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Friday, May 10, 2002
Say what you want, but Tyson's interesting

By Tim Graham
Special to ESPN.com

This just in: Mike Tyson is nefarious, ribald, demented and raw.

And later tonight, on the 11 o'clock news, you'll learn that oxygen is good for you.

While most of the world has been aghast at the recent comments Tyson made from his training headquarters in Hawaii, I was flat-out fascinated and somewhat comforted.

Good old Mike. Never disappoints.

He's often a boor, but never a bore. That's because he's insane.

Last week, a hand-selected group of reporters traveled to the shores of Wailea for a series of intimate interviews promoting Tyson's June 8 megafight with Lennox Lewis. Iron Mike gave his audience more than it could have expected. Each word that fell off his vile lips was pure journalistic gold, the sort of quotes reporters pray for.
Pound for pound list
Tim Graham's top 15:

1. Bernard Hopkins
2. Roy Jones
3. Marco Antonio Barrera
4. Kostya Tszyu
5. Vernon Forrest
6. Lennox Lewis
7. Shane Mosley
8. Floyd Mayweather
9. Erik Morales
10. Felix Trinidad
11. Oscar De La Hoya
12. Fernando Vargas
13. Paulie Ayala
14. Tim Austin
15. Ricardo Lopez

The man with the high-pitched lisp offered his thoughts on a Communist, dope-smoking Jesus Christ. He spoke of stomping little boys' testicles for sport and smearing Lewis' brains on the canvas like a Jackson Pollock painting. He instructed a female reporter to refrain from asking any more questions unless she wanted him to "fornicate" with her.

So the media gleefully scribbled down his every word and then crucified him for what he said.

"At times, I come across as crude or crass," Tyson said in one of his tamer thoughts. "That irritates you when I come across like a Neanderthal or a babbling idiot at times. But I like to be that person. I like to show you all that person because that's who you come to see."

Tyson has generated enough bad press in the past week to make Osama bin Laden blush.

A search of media database Dow Jones Interactive showed the name "Mike Tyson" appeared 204 times in major publications between May 3-9. The name "Saddam Hussein" appeared 338 times over the same period. "Satan" appeared 67 times.

The media's treatment of Tyson lately is tantamount to dropping a few coins into a vending machine, pushing the button for a Zagnut, having 12 of them fall out and then throwing a chair through the glass in disgust.

It's easy to push Tyson's buttons. Ask him the most innocuous of questions and stand back. The candy will spill out all over the floor.

Many believe Tyson's candy is the same stuff parents are warned about at Halloween. You know, the caramel apple with the razor blade stuck in it.

But Tyson's quotes are the sweetest of all. They sell papers. They tantalize listeners. They spellbind viewers. They also drive ticket and pay-per-view sales.

And I, for one, love him for it.

Go ahead and bash me if you will, but I'm glad there's a Mike Tyson running around out there. I don't agree with what he says, and I sure don't condone the actions he describes. But the sheer outrageousness of his comments is simply riveting.

As long as Tyson doesn't act out the crazy things he says, I'm all for him -- just like I'm all for John Rocker, Carl Everett, Allen Iverson, Bryan Cox and Fuzzy Zoeller.

I wouldn't invite any of them into my home, mind you. But I'll enjoy their antics from afar until they actually cross that line. Rest assured, I'll stop laughing if Iverson ever murders a homosexual or Zoeller tries to purchase a slave. Until then, I'll be amused by their moronic rhetoric. They make sports far more interesting.

Boxing would be seriously dull if it weren't for Tyson. He is the only marquee name in the business.

Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad and Shane Mosley have lost much of their luster. De La Hoya has lost twice in his past five fights and has been out of the ring for almost a year. A broken hand will keep the Golden Boy from facing Fernando Vargas until the fall. Felix Trinidad will fight Hacine Cherifi on Saturday, marking the former champ's first bout since Bernard Hopkins destroyed him last September. Mosley hasn't fought since Vernon Forrest beat him in January.

Roy Jones Jr. hasn't had a meaningful fight in years. Hopkins probably never will appeal to a mainstream audience. Floyd Mayweather Jr. hasn't crossed over either.

Tyson, on the other hand, was the main reason the 19,185-seat Pyramid is already sold out despite the fact he hasn't won a significant fight in years. The gate has been reported at more than $23 million. That would break the boxing record established in Lewis' rematch with Evander Holyfield by more than $6 million, or about 37 percent.

That money isn't being spent to watch Lewis. People want to see Tyson more than ever.

