The thief, the champion, the millionaire, the rapist, the prisoner, the famous and the eternal: all the Tysons I saw fight

Tyson in action at his peak. Indestructible and lethal (Bettmann/)

If he hadn’t been so wrong, he would never have become so humanized… Perhaps the bioseries “Mike, beyond Tyson” that will offer Star+ get viewers to understand in eight chapters the significant Mike Tyson in world boxing. Someone who when he appeared in the early ’80s seemed indestructible and yet, under the steel of his broad armored chest, the weaknesses of a repressed heart surfaced.

When he began to learn to box at the age of 13 with the great teacher who was Cus D’Amato, the teenager Michael Gerard Tyson, born in New York on June 30, 1966, was already 1.78 meters tall, weighed 100 kilos and had to choose between continuing to belong to a gang of young delinquents or taking boxing as the other alternative that life offered him. By then he had already entered police stations and correctional facilities 38 times and there were many guards who, seeing his endurance and strength in interrogations, kindly recommended him: “Dedicate yourself to boxing black”.

It was D’Amato who taught him the main thing: to go forward and turn with both legs and the body to one side and the other, giving a small jump to change the angles of attack. That which later became known as the “Tyson step” and which was added to the unusual power of his curved strokes until he became unbeatable. That was what it seemed in the eyes of any specialized chronicler as he was carrying out his combats.

Myke, beyond Tyson
In the series “Myke, beyond Tyson” a triumphant image of the protagonist, where he celebrates with the promoter and unmistakable Don King

In his first 5 years as a professional he won 33 fights by KO – including the world title on 11-22-86 against Jamaican Trevor Berbick by TKO in the 2nd round – and only 4 by unanimous decision. Awesome. He was the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in history: he was 20 years, 4 months and 22 days old. But after the death of his teacher Cus D’Amato (1985), the wheel of life, which had already reached its highest point, was going to begin its cruel turn of inexorable descent. in 6 years D’Amato had modeled it on all the virtues with which Mike had come to boxing. He was a skilled and severe teacher. To Tyson, for example, he indicated 24 hours without ingestion of any food to face extreme adversity without stopping training with hunger and thirst. He had already built two great world champions: Floyd Patterson (heavyweight) and José Luis “Chegui” Torres (middle heavyweight). But Tyson was different; he was –according to Cus D’Amato- a champion who could retire undefeated by beating Rocky Marciano’s record of 12 defenses in 6 years. In fact, there was no one up to here with his power, his speed and his fierceness.

Throughout his career, Tyson has achieved knockouts against all kinds of rivals: tall, short, giants, lefties, righties, offensive, endurance, knockouts, orthodox, young, experts… He has done it in an amazing way, unloading 10, 12 or 17 blows on the same humanity of the rival, which beast after hunting its prey. And he had achieved it by punishing the soft areas, the ribs, the chin, the intercostals or the temples with the hooks. Hardly an opponent could overcome after Mike started downloading his gamesWell, they did not give time to get out of such a difficult situation since he ended up running them over the ring and looking for them to approach the string to knock them out with the infallible and unbearable combination of a hook to the liver and a cross to the chin. Unlike other fearsome punchers that I could personally see such as Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier or George Foreman, this Mike sowed, unlike those, a feeling of uncontrolled tank passing over everyone; even from those of us who broadcast their fights on the edge of the ring. It seemed that any of those terrible blows could reach us and I have seen more than one colleague with terror on his face.

Mike Tyson today.  He was in Flushing Meadows a few days ago to see Serena Williams play.
Mike Tyson today. He was in Flushing Meadows a few days ago to see Serena Williams play (MIKE SEGAR /)

That first teacher -Cus D’Amato- had the habit of making his pupils see who could be probable rivals. At that time he had some movies, many videos and a few edits of various fights. Each one of his pupils, then, had to choose a model, someone who he liked and who was his mirror image. It was thus that Tyson chose Benny Leonard whose real name was Benjamin Leiner, son of a Jewish family from the Ghetto Wizard of New York; (world champion of the Lightweights between 1917 and 1923. died in 1947) whom The Ring magazine ranked 8th in its own ranking of the 80 best boxers of the last 80 years. By the way, he was also inducted into the Hall of Fame. This Leiner (last name) or Leonard (pseudonym) boxed like this: speed, relentless attack, storm of punches and discharges of multiple blows in melee… And Mike chose that model. But he also took from Leiner the look, the way of heading for the little jumps and getting into the ring with his eyes fixed on a fixed point and copied the clothing of the 20’s. It was so that in his 14th fight against Sammy Scaff and after having used tight white robes and shorts with red trim or other purplish tones, Tyson remembered Leiner – the chosen paradigm – who 100 years ago entered the ring with little black pants, a white towel around his neck and black boots without stockings. Actually with very short stockings to cover only the feet without reaching the ankles.

It must have been exciting and difficult for the director and screenwriter Steven Rogers to select, first of all, what could be left out with respect to what else could not necessarily be missing. And this is because Tyson and the few Tyson’s –Maradona’s, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Tiger Wood, Cristiano Ronaldo or Novak Djokovic’s who at every moment of their lives are news, unwittingly become universalized subjects of information. This can be sports, police, private or public; sublime or gloomy; moving or outrageous….

