LAS VEGAS -- The five kids are growing, the eldest is 15, and Mike
Tyson, who said he wouldn't mind having maybe 10 children, seems to finally
realize that the sins of the father are going to be tough on the heirs.
For the moment, Tyson doesn't have a lot to leave his kids except his
reputation. It is not a rich inheritance. The millions are gone, but the
burden can not be measured at $38 million of debt.
He was sitting in the women's room of the Central Boxing Club, still in
his trunks, toweling the sweat from his shaved brow. There are furrows now
on his face to remind you that this is no longer the 20-year-old wunderkind
who became the youngest heavyweight champion in history.
His thoughts, his demeanor are more pleasant surprises that, at least
on the day after his 38th birthday, Mike Tyson may have grown up before his
children did. Too little, too late? There is ample cause for cynicism. Tyson
has teased us, himself, often in the past. He can exhibit extraordinary
charm, tell us what we want to hear, and then at the first sign of pressure,
snap into his persona of Mad Mike.
What makes me suspect that this time is different? Wishful thinking?
Maybe the cynic is the last one to lose hope. Without allowing for growth,
we are all doomed. The Tyson saga started out warm and cuddly -- the little
monster no one could tame until he was discovered by the old man, Cus
There have been a few detours and while it is true that he was the
victim of some, he can not escape the prisons of his own making. For two
hours, we talked. It was more of a genial chat than an interview at times.
He said again he never raped Desiree Washington. Only two people know
what happened in that room at the Canterbury Hotel in Indianapolis. But a
jury of 12 peers should never have found Tyson guilty -- maybe he was not
innocent, but there was no forensic proof or witnesses to say he was guilty.
It was a he-said-she-said case and Tyson's own lawyer, supplied by Don King,
made the fighter out to be an animal and she should have known what she was
getting into when she went up to his room and if you've ever seen a fixed
fight, you had to have suspicions about this trial.
I asked Mike if he was wearing underwear, as she testified he was when
she came out of the bathroom. Mike's longtime chauffeur and valet, Rudy
Gonzalez, had long ago told me he never packed any underwear for the trip to
"I seldom wear underwear," Tyson said.
Then maybe she was lying? She was not cross-examined on this minute
point. At least it seemed that King and his lawyer wanted Tyson put away so,
as Gonzalez theorizes, the fighter didn't leave him. It was at a time,
remember, when King wanted Tyson to fight Razor Ruddock a third time while
Harold Smith was advising to forget that and go after Evander Holyfield and
get his title back. Tyson had forced King into dealing with Dan Duva,
Holyfield's promoter, when he was rushed off to Indianapolis.
Tyson shrugged at the possible scenarios. He has settled his $100
million lawsuit with King for $14 million -- or $8 million up front and the
promise of $3 million each the following two Januarys. He'd better not
spend that $6 million yet.
He said he didn't like to dwell on the past. Hell, he said "I hate
watching my tapes," even those when he was a brilliant "elusive" and fierce
fighter. He never did like looking in a mirror, almost as if he were afraid
at what he might see. He would put himself down worse than his harshest
critics. Even now, he says he's "the biggest fool in the world."
But there's something different now. For the first time, it seems, when
he looks in the mirror he is not horrified. This man who has been convicted
of rape, who did time for a road-rage incident where he attacked two small
and elderly men after a fender-bender, who grew up mugging little old
ladies, and never mind his criminal behavior inside the ring, has begun to
realize that he no one is perfect -- and he certainly is not perfectly evil.
I asked if he could control his rage, if he needed anger management
lessons. He said it wasn't that, "It was me thinking the whole world was
He said, "People are not convicted for what they do, but for what they
might do." Jailhouse wisdom, I believe.
I brought up the Maryland road-rage incident, when the car his then-wife Monica was driving was rear-ended and he went out and attacked these
two guys who looked as if they were residents of a jockey's old-age home.
"I'm guilty on that," he said.
He has said that, as part of his reparations for mugging elderly women
as a kid, he would give away $100 bills to the homeless. He has done some
very charitable things that most people don't know about. He really is a
shrink's dream subject.
Teddy Atlas, his old trainer back in the Catskill days, always put down
Tyson as a "shooting star," someone who flashed brilliantly across the sky
and died out. Deep down, Atlas always said, Tyson was unsure of himself, did
not know who he was. To a degree, of course it is probably true about all of
us. Tyson carried insecurity to great depths.
