If you listen to former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson nowadays you’d never believe this is the same guy who once said of his opponent, Lennox Lewis, “I want to eat his children.”
The current Mike Tyson is a husband, father, businessman, and boxing promoter. His company in Deerfield Beach (Fla.), Iron Mike Promotions, hosted an IBF junior lightweight title fight Thursday at AmericanAirlines Arena. All of that is a blessing.
Heck, the fact that Tyson, 48, is still alive, might dig his way out of millions of dollars of debt by next year, and is able to be a contributing member of society leads you to believe he’s blessed.
“That’s an understatement,” Tyson said in a telephone interview. “Being blessed, that’s an understatement. I’m something beyond that. Because what am I doing breathing right now? How am I alive right now?
“I don’t deserve the wife that I have, and the children that I have. They’re too good for me, I say sometimes. But then I decide I do deserve them because I put in the work to be in this position. It didn’t come under osmosis. I suffered for it.
“I worked for everything I have, but I don’t have everything I worked for.”
He then laughed heartily. Tyson has come a long way since, well, for example, biting off a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear, or almost overdosing on cocaine.
He’s had a successful one-man show on Broadway, authored a book, and has a TV show, Mike Tyson Mysteries (on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim), which begins its second season in the fall.
This is a new Mike Tyson. He’s sober, regularly attends Alcoholic Anonymous meetings, and seems to have some depth.
“I never believed that I could have a life like this,” he said. “I never believed I could be a decent husband, a decent father. I’m being responsible. I’ve never in my life been responsible from a human perspective.”
Tyson is even amazed at the things he used to say and do.
“Man to man, talking to you about this,” Tyson said, “I say to myself about that [expletive] in the past, ‘What was that about?’
“Like sometimes I’m at a press conference and I’m totally irate, screaming, like somebody had abused people in my family or something crazy, cursing at people, scratching at people and I’m saying to myself, ‘What is that about? What was going on in my life?’
“I was telling my wife, I said, ‘Baby, if I was in a room with that guy I’d be uncomfortable. I wouldn’t feel safe.’ ”
Tyson’s show, “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth,” discussed his life and played to critical acclaim. Tyson knew the performance was a risk, but he embraced the challenge.
“I won’t do anything unless I risk humiliating myself because it allows me to rise to my highest potential,” he said, “because I don’t want to be humiliated because my whole life was about being humiliated.”
Asked what he meant by that, Tyson said: “I’m speaking on basically being a young kid and being bullied and being picked on, being teased a lot.
“And even when I became champion being really erratic, being very emotional and immature and really getting a lot of backlash. Even though I ignored it and I played to it, it really was kind of humiliating and embarrassing.”
Losing millions to promoter Don King was also humiliating and embarrassing. But Tyson has let that go. He’s a new man.
“I’m not angry at Don,” he said. “Most of the reason I was so tyrannical in our relationship after we broke up was because I loved the guy. We were close to one another and those are the worst kinds of breakups. I’ve come to the conclusion it’s time to grow up. You can’t have any kind of resentments because the resentments are going to kill me.
“I’m not going to succeed in life or in my potential as long as I have those resentments. And that’s what I learned in AA. In order for you to stay sober, I don’t care how determined I am, I can’t stay sober if I have resentments. There’s no way. It’s not going to happen. I don’t care who you are, it’s not going to happen. That’s going be a reason to get high, get loaded or drink.
“This is what I’ve learned in life. They may be broke and they made be destitute and they may be homeless even, but there ain’t no such thing as an old fool. They may look bad, they may be down and out, but they ain’t no fool. Ain’t so such thing as an old fool. They’re just not doing well right now.”