Reviewing his career, Tyson tackles 20 topics
Mike Tyson's return to the ring against Saturday comes some 20 years after his pro debut. Tyson sounds off with Dan Rafael about his past, present and future.
WASHINGTON Mike Tyson was 20 years old when he became the youngest heavyweight champion in history, and when he steps into the MCI Center ring Saturday night (Showtime PPV, 9 ET) to face Kevin McBride in a 10-round fight, it will mark the 20th year since his pro debut.
Tyson has been open and media friendly during the buildup to the fight and spoke with ESPN.com at length twice this week, on Monday before his final sparring session at the Nomis Boxing Community Center and while he was relaxing in the Howard University locker room following Tuesday's open workout.
In honor of Tyson's 20th anniversary in the prize ring, here is his take on 20 topics.
1. His pro debut: After a standout amateur career, Tyson turned professional in Albany, N.Y., just north of his home in Catskill, with a first-round knockout on March 6, 1985.
Tyson: "I remember it. I fought Hector Mercedes. He was a little, small Spanish man. Pudgy guy and it was real quick. Those were the best days."
2. Cus D'Amato: Tyson's trainer, mentor and legal guardian, D'Amato died shortly before Tyson won the heavyweight title in 1986. But what if D'Amato had lived a few more years to see Tyson through his championship reign?
Showtime PPV (Saturday, 9 ET)
MCI Center Washington, D.C.
• Heavyweight: Mike Tyson (50-5, 44 KOs) vs. Kevin McBride (32-4-1, 27 KOs), 10 rounds
• Tape: Tyson-McBride | Weigh-In | Oddcast: Rafael
• Female super middleweight: Laila Ali (20-0, 17 KOs) vs. Erin Toughill (6-1-1, 0 KOs), 10 rounds
• Welterweight: Sharmba Mitchell (55-4, 31 KOs) vs. Chris Smith (19-1-1, 12 KOs), 10 rounds
Tyson: "It would have been totally different. I wouldn't have been with Don [King]. Cus once told me, 'You'e the kind of person who has to get hurt to learn.' He was probably right. I thought I was listening to him because I was winning all the fights. I didn't understand he was talking about in life. I am 50-5, that's almost perfect in the fighting business. But in the fight of life I am a pug, a palooka. Cus was a problem solver. He had me wrapped around his finger. I would have married who he told me to marry."
3. Standout fight: Tyson has had many spectacular performances. But which one was his most satisfying?
Tyson: "Everybody says (the Michael) Spinks (fight), but I don't think it was a good fight at all. I thought he was a small guy and he didn't stand a chance. I thought he was made for me at that particular time. (Tyrell) Biggs was a good night, one of my great nights. He took a serious beating. He could have quit at any time. But he took it. At that time, he was the guy I really wanted to beat because he was so acclaimed when we were amateurs (and he won the 1984 Olympic gold medal). In my opinion that was my best night. I had a personal vendetta. I felt I became Olympic champion after I beat him."
4.Temper: Before the Spinks fight, Tyson punched a hole in the wall of his dressing room.
Tyson: "I'm crazy, man. I was just ready to fight that night. I was a young kid. I wanted to win desperately. And (Spinks' promoter) Butch Lewis came in and was making noise about my hand wraps and I got pissed. I punched it good."
5. First title: Tyson won the title against Trevor Berbick in 1986 with a devastating second-round knockout. But surprisingly, that fight is not high on Tyson's list of personal favorites.
"I just knew it was going to happen. I was just waiting for it to happen. I wasn't even that excited. I was just real confident going into that fight because I knew it would happen."
6. The bites: It's probably pretty easy to guess which was Tyson's worst night in the ring: The rematch with Evander Holyfield, when he was disqualified in the third round for twice biting Holyfield's ears in a bid to reclaim the title in 1997.
|Tyson At 20|
• Rafael: Meltdown | Return | Upset |Apex | Crown
• Rafael: 20 topics | McBride | Fenech | Camp
• Graham: Nelson | Hosea/Scaff | Long | Jaco | Green
• Gallery | Vote | Torres: Respect | Bayless: Marketer
• Tyson KOs: ESPN360 | Oddcast: Rafael preview
Tyson: "Everybody brings that up, but most people do it in a joking fashion. People want to take pictures with me and they joke about wanting me to act like I am biting off their ear and stuff. I wish I didn't bite Evander."
7. Young king: Eventually, Tyson became undisputed champion when he unified the three major belts with a unanimous decision against Tony Tucker in 1987.
Tyson: "It was a great feeling when I was alone but it was uncomfortable when I was in public because I didn't know how to act. They put a crown on my head and I felt a little dopey and stuff. I didn't know how to handle it that well."
8. The Upset: James "Buster" Douglas pulled one of the greatest upsets in sports history when he knocked Tyson out in the 10th round in 1990 to win the undisputed title. Why no rematch?
Tyson: "That was a good fight. Buster fought great that night but he didn't fight me [again]. He didn't want to fight. Things happen the way they are meant to be. I won the title again. I went to jail, came back and won the title. That was more spectacular than if I had regained it from Buster Douglas."
9: Another reign: Tyson won the title for the second time in 1996 when he knocked out Frank Bruno in the third round of their rematch. So what about the thought of a third championship reign?