Many of my journalistic colleagues, however, are fed up. Some claim they're so disgusted they wouldn't dare show up in Memphis on June 8 for fear their presence might further encourage the bastard.

The media's overall reaction over the past week was as predictable as Tyson's interviews were. Critics love to grandstand against an easy target, show the public they have a high moral standard.

I suppose they all thought Tyson was a good egg prior to his notorious round of interviews. He had committed rape, kicked an old man in the groin and gnawed off a piece of Evander Holyfield's flesh.

But go off on some bizarre tangents? Damn it, Mike, that's just too far!

Whatever.

Tyson is the same man today that he has been. It seems rather disingenuous to condemn him now for colorful language, no matter how insipid.

Even Tyson's own public relations firm, Dan Klores Communications, dropped him as a client. They stood by him for nearly five years, through the Holyfield ear-biting aftermath and multiple rape and assault investigations. But outlandish quotes apparently were the last straw.

"I offend people," Tyson said. "I ask this lady a lewd question because I'm in a lot of pain. I have some pain I'm gonna have for the rest of my life. So every now and then I kick your (expletive) ass and stomp on you and ... inflict some of the pain on you because you deserve to feel the pain that I feel. I wish that you guys had children so I could kick them in the (expletive) head or stomp on their testicles so you could feel my pain because that's the pain I have waking up every day."

At least Tyson wasn't announcing to the world once again he wanted to eat Lewis' children, even though Lewis doesn't have any. Or maybe Tyson was saying he wants to tenderize them first.

Here are some more Tyson musings, a couple of which are old standbys:

  • "On June 8, flesh will not be enough. I will take Lennox's title, his soul and smear his pompous brains all over the ring when I hit him."

  • "I may like to fornicate more than other people. It's just who I am. I sacrifice so much of my life. Can I at least get (sex)? I mean, I've been robbed of my most of my money; can I at least get (oral sex) without people wanting to harass me and wanting to throw me in jail?"

  • "I'm just a dark guy from a den of iniquity. A dark shadowy figure from the bowels of iniquity. I wish I could be Mike who gets an endorsement deal. But you can't make a lie and a truth go together. This country wasn't built on moral fiber. This country was built on rape, slavery, murder, degradation and affiliation with crime."

  • "I'm the most irresponsible person in the world. The reason I'm like that is because, at 21, you all gave me $50 (million) or $100 million, and I didn't know what to do. I'm from the ghetto. I don't know how to act. One day I'm in a dope house robbing somebody. The next thing I know, 'You're the heavyweight champion of the world.' ... Who am I? What am I? I don't even know who I am. I'm just a dumb child. I'm being abused. I'm being robbed by lawyers. I think I have more money than I do. I'm just a dumb pugnacious fool. I'm just a fool who thinks I'm someone. And you tell me I should be responsible?"

  • "If I take this camera and put it in your face for 20 years, I don't know what you might be. You might be a homosexual if I put that camera on you since you were 13 years old. I've been on that camera since I was 13 years old."

    And a few more gems from an interview with Fox News reporter Rita Cosby:

  • "Well, (contemplating suicide) goes through everyone's mind, I'm sure. And if it doesn't I really must be crazy. Everyone thinks about that because sometimes, you know what I mean, it's just tough being a (N-word) and it's tough being a bad (N-word)."

  • "I don't know if I'm mentally sick, but I have ... episodes sometimes. I'm a depressant kind of dude. I have episodes, and I'm human. But no one cares about my health as a human because sometimes I'm in my episodes when I'm at work."

  • "No, the (heavyweight) title doesn't deserve to be treated with respect because the title is like a woman, it's like love. It doesn't care for anything around it but itself. It doesn't care who possesses it, it still receives whatever. It receives the same when I possess it, when he possesses it. ... It's like a woman: '(Expletive) you, I'm so beautiful I can get the next man with more money, with a better body.'"

    None of the comments Tyson made last weekend can top my all-time favorite. He once said, "I can sell out Madison Square Garden masturbating." Still, his recent remarks certainly qualify as "A" material.

    In fact, I would venture to state Tyson would have an easy time finding work on the public speaking circuit once his boxing days are over, and the end might come soon enough. Tyson would be an oratory hit at universities and theaters-in-the-round.

    Bill Clinton? No thanks.

    Rudy Giuliani? Nah.

    Johnnie Cochran? No way.

    Tell me where I can hear Mike Tyson speak, and I'm there.

    Of course, I'll have to arm myself, but I'm there.

    Tim Graham covers boxing for The Buffalo News and The Ring Magazine, and formerly wrote for the Las Vegas Sun.