The Baddest Man on the Planet

It's been said that for most people there are only three boxers: Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson. While their characters differed greatly, they were all the dominate Heavyweight Champion of the World and defined Boxing in their primes. Mike Tyson deserves the title above for both his amazing fighting abilities and his questionable life.

Michael Gerald Tyson was born on June 30, 1966 in Brooklyn. A social worker introduced him to boxing and to one of the most influential men in his life, Cus D'Amato. Besides being his coach, Cus also became Tyson's legal guardian.

Tyson lost a couple of amateur fights and was unable to make it to the Olympics. He made up for this by finishing his first professional year of boxing with a 15-0 record with 15 knockouts. Next year it was 27-0, and in 1986, at the unprecedented age of 20, Mike Tyson beat Trevor Berbick for the WBC Heavyweight Title. Tyson went on to pummel James Smith for the WBA title and Tony Tucker for the IBF belt. In doing this, Mike Tyson became the first fighter since Muhammad Ali to unify the division. Tyson went on to defend his title, usually in stunning fashion. Many times, like in the case of Michael Spinks, a true "challenger" was found only to be KO'd in one round. By the end of 1990 Tyson had a record of of 37-0 with 33 KOs and was, by far, the most important figure in boxing.

I remember watching Tyson in several fights and was excited the night he was going to fight on HBO against a relatively unknown Buster Douglas. I was watching with my Dad and brother and couldn't wait to see another devastating KO. The fight took place in Japan where the quiet Japanese fans revered Tyson as almost a God. Douglas was knocked down early in the fight but came back. Then in the tenth round let several punches go and Mike Tyson actually hit the floor. I remember he dropped his mouthpiece and wasted time fumbling for it. By the time he was on his feet it was all over. Unbelievable. There was some minor controversy afterwards about how long Douglas's count was and how short Tyson's was. But, in the end, Buster Douglas became the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World.

After losing the championship Tyson stepped back into the ring four more times, including two defeats of the very powerful and dangerous Razor Ruddock. Then, and not for the first time, Mike Tyson shocked and disgusted the world when he was indicted for the rape of Desiree Washington. Tyson spent February 10, 1992 through March 25, 1995 in jail. After being released he was quickly brought back into the boxing world by Don King.

Even though he had been away from boxing for three years Tyson quickly eliminated his next two opponents, including the undefeated Buster Mathis, Jr. On March 16, 1996 Tyson stepped into the ring with WBC heavyweight champion Frank Bruno and walked out three rounds later as a two time champion. Tyson followed this up by taking the WBA belt from Bruce Seldon later that year. The WBC belt would later be stripped due to court actions brought by Lennox Lewis.

While gaining these belts made him a champion according to a sanctioning body, to truly become champion again Tyson would need to defeat Evander Holyfield. When they met on November 9, 1996 it would be Holyfield proving that he was the true champ instead of Tyson. In the 11th round of that fight Tyson suffered his second loss, and second KO. On June 28, 1997, in the highly anticipated rematch Tyson committed his second appalling act. In the third round, due to the frustration of being behind and headbutting by his opponent, Tyson bit off part of Holyfield's ear. This act would cement the image of Mike Tyson as an "animal". Tyson later apologized for this, had his license revoked and was fined $3 million dollars. Many people felt that this would be the ignoble end of Tyson's boxing career.

Since then Tyson has been re-licensed and won decisively over 5 opponents increasing his record to 50 wins, 43 KOs, 3 losses and 1 no contest.

Update, June 9, 2002: After these wins it was obvious that a deal was going to be made for Tyson to face the recognized Heavyweight Champ, Lennox Lewis. This was first delayed by Lewis's KO loss to Haseem Rahman. After Lewis returned the favor to Rahman and took his belt back the Tyson fight reappeared. It was again cut short when a melee ensued at the press conference. Tyson decided to get a little taste of Lewis and bit him on the leg. Tyson's camp would argue that Lewis' bodyguard started the brawl but, either way, it lead to Tyson being unable to be licensed in Nevada. The fight stayed up in the air for months until a deal was set for the fight to happen June 8, 2002 at the Pyramid in Memphis, Tennessee.