Tyson: "I'm just waiting for that moment. That's just a hell of a moment to even think of. That's overwhelming. I'm just waiting for that moment to challenge such-and-such for the heavyweight championship of the world. It would mean a great deal."
10. Perspective: Although Tyson wants to win the title again, the label of three-time champ doesn't impress him.
Tyson: "We make a big deal about guys being three-time heavyweight champion, four-time heavyweight champion, but you know what Cus told me? I said, 'Cus, Ali won the title again, he's a three-time champ!' But Cus told me, 'He had to lose it to win it back.' Joe Louis never lost it. That is the pinnacle of perfection. Winning it back shows you can overcome adversity but Joe Louis did it 25 nights and never lost it."
11. Kevin Rooney: Tyson has been through a multitude of trainers, but he is most closely identified with Rooney, who was in his corner from Day 1 through the Michael Spinks fight in 1988.
Tyson: "I started off really respecting him but he went from trainer to like an owner. Cus D'Amato could do that but not Kevin. It's like your father can do things to you that your older brother can't."
12. Marriage: Tyson has been married twice, the first time to actress Robin Givens, while he was champion. Then to Monica Turner, with whom he remains friends. He doesn't see himself marrying again.
Tyson: "Robin and me, we were two young kids who never should have been married in the first place. Deep down inside, [Turner] is still a little angry about the whole situation. I respect that. She divorced me. I give up. I lost. They beat me. They won. They got me good. I know I was a dog and I wasn't behaving well. I got myself together now, and it's too late. [Divorce makes] you feel like you are a failure. What's wrong with me? No one can get along with me. I can't get along with anyone."
|“||How do I get fined $250,000 for weed and he gets $10,000 for steroids? I can't say racism because it was a black city (Detroit) that got my ass. I should have got caught in a white place like Las Vegas. ”|
|— Tyson comparing the boxing penalties issued him and James Toney for drug violations|
13. Drugs: Tyson has freely admitted to smoking marijuana. A flunked drug test caused his TKO of Andrew Golota in 2000 to be ruled a no contest and he was fined $250,000 by the Michigan boxing commission. It still annoys him.
Tyson: "James Toney was on steroids (when he beat John Ruiz in April). When he won the title on steroids, he got fined $10,000 (in New York). I smoked weed and was fined $250,000. I smoked weed and won. That's a dehancing drug. Steroids are an enhancing drug. How do I get fined $250,000 for weed and he gets $10,000 for steroids? I can't say racism because it was a black city (Detroit) that got my ass. I should have got caught in a white place like Las Vegas."
14. Young blood: Tyson is a student of boxing history but what about the newer crop of heavyweights? Who does he like?
Tyson: "There's an up-and-coming guy, Calvin Brock. He was an Olympian (in 2000). I saw him fight Clifford Etienne (in a third-round knockout). I thought that was cool. There's also this African heavyweight, Samuel Peter. He's real destructive. He likes to knock guys out like I do."
15. Idols: Tyson has studied many of the old-time champions. Who are his favorites?
Tyson: "I like Sugar Ray Robinson, Gene Fullmer, the old guys in the '50s and the '40s. I love Sam Langford, Joe Gans, Benny Leonard, John L. Sullivan. Roberto Duran, he was a beast, too. He is really the guy who inspired me. I didn't know if I was going to fight but when I saw him I knew I wanted to fight. I was just a young kid. I didn't care about money. I just wanted to be like my heroes. That's all I cared about."
16. Big fan: Tyson has a favorite active fighter, too.
Tyson: "I love (junior welterweight title holder) Arturo Gatti. He is one of my favorite fighters. He's very exciting, not necessarily the greatest fighter in the world, but you watch Arturo, he's just exciting."
17. Don King: Tyson's split with promoter King was messy and acrimonious. Tyson accused him of stealing millions of dollars from him and sued for $100 million. They eventually settled out of court last year after a protracted legal battle. So would Tyson fight one of King's many heavyweights, three of whom hold titles?
Tyson: "Anything is possible. It's a business. I've grown up. It's all a business. I don't necessarily think Don is bad person but maybe he is an evil businessman. I'll put it like that. But I have six kids I have to feed."
18. Disappointment: Tyson has said he believes his life has been a waste.
Tyson: "I didn't get no fulfillment out of my life. Most of my life has been about boxing and I didn't get much happiness out of it. I was very disappointed in my life. I haven't lived up to my responsibilities as a father."
19. Maturity: What's the difference between Tyson as a 20-year-old champion and the Tyson who is a 38-year-old former two-time champ?
Tyson: "When I was younger, I was reckless. I would fight without training. I felt like I was a superior being from another planet and everyone else was from a fifth-world country. I was a pampered kid, a pampered little spoiled brat. I had my white father (D'Amato) with me making sure no one got near me. Now I'm my own man and I have to deal with my own stuff."
20. Time: Tyson has been fighting for 20 years. Has it been that long?
Tyson: "I just keep on trucking, baby. I just keep on trucking. I'm just happy to be able to still do it. I'm just happy I am healthy enough to do it. I want to compete, and when I die I don't want anyone to say Mike Tyson was a dishonest man, so I want to pay off my debts."
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.
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