If there is a more incredible life turnaround story in the celebrity realm than Mike Tyson, I'm all ears.
The former Baddest Man on the Planet himself suspected that he was destined to burn out, not fade away into a serene final chapter, of pleasant sunsets and gentle contemplation of a life thoughtfully and happily lived. No, in the 90s and 2000s, Tyson, now age 47, was destined for the Liston track, with only the method of the early demise being the wildcard.
But today, the former boxer and bad actor has put together a multi-year run of drama and arrest free living. His one man play has drawn crowds and solid reviews coast to coast, and the Tyson brand is expanding every day. He is now a promoter, having latched on with Acquinity Sports, led by Garry Jonas. Their entity is now called Iron Mike Productions, and Iron Mike has put together a card which runs Friday, August 23, at Turning Stone Casino in upstate Verona, NY. ESPN's Friday Night Fights will show portions, including a main event pitting IBF junior feather champ Argenis Mendez (21-1) defending his crown against Canada-based challenger Arash Usmanee (20-1).
Tyson took part in a Monday conference call to hype the event, and shed some light on his involvement in this new endeavor. The Friday card is the sixth bigtime card running at Turning Stone, which is run by the Oneida Indian Nation.
Tyson kicked off the call by talking about his involvement in the event. He said he got involved with Jonas despite a wariness about getting involved in boxing. His wife and he decided to give it a go, and he is "just happy to be involved in boxing." He'd like to get into the training side, as well, he noted.
I asked him about his life turnaround. "I was planning on killing myself," he recalled of a 2008, 2009 time span. He said his present wife, who was then just a friend, went to see him, and talked about future plans. He said he was just yes-sing her and was a full blown addict, unable to see the potential for fruitful business plans. "Look at the state I'm in," he said to himself then. But the relationship with Kiki turned romantic; she got pregnant, and their relationship deepened. He was, he said, "a full blown addict," and was amazed when he'd wake up alive after doing drugs--he mentioned cocaine-- all night. His daughter dying in May 2009, in a tragic accident at home forced him to reconsider, however, and work harder to get on the bright said, he said. "I'm still struggling, living life is very difficult," he allowed.
Tyson said on the call that he will learn from the promoters he worked with, and that we will never hear about how he took money from his fighters. But, he said, he can't change people, he can only tell them how his chapters unfolded. He sounded humbled when he said he forgave all the people that stole from him and lied to him, but his Irish did rise when he talked about promoter Don King, who he said wasn't on the up and up with him. "I'm not mad with anybody," he said, and stated that he would work with King in promoting, though he was irked that King hasn't reached out to help, after all the money he made him. He did say he regretted putting his hands on promoters, and I assume that includes King, in anger when he confronted them about money discrepancies. "I did it out of ignorance," he admitted, terming himself "immature" and "spoiled" at that time.
The fighter sounded jubilant as he greeted various writers when they asked queries and actually sounded more excited about training fighters than promoting. He said he'd like to take youngsters, fresh off the street, because they don't have bad habits ingrained. And would he train like his first mentor, Cus D'Amato? No, he said, because today's athletes couldn't handle that level of discipline. About "4 percent" of fighters could handle it, he said.
All in all, I ended the call wanting to hear more, from one of the most compelling athletes of our time, a man who has lived an examined life, and continues to show anyone whose mind is open enough to comprehend, that life turnarounds are possible, and you can bring yourself out of a rut, and get clean, and start living a constructive life. The Liston path, featuring an exit at age 38, isn't inevitable.
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