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Tyson, Maradona bond on soccer star's show

11/29/2005 - Boxing

BUENOS AIRES -- The most keenly awaited meeting between two of the most important icons in the history of sport could have been much juicier.

Although the 10 minutes of on-air conversation between soccer legend Diego Armando Maradona and former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson left everyone wanting more, it at least will be remembered because of its moving nature.

On Nov. 7, Tyson appeared on the season finale of Maradona's talk show "La Noche del Diez," one of highest-rated programs in Argentina.

Maradona will never be mistaken for being a great journalist. His questions were quite flat when they needed some zest, especially when interviewing someone as colorful as Tyson.

Still, when two celebrities of such relevance get together, the magic just seems to flow. Both have lived hard lives: Maradona is former drug abuser who allowed his physique to go to pot after his retirement; Tyson an ex-con whose mercurial in-the-ring career seems finally to have ended.

Around 11:30 p.m., dressed in a simple striped black suit with no tie, Tyson made his appearance at the fabled boxing venue, Luna Park, where this special episode of the talk show was staged.

A crowd of about 5,000 loudly applauded Tyson's appearance, and he responded with a timid gesture of gratefulness.

Tyson remains magnetic. His entrance recalled the electricity he generated on those many walks from the dressing room to some ring in Las Vegas.

After embracing Maradona, Tyson seemed quite nervous at first. Then, both men adjusted to the translations of their conversations. By the end of the interview, they seemed like lifetime friends.

"What's going on with your life right now?" Maradona asked.

"I'm very happy. My life has always been a roller coaster, but I'm happy," Tyson said, laughing. "Today I was in the neighborhood you were born [La Boca] and I think we come from similar places, we have a lot in common."

"I won't keep on fighting. It's just like your thing. You've played for a long time. I have fought for 26 years now and I've lost desire. Bouts are not that hard, but training [sessions] really are. And if you don't do it the way you're supposed to do it, then you can't be successful," Tyson said, confirming his decision to stay far away from the ring after his loss to Kevin McBride in June.

"I've had many problems, but the truth is my life has been fun. I don't think I can be a coach, I'm just not ready. If you want to teach you have to dedicate as much time as possible and right now I want to enjoy my life, my family," Tyson said.

In the same ring in which so many boxing battles were fought, Maradona and Tyson exchanged praises.

"I admire you and respect you very much, because you have been the king of your sport. That's why I'm so happy to be here," Tyson said to Maradona.

"Tyson is a legend. The greatest boxer there ever was. That's why we worship you so much," Maradona said.

"I'm not a bad person. I just want to do what I want to do. I don't know, if I want to have sex on the table I do it," Tyson said.

"I don't know exactly what I want from life, it's all very confusing. I just know I worry about the people I care for."

Tyson talked about the downside of celebrity.

"I'm tired of being judged all the time. I don't know man, sometimes I just want to smoke a cigarette and I have to be hiding. I don't like that. Right now I just want to do what I like. With all respect, [expletive] 'em all. I just want to live my life," he said.

Tyson felt a bond with Maradona, who in 2000 was voted Player of the Century in an official FIFA Internet poll.

"The important thing is that people like us, who come from the same place we do, have always fought to get where we are. And we have had to put up with humiliating experiences. But they could never bring us down," Tyson said.

Without a doubt, the grand finale was the best part of the interview.

Maradona gave Tyson an autographed shirt of Argentina's team and requested an ovation for him.

Tyson returned the favor, teaching Maradona how to hit the punching bag. He also lifted the Argentine in the air.

That instant will be remembered as the night Maradona and Tyson met and realized they had always been friends.

Buenos Aires-based Sebastián Contursi is ESPNdeportes.com's boxing analyst. He has covered more than 80 championship fights for various publications in the United States and Argentina.