In a few short weeks former Heavyweight Champ Mike Tyson will step into the ring for only the second time since being stopped by Lennox Lewis back in June of 2002. Since his title fight with Lewis, Tyson (50-4) has fought only once. In that fight he stopped Clifford Etienne in 49 seconds on February 23rd 2003.
On July 30th, Tyson fights British Heavyweight, Danny Williams (31-3) at Freedom Hall in Louisville Kentucky. Freedom Hall is best known as the Venue where Louisville native, Muhammad Ali made his pro-debut 44 years ago, on October 29th, 1960, as Cassius Clay. Ali will be in attendance on July 30th.
Last month Mike Tyson filed for bankruptcy reorganization in New York. The plan has Tyson scheduled to fight at least seven times over the next three years so he can get out of debt. Tyson is currently living in a two bedroom house in Phoenix Arizona. He has two cars and no hangers-on sucking the life out of him. It's almost unfathomable that the biggest star in Boxing since Muhammad Ali, Tyson has made over 300 million dollars in purses, has to fight until he's at least 41 just so he doesn't retire, like Joe Louis over 50 years ago did, in debt.
Since the fight with Danny Williams has been announced, Tyson has granted many interviews to Boxing journalists, something that has been rare for him since about 1987. In those interviews Tyson has come off as if he really does have his head on straight and knows exactly what it will take to straighten his life out and possibly end his career on an up note. Regardless of your feelings towards him, Tyson carried Boxing in the mid-eighties and is still its biggest star. Despite not beating a top Heavyweight since 1991, his name still creates more interest and hype than De La Hoya, Jones, or the Klitschkos.
Over the years I've been one of Tyson's biggest critics. However, I have always tried to judge Tyson strictly as a fighter. It's the fact that I don't rank Tyson as high in the all-time Heavyweight pantheon as some think he should be, that has led some to believe I don't like him. This couldn't be more wrong. As a fighter I definitely recognized Tyson's physical skills and talent. If skill alone determined greatness, Tyson would rank along side the greatest of the greats. However, skill is only a part of what makes a fighter/athlete great.
That being said, he doesn't make my all-time top ten Heavyweight ranking, although I realize a case can be made for him. I'm not from the school of thought that believes his birth right places him among the greatest of the greats as some fanatics do, but was he a great Heavyweight fighter in his prime, absolutely.
In the early eighties I came to know the late Jimmy Jacobs, who was one of the few people Tyson trusted. This came about through me buying fight tapes from Jacobs out of his New York office between 1982-86. I knew of Mike Tyson long before the Boxing public was introduced to him. I've said this before about Tyson, but due to his current situation, I think it merits repeating: when Mike Tyson is in the right frame of mind, you can't meet a more down to earth, nice guy. The real Tyson who is not being tugged at is very easy to root for and someone you want to see do well.
It's pathetic that Tyson, who was the youngest Heavyweight Champion in history, has to continue to fight into his forties to get out of debt and possibly solidify his legacy. Although Mike only has himself to blame. Tyson was a fighter who early in his career many felt by his mid-thirties would be sitting back living like a King with one of Heavyweight histories greatest legacies solidly in place. However, that is not the case today for the 38 year old Tyson.
Today Mike Tyson is in the midst of trying to take back control of his life and finances, along with hopefully resurrecting his once brilliant Boxing career. The really sad part about this is Tyson had to fall so far down the totem pole before he finally put the brakes on. It seems now Tyson knows and realizes what many Boxing observers have thought all along, that it might not be over just yet. For the last three or four years, and maybe even going back as far as his rematch with Evander Holyfield in June of 1997, it seemed Tyson was just going through the motions as far as fighting. Although he always talked a great game regarding his dedication and desire, most thought his words were hollow and that he lacked the urgency and fire it required for him to become a force in the division again.
Call me a fool, but from what I've seen and heard from Tyson over the last month, I believe we'll see the best of what he has left as a fighter. No doubt he knows that the sand is just about through the hour glass. Tyson, being a student of the sweet science, knows that short walk-in swarmers like himself usually don't realize much success after age 32. Believe me, he knows this is his last chance to do it right.
I have no doubt that Tyson looks back at past greats Rocky Marciano and Joe Frazier and realizes that they were out of Boxing long before they were 38. Marciano retired at age 32 after a tough fight with Archie Moore. The Rock saw the signs of how hard it was to continue to stay dedicated, and on top of that his body was starting to breakdown, something Tyson is also experiencing. "Smokin" Joe was never a factor or anything close to the great fighter he once was after age 31. When Frazier fought Muhammad Ali in "The Thrilla In Manila", he was four months shy of his 32nd birthday. Whatever greatness Joe had left prior to Manila, he left in the ring of the Aranetta County Coliseum forever.
Luckily for Tyson, he has retained more of his skills than either Marciano or Frazier could've ever dreamed of in their mid to late thirties. This is mostly because he has not had a career littered with grueling fights and he has had some big gaps and periods of inactivity in between many of his bouts. Another thing that Tyson will benefit from is the fact that because he is such a draw, he can pick the right opponents along the way without being rushed. He won't have to fight a big name until he is sure he's ready because of money. As long as he stays active, the money will be there.
Since I believe that Tyson is as serious as anyone could hope for him to be about Boxing, I have to admit I'm excited about the excitement he can bring to a very pedestrian Heavyweight division. With the current status of the Heavyweight division, I don't care what anyone says or thinks, it's bad. The return of a serious Mike Tyson gives it an infusion that it sorely needs.
If Tyson stays active and fights on a regular basis, and his body doesn't break down, you'd have to be a fool to discount him and his chances of recapturing some of the old glory, if only for a fleeting moment. Tyson came into Boxing being cheered as a good guy. It's very possible he can leave as a good guy. Only Mike Tyson can determine how he leaves boxing. Again, maybe I'm being duped, but I believe Tyson will now be fighting with a sense of urgency, something he's been lacking for quite some time.