By Thomas Hauser
Boxing fans, take note. A major anniversary is approaching. On March 1, 2001, Mike Tyson invited twenty members of the national media to his palatial Las Vegas home. During their hour-long get-together, Iron Mike was reported as being comfortable and friendly. At one point, he slipped a bit, acknowledging, "I can't believe I have all you bastards in my house." Nonetheless, the public was besieged with reports of a "new" Mike Tyson:
Tom Spousta of the New York Times: Meet the new Mike Tyson; a more humble and mature version.
Bernard Fernandez of the Philadelphia Daily News: Tyson was remarkably relaxed and charming.
Dan Rafael of USA Today: He was a model host . . . smiling, laughing, and looking happy.
W. H. Stickney of the Houston Chronicle: The Mike Tyson that sits and chats amicably with members of the media these days is calm, serene, even friendly. Just a plain average, likeable guy. It's a change long in coming, but welcomed by all.
George Kimball of the Boston Globe: We were greeted by a warm, fuzzy Tyson.
Tim Smith of the New York Daily News: It was a kinder, gentler Mike Tyson.
Michael Katz of Houseofboxing.com: Tyson was on his most charming behavior; as mellow as a fine Chateauneuf de Pape white.
The new Mike Tyson was only accused of rape twice in 2001; once in Big Bear and once in Las Vegas. It's believed that the latter accusation will result in an indictment for sexual assault within the next sixty days. There was also the matter of an alleged scuffle with boxer Mitchell Rose in a New York nightclub. And on New Year's Day, Tyson was involved in a confrontation with journalists in the lobby of a Havana hotel. According to Reuters, Iron Mike shouted at the journalists; threw three crystal balls, each one the size of a grapefruit; and "lightly hit a camera operator twice on the back of the head with his fist." I'm not sure what it's like to be "lightly hit" in the head by Mike Tyson. I am sure that I don't want to find out through firsthand experience. Staff members at the hotel said that Tyson appeared "irritated."
Then, on January 22nd, Mr. Impulse Control let it all hang out in a televised crime spree when he assaulted Lennox Lewis and spewed obscenities at the kick-off press conference for what could have been the largest-grossing fight in the history of boxing. Thereafter, the Nevada State Athletic Commission denied Tyson's request for a license to box, marking the end of the "new" Mike Tyson.
What's next for Iron Mike? That's hard to say. Lewis versus Tyson is still a possibility. Or maybe we'll see The Mike Tyson Channel. Mike Tyson, all the time; the ultimate in reality television. Just follow him around with a TV camera crew twenty-four hours a day.
Meanwhile, now that the "new" Mike Tyson is down the drain, it's worth speculating as to what boxing fans might expect from other reincarnations in the future.
Muhammad Ali: "For twenty-two years, I was Cassius Clay. For thirty-eight years, I was Muhammad Ali. Now I'm shaking up the world again. I just changed my name to Irving Goldberg."
Lou Duva: "I ate a salad the other day. It was really good. Carrots, bean sprouts, yum-yum-yum. No more heavy Italian food for me."
Michael Buffer: "I always wanted to shave my head. Doesn't it look great!"
Max Kellerman: "That's an area where I'm uninformed, so I'm not going to comment on it."
Norm Stone: "I just realized that all John Ruiz has is a bogus WBA title. Lennox Lewis is the real heavyweight champion."
Oscar De La Hoya: "It's all my fault."
Bernard Hopkins: "I'm through talking."
Laila Ali and Jacqui Frazier: "No more boxing for us. We felt guilty about ripping off the public."
George Kimball: "I quit smoking last month. You know, cigarettes can kill you."
Roy Jones: "From now on, I'm getting places on time. Until recently, I never thought about how much I was inconveniencing people."
Harold Lederman: "No more Mr. Nice Guy. In the future, when people disagree with me, I'm punching them in the nose."
Stan Hoffman: "Hasim Rahman, Steve Nelson, and I feel guilty about the way we treated Cedric Kushner, so we're giving him twenty-five percent of the total purses from Rock's next five fights."
Ross Greenburg: "Don King wants to make Roy Jones versus Bernard Hopkins on Showtime? No problem."
Bob Arum: "Yesterday I was telling the truth. Today I'm lying."
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