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.
And that’s what it’s always been about since he first burst on the scene. He’s the show. He has to be the show or he doesn’t know what the hell to do with himself.
And then he’s on Good Morning America with Matt Lauer, again talking about his struggles – how his life sucks and he’ll die if he doesn’t stick to his program. There is this sense he’s desperate for sympathy. And then his voice cracks and he starts to get teary eyed yet again. It’s the same thing over and over and over.
There is just something embarrassing about all of this now.
Is this what we are going to see from Mike from here on out? Confessing so much it’s cringe inducing? Hugging people like he wants to morph into their bodies, like he did recently with Evander Holyfield?
And yet, there will always be something endearing about Mike Tyson. His backstory is rampant with almost Dickensian sadness. The fact that he achieved anything at all is an astonishing confluence of people, events and raw talent. He is to be commended and criticized for his career – arguably one of the most exciting, yet disappointing boxing stories we’ve seen in years.
But this endless parade of sob stories has worn thin.
Life ain’t easy for you Mike? Join the club.
And by the way, it’s alcoholics anonymous. It’s not for everyone, believe me I know, but you’ve apparently embraced it. If you want to do yourself some good, stop talking endlessly about your addictions on mindless television shows, go to a meeting and get on with your career. So many fighters look up to you. You could do a world of good for the sport of boxing as a promoter. This is your chance to make a difference for a lot of up and coming kids unaware of all the pitfalls in this most unforgiving of sports. All the shit you endured.
Otherwise, just get yourself clean and happy and stay home. So many fans still care. But someday, they won’t.
Matthew Hurley is a full time member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His first book on, Ringside boxing Reflections, can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com