We keep waiting for Mike Tyson’s resurrection, for his comeback, for a return to yesterday when he still had that numbing left hook, that cold demeanor and that seething rage that defined him, crippled him and finally, all but destroyed him.
It was a wild, unpredictable rage that fascinated us, yet made us feel uncomfortable, left us turning away and shaking our heads, wondering what the crazy man was going to do or say next.
As he approaches 39, you still look hard at his tattooed face to see if a part of the old Tyson is still in there somewhere waiting to get out, crouched and growling, teeth bared and tail twitching. You look into his eyes, listen to his strange words and you think to yourself, “Maybe the beast is still alive and ready to return to the top of the heavyweight food chain. Maybe he’s just been hiding, waiting for the right time to bring it all back. God knows the division could use his help.”
But then you read that it’s a new Mike Tyson – one who has found inner peace, meaning and significance in his life – and you don’t know whether to cheer or light some candles.
“It’s not about being the best fighter in the world,” Tyson was recently quoted as saying in the New York Times. “It’s about being a better person.”
Huh? What? All right, who said that? Anyone know where Mike is?
Maybe the rage inside him really is gone.
“Iron” Mike (50-5) fights Kevin McBride (32-4-1) on Saturday night in Washington, D.C. It’s not a championship fight or an elimination fight or even a grudge match. It’s just a fight between a “has been” and a “never was.” One guy hasn’t won a significant fight since what seems like the Carter Administration. The other has never beaten anyone you might have heard of.
Still, it’s on Showtime pay-per-view and tickets are going fast.
That’s because Tyson still draws a crowd quicker than free money. His recent fights have become more sideshow than drama, more a curiosity than a prize fight. And that’s what everyone is paying to see. Ten or twenty years from now, you don’t want to tell your buddies you were there in person when Evander Holyfield beat Mike Tyson. You want to tell them you were there in person when Mike Tyson spit out a chunk of Holyfield’s ear. It’s not the fight that people are paying to see; it’s the fighter.
As for the fight’s significance, the winner here doesn’t climb into the top ten in the heavyweight division. Yet Tyson is set to take home $5 million.
Sometimes it pays to be a little crazy.
If Tyson beats McBride, he hopes to have a couple more tune-up fights and then fight for one of the titles within the next two years. And if he somehow does climb back into contention, you know he’s going to get a title fight. What big-time promoter would turn down a Tyson fight? And the division isn't exactly packed with future hall-of-famers.
If he loses to McBride, it should finally prove to everyone what most of us already know. The old Tyson is gone and won‘t be back. He’ll never again be the best fighter in the world.
But that’s OK. Maybe he‘ll become a better person for it.