Cash-strapped Tyson announces exhibition tour

Originally Published: September 28, 2006
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

Former two-time heavyweight champ Mike Tyson admitted the reason for launching "Mike Tyson's World Tour," a series of four-round exhibitions bouts, is that he needs the money and thinks it will help him feel better about himself.

"I think I'm useless to society. I don't think I'm worthy of the people who come out to see me, but they do."
-- Mike Tyson

Tyson, who squandered ring earnings of more than $300 million, is bankrupt and has a long list of creditors to pay.

"If I don't get out of this financial quagmire there's a possibility I may have to be a punching bag for somebody," Tyson said Thursday at a news conference in Youngstown, Ohio. "The money I make here isn't going to help any of my bills really from a tremendous standpoint, but I'm going to feel better about myself. I'm not going to be depressed."

Tyson was at the 6,000-seat Chevrolet Centre to announce an Oct. 20 exhibition bout against former sparring partner Corey "T-Rex" Sanders. The exhibition will be part of a pay-per-view card that will include other officially sanctioned fights.

The four-round format should suit Tyson, who freely admits he is in terrible shape. He is, however, in better shape than he was a month ago, when he began a series of public workouts he was hired to perform at the Aladdin in Las Vegas.

"I was a little overweight, smoking too much, and I started to get in shape," said Tyson, who announced his retirement after quitting on his stool after six rounds against Kevin McBride in June 2005. "I was training in Las Vegas and 2,000 people a day were there. Why not do an exhibition? [Promoter] Sterling [McPherson] suggested we do a world tour. Once I started training, the stress left. I can't believe I'm not slurring. I'm not angry. Life's lessons are priceless."

Tyson said the Youngstown bout is only the beginning. He said he anticipated taking the show to Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

"Everybody is bidding in anticipation and calling Sterling," Tyson said.

Although Tyson figures to attract fans and viewers to the exhibitions, he can't figure out why.

"I think I'm useless to society," he told the assembled crowd. "I don't think I'm worthy of the people who come out to see me, but they do."

As long as they do, though, Tyson insisted he would have fun doing the exhibitions.

"I want to have fun because during my boxing career I was too damn serious," he said. "That was my problem, I took myself too serious."

Although Tyson and Sanders -- who owns a knockout of newly crowned titlist Oleg Maskaev -- have sparred countless rounds together, Tyson said he is unsure what to expect when the bell rings.

"Hopefully, he's gentle and kind to me," Tyson joked. "Whatever happens, happens. If he starts winging, I'm going to start winging."

Tyson also said the exhibitions are not a prelude to a serious comeback.

"I don't want to do that anymore," he told The Associated Press after the news conference. "Everybody's saying, 'Mike, make a comeback.' I'm not going to do that. The best decision I ever made was to retire from boxing. Because I don't have any stress. I'm pretty simple. I like the person I am now more than I did. I don't like 'Iron Mike' -- I like Mike Tyson."

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.

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