Mike Tyson excited about promoting
Since former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson retired from boxing after a knockout loss to Kevin McBride in 2005, he had not been involved in boxing in any meaningful way.
Sure, he talks about his career in his hit one-man stage show, appeared for his induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2011 and is a regular at ringside for big fights.
But Tyson did not have an official role in the sport -- until now. Tyson is entering the promotional end of the sport and is excited to be there.
Rafael's Boxing Blog
Get the latest scoop and analysis on the world of boxing from ESPN.com's Dan Rafael in his blog.
"I thought about it, I talked to my wife [Kiki] about it and we thought we wanted to do it," Tyson said in an interview with ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" about his upstart Iron Mike Productions. "I feel so awesome to be involved with the game again. That just feels so awesome."
The first card under the Iron Mike Productions banner will take place Aug. 23 at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, N.Y. The card, the season finale of "Friday Night Fights," will feature junior lightweight world titleholder Argenis Mendez (21-2, 11 KOs) in his first title defense against Arash Usmanee (20-1, 10 KOs) in the main event with Claudio Marrero (14-0, 11 KOs) taking on Jesus Andres Cuellar (22-1, 18 KOs) for a vacant interim featherweight title in the co-feature.
Tyson's involvement in the promotional aspect of the sport he once ruled comes as a partner in the former Acquinity Sports, a Deerfield Beach, Fla.-based promotional company that has been around for about two years and has a growing stable of talent, including Mendez and Marrero.
Tyson worked on a deal with Acquinity Sports chief executive Garry Jonas for the past five months before making it official a few weeks ago and changing the name of the company to Iron Mike Productions.
"They gave me a call and believed we could help each other," Tyson said of Jonas and Henry Rivalta, who heads boxing operations for the company. "We struck up a deal where we would form Iron Mike Productions. We have a few fighters, we have a world champion and a few up-and-coming contenders, and we're still recruiting fighters. I just thought that would be something remarkable because I always wanted to be in boxing but I was unable to because of all the stuff that I've done that wasn't too cool, back in the past."
Tyson, the youngest world heavyweight champion in history when he knocked out the late Trevor Berbick in the second round in 1986 at age 20, had many controversial moments in the ring. The most famous, of course, was when he bit off a chunk of Evander Holyfield's ear in a 1997 championship fight and was disqualified.
But Tyson, through all the ups and downs, remains one of the most famous fighters ever, as well as a mainstream personality, reborn after his well-received appearances in the first two "Hangover" films. Tyson hopes to use his fame, along with his vast boxing experience and knowledge, when it comes to promoting. He said he plans to be more than just a figurehead for Iron Mike Productions.
"I'm going to try to be as hands on as possible to make sure that everything is on the up and up with the fighters -- properly prepared, passing all of their physicals," Tyson said. "I just want to make sure that everything is on the up and up with the fighters. I don't want them to wind up like I did when I finished fighting -- broken, useless."
Tyson, who finished his career in deep financial stress after earning hundreds of millions of dollars in the ring as a pay-per-view superstar, said he wants to recruit heavyweights and find the next American champion, as well as look to other weight classes for fighters, American and foreign.
"This is just something that is very exciting for me, and this is all I ever wanted to do in life," Tyson said. "I'm just very fortunate that I was able to go into show business as well. But, this is something very exciting to me, and I'm very grateful."
Tyson is not the first former fighter to enter the promotional business, and those former fighters have had varying degrees of success. Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions has become one of the top promoters in the world. Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s upstart Mayweather Promotions is becoming more active and signing fighters. Others, such as Roy Jones and Sugar Ray Leonard, have not had the same kind of success as promoters that they had as fighters.
Tyson said his main goal is to help the fighters while also making a few dollars.
"I learned, if I was ever a promoter, I wouldn't be like these guys, the guys that promoted me," Tyson said, speaking mainly about Don King. "I would make sure that these fighters -- it's all about the fighters. I don't do this because I want to make a lot of money. Everybody's trying to make a buck. I want to see successful fighters and great fighters, and I would hate to see fighters end up like me, when I finished fighting. I'm just one of the very fortunate ones, and I'm very grateful for that. I would never like them to be like me."
One of the things that got Tyson thinking about going into the promotional business was when he saw a recent ESPN2 card that was promoted by rapper Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, who also is relatively new on the promotional scene.
"One of the reasons I'm really gung-ho about this is that I saw 50 Cent's show on ESPN," Tyson said. "He had an awesome show. It inspired me. It got me very energized. I just wanted to [do] something in particular. If I was going to do a fight, I would want it to be at that level.
"But hopefully, God willing, I want to supersede that. But that was just awesome. I was really intrigued by his show, and that pretty much inspired me to just go gung-ho and just do this."