Unlike any other boxing match, this fight was covered in the mainstream media. Of course, they decided to focus on the always amusing statements of Tyson ("I want to damage his brain", "I'll destroy his soul"). Later events would show that Tyson was just giving them what they wanted as publicity.

Ridiculous cautions were taken as the fight approached to stop Tyson from causing problems. This even included security guards in the ring right before the fight. hen the fight itself finally got going Lennox Lewis performed exactly as boxing analysts had predicted. Using a strong jab, powerful right cross and accurate uppercut Lewis controlled the fight leading to Tyson being knocked out near the end of the 8th round.

For many, the most surprising thing was that Tyson didn't commit any flagrant fouls during the fight (in fact, Lewis was docked a point for fouls) and that he handled himself with complete composure after the fight. During the post-fight interview Tyson praised Lewis as "magnificent" and "prolific". He even reached across and wiped some blood off Lewis cheek when he was being interviewed! Tyson also clearly stated that most of the antics leading up to the fight were simply for promotion.

How will history remember Mike Tyson? In some ways, this fight may have actually helped a little. Tyson showed heart as he absorbed many big blows from Lewis. His conduct after the fight was memorable. Tyson's "legacy" will probably always be his performances up to the Buster Douglas fight. There have been three dominant heavyweights in the past 15 years: Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis. Tyson lost twice to Holyfield and now once to Lewis. That fact will still take nothing away from the "Iron" Mike Tyson that amazed everyone with his meteoric rise to the top of the division. Nothing will remove the image from people's minds of the "undestructable", "invincible" Champion that Tyson was.

Many people are saying that Mike Tyson's career is over because of his loss to Lewis. I seriously doubt this. For one, Mike Tyson needs to fight. He'll probably keep fighting until something kills him. Though Tyson's image is marred for now he'll go back to work on guys like Brian Nielson and Frank Bruno. He could even be in an exciting fight. Who wouldn't want to see Mike Tyson vs David Tua. Tua is like a less talented "Iron" Mike Tyson, which is exactly what "Rusty" Mike Tyson is. Matching up two guys, similarly sized, who can both take a punch and both like to throw big punches is a great combination. If Tyson can get a fight like that he'll be at the top of the rankings again. Can he become a champion again? Well, certainly not THE champ. The true heavyweight champ is Lennox Lewis and the real Heavyweight Champ is going to continue to be "super heavyweight" guys like Lewis, Wladimir Klitchko and Jameel McCline. But could Tyson beat WBA champ John Ruiz? I'd say there's a good chance. Either way, Tyson will probably continue to fight and continue to be a bigger draw than 99% of the other fighters in Boxing.

Writeup contains foul language.
People (are) going to say what they say. It has to be for a reason. It's just for a reason. I know sometimes I say things; I offend people. I ask this lady a lewd question because I'm in a lot of pain too. I have some pain I'm gonna have for the rest of my life. And Lewis, I'm trying to give some of that pain to ya'll.
Sometimes you guys have no pride, so no matter what I say, you guys... it doesn't affect you because you don't care about nothing but money. So every now and then I kick your fucking ass and stomp on you and put some kind of pain 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 fucking head or stomp on their testicles so you could feel my pain because that's the pain I have waking up every day.

Mike Tyson was adopted by a boxing trainer, and he was groomed to fight from a young age. Everything he understands about "being a man" he learned from a man who professionally taught people how to fight. Etched into the early adolescent mind of Mike Tyson was the opportunistic aspect of another person's pain, that another individual's hurt was his gain. Vulnerability is to be exploited with violence--and one's own fear must be silenced with it. That's just what Tyson was doing when he saw Lennox Lewis at a pre-fight news conference and went after him, throwing a punch and ultimately biting him on the ankle in a mosh pit of bodyguards; and it's just what Tyson was doing when he repeatedly bit into Evander Holyfield's ear, once he realized and couldn't deal with the fact that he was going to lose the fight. Tyson was upping the violence to dispel the fear he couldn't handle, the fear he'd been programmed to override with frenzied, attacking anger.

