By Matthew Hurley: Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson has been on a very open, sometimes uncomfortable, transformation from a fearsome heavyweight into a broken man fully prepared to admit his past transgressions and the endless days of wanting to smoke a blunt, snort a line of cocaine or slam back that fourth, or fifth drink. His initial repentance, which was played out endlessly on talk shows like Oprah, The View and the Opie and Anthony Show was somehow comforting to boxing fans who really cared about this damaged individual.
But enough is enough.
We get it Mike.
Making $350 million obviously meant nothing to you, despite your protestations. You always thought the money would be endless, regardless of Don King’s machinations. You talk about money endlessly but most people, those who you say you are just like, who are crippled by alcoholism and / or drug addiction, never made nearly that, perhaps in half-pennies, and don’t have the forums to sell their story and make money on it. They struggle, anonymously.
Mike Tyson has been given more breaks than any person should be afforded. He not only disrespected the people who brought him to prominence, but allowed their characters to be questioned because of his own paranoia. He disrespected the sport, admittedly, in the infamous ’Bite Fight’ against Evander Holyfield and a comeback bout against Frans Botha when he tried to break the White Buffalo’s arm in a clinch.
After his release from prison on rape charges that he has always denied (and for the record I have always believed him), Tyson embraced thuggery because he thought it was what was expected of him. He became a hip hop poster boy. And by allowing himself to become what he once was as a troubled youth he became more popular than ever. No wonder he liked being the bad guy – the script had already been written for him. He just had to show up, look mean and cash checks for fighting the likes of Peter McNeely or Bruce Seldon.
It was only when an opponent like Holyfield just stared him down and sneered that he wavered. He was always a bully, albeit a good one, but bullies can be broken and Buster Douglas and Holyfield broke him into a million pieces. Had he been made of stronger stuff mentally and emotionally he may never have lost a fight. He could have been that good.
But he was always a mess.
Was he taken advantage of? Not initially. He allowed himself to be taken advantage of later in his career, and I’m not talking about Robin Givens. Any man can be forgiven for falling in love with the wrong girl and vice versa. It happens.
It was when he was released from prison, amid all those unsubstantiated stories of his reformation through literature, contemplation and embracing Islam that things really went wrong. Instead of going back to where he really belonged, he saw quick money in Don King’s bejeweled fists and sealed his fate when he signed on the dotted line. Everyone knew it was a mistake, perhaps even Mike, but he was the bad boy now. It was all about strobe lights, glitter balls, coke in the bathroom and readily available women.
And make no mistake, no matter what Mike says now, he loved that lifestyle. It fitted him more comfortably than the role of family man or sports icon. You can never completely shed where you came from and what you’ve gone through in the past. It hangs on your shoulders like a heavy cloak or follows you like an accusing shadow.
When Mike talks now he breaths heavily and is constantly on the verge of tears. Initially it was endearing, a lost soul looking for redemption. Now there seems something disingenuous about it all, or at least annoying. He’s everywhere, and when he slips up in his sobriety we are supposed to care . . . yet again. He takes over his first promotional post-fight press conference by admitting that he got shit-faced six days earlier. Nothing about the fighters he was supposed to be representing. It was, again, all about him.