Mike Tyson – A Little Peace Of Mind

21.07.04 - By Matthew Hurley: Regardless of the outcome of Mike Tyson’s upcoming fight against Daniel Williams the former heavyweight champion has carved an indelible niche into the minds of sports fans around the world. In terms of modern sports athletes no one has so polarized the public as has Iron Mike Tyson. You love him or you hate him. You sympathize with his every hurt or you turn your nose up in disgust and say “he brought it on himself.” And if you’re white and affluent, you stand back and try to understand his seeming willingness to embarrass himself and self-destruct or you allow your innate racist notions to color your perception and wave this thug off as just another street urchin. If you’re black and affluent you see him as a compass for what is wrong in the African American society. He epitomizes everything Bill Cosby recently pontificated. If you’re black and from the streets where Tyson grew up you see him as a hero. He embodies all the anger and sadness of his background. He came from the gutter, rose up to ethereal heights and somehow still managed to throw it all away. The dichotomy of his character makes Mike Tyson one of the most fascinating sports personalities of the last twenty-five years.

At this point in time Tyson does not deserve the sympathy of even the most sympathetic observer. Too much has happened and even Mike seems to have come to the realization that the bed he has slept in is soiled with his own transgressions. He at last seems to understand that he can’t simply point his finger at everyone else and lay blame. Ultimately the blame rests in front of your own feet. In a refreshing moment of candor Tyson recently intimated that he regrets how he squandered his career for fast, easy money. His willingness to buckle down and, apparently, train diligently under the tutelage of the saintly Freddie Roach should indicate a weary realization that this is it. At thirty-eight years old, this is his final shot at redemption.

Should we believe him? Should we again suspend our worst fears about the man and think, just for a moment, that a person so worn out by life and his travails in the ring could possibly resurrect his youth?

It doesn’t really matter. The story of Mike Tyson the fighter has already been written. At his zenith he was an astonishing force of nature. His intimidation factor alone left lesser men quivering before the initial bell. What was even more astonishing though was the whirling dervish of his downward spiral. Tyson’s fall from grace is unprecedented in terms of modern day sports tragedy. From his ascension to the heavyweight throne, through his miserable marriage to Robin Givens, to his convoluted rape conviction (which even his harshest critic has to take exception to in light of his asinine defense), to the humiliation of the Holyfield rematch and on and on… His depressing trajectory into a hellish nightmare of depression and public humiliation became fodder for armchair psychologists. All the while Tyson kept bemoaning his fate, and kept smoking marijuana and kept embarrassing himself. In fact the only time this tabloid hack writer’s dream subject conducted himself with any semblance of dignity was when he fought Lennox Lewis for the title and was beaten to a bloody pulp and dumped to the canvas in the eighth round. He took his beating like a man and seemed to have had all the insanity beaten out of him as well.

Then he got his face tattooed.

Tyson is not a normal human being. Anyone who approaches or achieves greatness on center stage in front of an adoring, yet viciously critical audience simply can’t be normal. Tyson’s impoverished background, lost and alone on the streets of Brooklyn, instilled in him the rage of the neglected and the unloved. Despite wealth and celebrity those hurts don’t heal. Throw such a child into the deceptive and deep, dark waters of the boxing world and it’s little wonder the pages of Tyson’s story turned as they did. Still, at some point, a man has to grow up and take responsibility for his own actions. Tyson still likes to point fingers at others for his troubles. This “woe is me” attitude has simply run its course.

Once Mike Tyson cared about his place in boxing history. He wanted to be remembered as a great fighter – a fighter worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Dempsey, Louis, Marciano and Ali. It’s not clear when exactly he stopped caring, maybe he never stopped and simply resigned himself to the fact that his fistic career will never accord him the accolades of those great fighters. The deviousness of his celebrity overshadows his ring accomplishments.

But maybe Mike Tyson can find some kind of peace of mind. Maybe, in this final run for a title shot, he’ll find some solace in the gym, in his trainer, in his sparring partners and within himself. He’s given everything he’s got, good and bad, to a public who at turns were ready to embrace him and then kick him away. If nothing else comes his way, he deserves a little peace of mind.

Article posted on 21.07.2004

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