The question of whether boxing needs Mike Tyson is something that has been asked throughout this famous/infamous fighter’s career for varying reasons. Now, as the sport is slipping into a quagmire of mediocrity and fight-fans numbers seem to be dwindling, Tyson is (again) being called upon to save the sport from itself.
Love him or hate him, Tyson is the biggest name in heavyweight boxing since Muhammad Ali. Few of the heavyweight champions who filled the gap between these two men will be remembered in twenty years time — some have already been forgotten — but the names of Ali and Tyson will be around as long as the sport itself . That doesn’t mean they were the best, it just means they are the most famous.
Their personas transcend the sport itself, and they are among the elite group of universally recognised humans on this planet. Proving the media power of “Iron” Mike yet again is a certain Senator’s insistence to deny the man from making a living in his state. This must purely be a publicity stunt to try and score political points, or are we to understand that everybody in New Jersey conforms to a utopian code of conduct or else they are denied the right to work there. That no one can atone for any wrongdoings and forgiveness is a word only heard in church services?
It’s a heavy price for fame, but it seems it is Tyson’s fate to be used and abused to forward other people’s agendas and pocketbooks. In the end, however, Tyson just needs to pitch up at any boxing ring in the world and people will be there in droves to watch him. The man is an enigma. It matters little that his skills have eroded and that he has been sub-standard since his last beating at the hands of Evander Hollyfield, or should I say ears? What will it mean if and when Tyson knocks out Danny Williams on 31 July? Given Williams stature and record, on the face of it not much, but what it will do is create hope.
Maybe Tyson can come back and mop up the heavyweight division. Maybe we can recapture the excitement of when he was the youngest man to win a heavyweight world title. Get those days back when he had an aura of invincibility. If Tyson can turn around and come back a winner, then surely so can every other man/women and child you has ever faced adversity. Maybe others who have found forgiveness for past errors can rebuild their lives (except in New Jersey).
Tyson is a symbol, and like it or not he is a role model. Not for what he does outside of the ring, but what he does in it. Boxing has always been a sport in which people can project their own struggles onto the fighters they support. No other sport symbolizes the lone struggle of an individual in life as purely as does boxing. Even those who do not follow the sport relate to the battle in the squared circle and identify with a person having to face up to the challenge before him in order to come out victorious. It’s universal and Mike Tyson is the symbolic champion in many people’s lives.
Everybody wants to be invincible. Everybody wants to go forward. So does boxing need Mike Tyson?