. “He can go on and on talking about old-time fights.”
During the press conference, Tyson joked about the frigid Twin Cities weather. “This is a very cold place,” he said matter of factly. “I don’t remember ever wearing gloves — it’s been 20 years. Hopefully the fights will warm us up.”
Afterwards, Tyson spoke one-on-one with the MSR.
“I saw it once,” admitted Tyson of the HBO special. “I watched it for a few minutes, then I went into the kitchen. My friends [who were watching it] stayed in the television room [of his home], and I heard them laughing a lot. I don’t think I’m funny to that extent that people are laughing magnanimously.”
Of his one-man show, Tyson said, “When I first did the show, I meant it to be more suspense, more drama, more like gritty, in your face. This is my life and it’s hard, but it didn’t come out that way… People thought it was funny. It’s very interesting that people think I’m funny. I am not a funny guy.
“I think I am a very serious person,” stated Tyson. “I don’t know where it comes from that people think I’m funny. Comedy comes from pain, and if that’s the case, then I got a lot of comedy.”
“I think being a promoter is just having the best interest of the fighters,” explained Tyson, who bemoaned judges’ questionable decisions over the years that he believes have given “boxing such a bad eye. That’s why we are losing out to MMA [Mixed Martial Arts].”
As a result, he said, part of his role now as promoter is to help restore the sport’s lost luster. “Boxing should be competitive, with guys evenly matched.
“Competitiveness…makes good fights,” said Tyson. “The people want to see exciting fights. I want to promote good fights. I want people to say, ‘Hey, I want to see Iron Mike Promotions [fighters] fight again. It’s not about me anymore.”