Tyson could not resist taking a shot at Atlas and his ilk: "They're not
psychoanalysts, these guys are barely fight trainers. How does he know who I
He said Atlas talks "a lot about what he did when I was 15 (pulling a
gun on Tyson when the young fighter made a pass at the trainer's 11-year-old
sister-in-law). Like he's a tough guy."
But, nah, he does not hate Atlas, he doesn't hate even King. Mellow,
maybe. For the first time since I first was introduced to him by D'Amato
about 22, 23 years ago, Tyson has begun to see some light at the end of the
mirror: "I've come to the conclusion I've had a bad psychological opinion of
myself. I never realized how many people were pulling for me, who wanted me
to do well. It was too much pressure on me. I didn't know how to handle it.
I wanted people to think I'm a normal guy. I'm a maniac, but I'm a good guy.
"I'm feeling pretty good about myself and when I do become successful,
it will be the most successful boxing story in the world," he said,
envisioning himself accomplishing, in essence, an even greater feat than
George Foreman's comeback.
But his success, he should understand, does not revolve around beating
Vitali Klitschko or Lamon Brewster. Oh, it would mean a lot to boxing
history if he could reestablish himself as a dominant heavyweight so many
years after going into decline. He cares about boxing history, but I think
he's beginning to see more important things -- like that "vampire's cross" he
now has to ward off evil thoughts.
"I'm trying not to say bad things about anybody, or use bad language.
It's part of my habit of trying to be a good person," he said.
The man who says he was "addicted to chaos," is now talking about a new
habit. How long has it been?
"This is new," he said, laughing, "very new."
And so we wait for another chapter in the Mike Tyson saga. The boxing
portion of his life is obviously near the end. But with Lennox Lewis
enjoying fatherhood (at last, there is a Lewis child for Tyson to eat), he
might be able to launch one final rocket.
But his brightest prospects lie elsewhere, with his children. Next: A
brief summation, but I must confess that I didn't take notes when we were
talking about smoking pot.
OUTHOUSE: Al Bernstein and Steve Albert of Showtime for trying to make
Joel Casamayor's one-sided victory over Daniel Seda into a competitive
fight. Sorry, guys, it was a bore. ... You think Michael Moorer came in so out
of shape to fight Eliseo Castillo because he did not want there to be any
chance of him next fighting Tyson?
PENTHOUSE: All of us, for patiently waiting for the dog days of summer
to end, which they will with a nice HBO triple-header July 17, the return of
Arturo Gatti in against Leonard Dorin in what figures to be another example
of mayhem July 24, the return of Tyson on July 30, Erik Morales on July 31
and Showtime's salute to fandom with the Acelino Freitas-Diego Corrales
meeting Aug. 7. A hot summer, indeed. ... Then we can sleep through the
MORE FOR YOUR $4.99: Shelly Finkel says the K-1 martial arts deal for
Tyson -- he was to have boxed under the Japanese company's promotional aegis
in Hawaii -- is dead. ... Don King came to Vegas over the weekend and spent six
hours meeting with Chris and Tracy Byrd. No progress. ... Do the Byrds want
Judd Burstein's phone number? ... What's this I hear? The WBC has reached a
settlement with Graciano Rocky and will continue insulting us? Good. I like
having Jose Sulaiman around. Besides, if I had to rank the alphabets, the
WBC would probably be the last one I'd like to see go. Luckily, I don't have
to rank the alphabets. ... Kevin McBride, who was the original opponent for
Tyson in Louisville, said he was such a big fan of Mike, that when the
referee brought the fighters together for final instructions, he probably
would have asked for an autograph. ... Whatever happened to Ron Borges? ... Best
bet of the summer: Peter Kohl will win, in his Hamburg home court, his claim
to still be the promoter of the Klitschkos. ... Can Cory Spinks afford to train
at Don King's camp in Orwell, Ohio, where
it usually costs $100 per person per day? He's not fighting Miguel Angel
Gonzalez -- a bad King joke -- until Sept. 4 on the same Mandalay Bay card
where Lamon Brewster gets a gimme, for a reported $400,000, in his first WBO
heavyweight title defense against Kali Meehan of New Zealand, a guy knocked
out in 32 seconds by Danny Williams, the guy Tyson faces in
Louisville. ... Gonzalez, a former lightweight title-holder, looked pretty shot
on that Julio Cesar Chavez-Frankie Randall card in Mexico in May. ... Gene
Kilroy, the Great Facilitator when he was the Greatest's aide, spoke to
Tyson on July 5 and reported that Mike ran six miles. Guess his back is
doing better now that he has to watch it less.