To define former boxer turned promoter Mike Tyson as an “enigma” would be at the least an understatement. He has evolved from one of the most powerful punching machines in boxing history to possibly one of the most visible athletic personalities in the 20th century.
However, at the conclusion of his career, he was looked upon as one of the most reviled and feared athletes in sports history. From a high profile marriage and divorce to actress Robin Givens, to being charged and convicted of rape, to an act of what many laughingly look at as an act of “cannibalism” while in the heat of battle during a bout versus Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson in his limited time on earth has seen and lived, “9 lives.”
Through it all Tyson has now reinvented himself and reclaimed a popularity that just a short time ago many would have thought to be next to impossible.
Recently,Tyson was in town to promote The Pride Of Pittsburgh, part of his Iron Mike Productions boxing series. It appears that Mike Tyson and his partners have found a niche to profile and profit from his persona and celebrity.
The day before the fights took place, a meet and greet took place at ‘Smoker Friendly,’ a cigar aficionado’s establishment, located in Pittsburgh’s uptown section just a stone’s throw from the Consol Energy Center where the fights were held on August 8, 2014.
As I approached the venue there was a line of Tyson fans at least 3/4 of a block long lining the outside of the store waiting to be admitted to see, be photographed with and get personal articles autographed by the boxing icon.
As I entered I was ushered to a room at the rear of the store. When I entered the designated V.I.P. area it seemed as if I had boarded a time machine and had been transported to the ‘golden years’ of boxing.
There were a few men puffing and chomping on cigars seated comfortably on expensive leather chairs. There were not any boxing deals being crafted, at least as I could tell but nevertheless the “champ” was surrounded by his “handlers,” and the room had a “aroma of tobacco.”
I can’t say smoke filled room because “Smoker Friendly” had one of the better ventilation systems that I have seen in quite a while. I was also pleasantly surprised to see two of my childhood friends from Lawrenceville, Cornell Royster and his brother “Jones,” as part of the Pittsburgh “Iron Mike” inner circle.
The Royster brothers were the purveyors of fine cigars long before it was fashionable.
After I was seated, I witnessed fan after fan enter the room with objects to be signed, no not just signed but sanctioned. Tyson also seemed to validate periods of the lives of these fans through osmosis, just the simple act of “rubbing of elbows” with the “champ.”
During my chat with Tyson he was raw yet sensitive in regards to the positives and negatives of his life.
“I don’t know whether you can say my career was revitalized but I just grew up and now I am dealing with responsibilities. Responsibility was hard to deal with because I never had to deal with responsibility before. Now I have to deal with my kids making sure that they get to school on time, things I did not have to deal with before.”
Tyson also pointed out that focusing on his children helped to increase the focus in other areas of his life. “Focusing on my kids also helped to keep me from backsliding into my old habits like the drugs because there were things that are now more important. I’ve become more humble, I know that if you even mention the word “humble” it might mean that you’re not, but kids will humble you as well as having to think about doing things for other people. You know buying presents for my family and friends and just doing things for other people, has helped me get away from selfishness.”
Tyson also pointed out that he didn’t deal with success as a young kid very well. “I come from the sewage of Brooklyn, New York,” he says matter-of-factly, “and the next thing you know by the time that I am fourteen I am an internationally successful fighter. Only the Lord knows how you can handle that because just like a lot of these pro football athletes come from broken homes and all of a sudden they are famous with all of this money.”
Tyson got a little shimmer in his eye when I asked him, What would Cus D’Amato be saying to him [Tyson] if he was still alive?
“He would have me fighting. He would say “you should be fighting. There is nothing wrong with you, get in the gym and lose some weight, you should be fighting.” He would take my son, my daughter who trains in the gym with us. With Cus everybody would have to fight.”
Mike Tyson has won and lost many battles, admitting that he; “sniffed cocaine off of the butts of strippers” something many men would secretly love to do, to battling and defeating drugs, volatile relationships and quite simply periods of self destructive behavior, but the biggest victory that Tyson seems to have achieved is having won the battle with himself.
Aubrey Bruce may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412.583.6741
Follow him on Twitter @ultrascribe