In the case of Tyson –played by Trevante Rhodes in the bioseries– the entire spectrum of the transcendent is covered. And in such circumstances could not miss his time as a juvenile delinquent since he was 10 years old, the hope that boxing meant, his weak response to fame, the separation with his initial manager Bill Cayton, his courtship with the English super model Naomi Campbell, the divorce with his first wife, the actress Rovin Givens, who publicly described him as a violent man with bouts of depression. All those traumatic episodes that always ended up in court and put this man in daily confrontation with someone he had trusted as his businessman Don King – played by Russell Hornsby – whom he later sued.

Mike Tyson and Diego Armando Maradona met at the premiere of
Mike Tyson and Diego Armando Maradona coincided at the premiere of “Che” at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008 (Stephane Cardinale – Corbis/)

How difficult it would have been to choose what could be left out, although there are episodes of inevitable inclusion. For example, the story of his first defeat – the abdication of his unbeaten record – in Tokyo against James Buster Douglas on 2-11-90. This fact that shocked the world for having been the most surprising blow in the history of boxing has its most understandable part in the sports version because before fighting Mike led a wild life; the opposite of any pre-competitive sports obligation. Furthermore, he had taken a suite in the hotel to satisfy his irrepressible sexual appetite that he reiterated two or three times a day with different women. And although he arrived in pitiful physical condition he managed to knock Douglas down in the 8th round. Later, Tyson and his second-in-command Kevin Rooney – whom he fired – insisted that the fight in which he lost the world championship had been a robbery. To do this, they accused the Mexican referee Octavio Meyran of having favored Douglas by carrying out a very delayed count when he was on the floor. That Tyson couldn’t take it anymore, he was exhausted and at 30 seconds of the 10th round he was left on the canvas. It was an unexpected result since Don King -.the promoter- had chosen the easiest of all his rivals. Furthermore, he said that he had given Douglas a chance as he had lost his mother and was about to divorce his wife. That night the odds were 42-1 in favor of Tyson and the World Boxing Council banned referee Meyran for life.

After the defeat, those who watch the miniseries will notice the “birth” of another Tyson. Perhaps the wildest and most abject. It will not be about the brainy boxer whom his teammates selected from the United States to compete in the Los Angeles 84 ‘Olympic Games, did not stop bullying him. The only one who spoke to him and helped him was a heavyweight named Evander Holyfield who will be so closely linked in his career, in life and in the miniseries with Mike. Yes, he was the one who was bitten off by Tyson 8 centimeters from his right ear. That was in the rematch when he vainly tried to win back the belt that Evander himself had taken from him a year earlier, at 96′. The two times they faced each other, Evander beat him psychologically, because in the ring, in addition to applying all the tricks of a seasoned boxer, he did not stop talking to him and reminding him of his past. That ranged from her mother’s status as a sex worker to her father’s hospitalization in a neuropsychiatric hospital for abusive drug use. And by the way, the artistic work did not miss the three years in prison that preceded those fights and that Mike had to serve for rape. This event -relevant in history- occurred on July 19, 1991, in suite 606 of the Canterbury Hotel in Indianapolis. According to the trial records, Mike had a date with student Desirée Washington. She was 18 years old and lived on Roche Island. When he met her, the girl was participating in a contest to choose “Miss Black America.” After the meeting alone, she made a complaint and Mike Tyson was accused of rape. On March 26, 1992, Judge Patricia Gifford sentenced Tyson to six years in prison and $30,000 in compensation to the victim, although after three years and eight months he was released for good behavior at the Indiana Youth Center, a security prison in which he was convicted.

Tyson does not have yesterday because he is still a news protagonist. Whether it’s because of his training until recently, because of his exhibition fight against Roy Jones two years ago, because of his challenges to former youtuber Jake Paul, because of the cannabis plants in his boutique hotel in California, due to an active presence on social networks or due to his Ciatalgia –pain in the sciatic nerve- that forces him to use a wheelchair. He exists today, he is in the news today and his unofficial biography is all the rage today as well. Before “Mike, beyond Tyson”, the famous former world champion had added more than 380 hours of filmed material between films about him or acted by him, miniseries, documentaries, long talk shows and commercials. And luckily life goes on…

That gray-haired gentleman with a pronounced bald head and neat beard, that man over 57 years of age with marble muscles who leans on a cane and looks meekly, is the same savage puncher who forced us to cover our faces every time we were at the edge of a ring I saw him in action. The last time was in Manchester at the end of January 2000. On that occasion he was to narrate for Channel 9 – under the unbeatable production of Gustavo Gonzalez – his fight against Julius Francis. Tyson’s superiority was such that Francis was bought for 1 million pounds the soles of his boots and the two parts of the belt of his shorts so that he can look good either on TV or in the photos that the paper media would publish the sponsor’s brand: The Mirror newspaper.

I never experienced anything like it. Every blow that Mike Tyson threw at Julius Francis pierced my TV narrator headphones like a windy, bloody, hurricane, unstoppable gust. It had sound. It was a zzzzuuuumm, zzzuuummm, zzzuuummm. And they came with those thick arms of gleaming ebony and their sculptured faces of unchanging severity. Those punches from Tyson looked like projectiles of fire. He threw it 5 times in the 4 minutes and 3 seconds that the fight lasted. And when the referee decreed the KO in the 2nd round, I breathed a sigh of relief because the beast had stopped throwing punches…


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