I'm just like you. I enjoy the forbidden fruits in life, too. I think it's un-American not to go out with a woman, not to be with a beautiful woman, not to get my dick sucked... It's just what I said before, everybody in this country is a big fucking liar. (The media) tells people ... that this person did this and this person did that and then we find out that were just human and we find out that Michael Jordan cheats on his wife just like everybody else and that we all cheat on our fucking wife in one way or another either emotionally, physically or sexually or one way.

Tyson was psychologically analyzied in the weeks preceding the fight, in order to ensure that he was mentally fit for the match; of course, considering the fact that the match was thought to be capable of pumping up to $400 million into the economy of the lucky suitor city, this was much a formality, with little or no chance of Tyson being barred from competition.

There's no one perfect. We're always gonna do that. Jimmy Swaggart is lascivious, Mike Tyson is lascivious -- but we're not criminally, at least I'm not, criminally lascivious. You know what I mean. 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 laid? I mean, I been robbed of my most of my money, can I at least get my dick sucked without the people wanting to harass me and wanting to throw me in jail?

When Tyson was confronted with the doctors' findings, told that he suffered from depression and low self-esteem, compounded (predictably) by issues of anger-management, Tyson shot back with earnest curiosity: "Is that all they said was wrong with me?"

I feel like sometimes that I was born, that I'm not meant for this society because everyone here is a fucking hypocrite. Everybody says they believe in God but they don't do God's work. Everybody counteracts what God is really about. If Jesus was here, do you think Jesus would show me any love? Do you think Jesus would love me? I'm a Muslim, but do you think Jesus would love me ... I think Jesus would have a drink with me and discuss ... why you acting like that?

Now, he would be cool. He would talk to me. No Christian ever did that and said in the name of Jesus even ... They'd throw me in jail and write bad articles about me and then go to church on Sunday and say Jesus is a wonderful man and he's coming back to save us. But they don't understand that when he comes back, that these crazy greedy capitalistic men are gonna kill him again.

Certainly, Tyson has been a victim of exploitation, by Don King in the most celebrated instance, but also by so many other individuals on so many levels--why did Cus D'Amato adopt Tyson in the first place? Was it not to have a shot at training a fighter from a young age, was it not for the opportunity to program a young fighter with the logic and virtues of fighting? Cus D'Amato got just what he wanted from the child he chose.

I want to eat your children. Praise be to Allah.

Tyson's public relations firm, Dan Klores Communications, cancelled their contract with the fighter in May 2002, because they found that having their name attached to Mike Tyson's was bad for publicity.

That's just who I am. I want to have a nice career for my children. I want them to have a great education. I want to fly my birds. I want to live my life. I want to have a drink every now and then. I want to have a charity event every now and then. And every now and then, I want to fornicate and that's just being a human being.

After losing to Lewis, Tyson may be nearing the end of the road. He says he'll fight if the money is right, and the money will probably be right, after so many people tuned into the most profitable pay-per-view event in years. But he's not the same Tyson, and I don't mean that inasmuch as his talent has worn down over so many psychologically trying years and situations, in prison and out. Mike Tyson, after promising to crush Lennox Lewis' skull, told him he loved him after the fight had ended, and couldn't say enough about how inferior a fighter he is to Lewis, and kept talking about his birds, and how all he wanted to do was to fly them. Tyson has mellowed, and has accepted his vulnerability for the very first time, forced to stomach the basic, ephemeral quality of humankind that even the most stubborn, hardhearted people are made to know as they decline for the very first time, as age wreaks its merciless havoc. And as he continues to spiral into decline, it will complete the overcoming of Tyson's obstinate faith in his own invincibility, and he will fall hard, and he will be forced to confront his own smallness, and no violence will save him.

Mike Tyson is an unrepentant rapist. He is at once the victim of a terrible manipulation from a young age, a man who needs to be champion of the world forever and who will never again be, and a vile, hateful man. Like he himself said: he not only suffers profoundly, but wills that suffering upon others--he resents not only his own torment, but resents everyone who lives free of the burden. And as it is with all irreparably bad people, he endures much pain.
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