In search for clues to Tyson's brutality, King, Givens loom as strong influences

March 29, 1992|By Steve Jacobson | Steve Jacobson,Newsday

Maybe if Don King had never gotten his hair into Mike Tyson's life, this wouldn't have happened. It would be so comfortable and pleasing to blame King for tearing off the veneer of civilization that was being cultivated on this man and returning him to the brutality of the streets.

We can see the morality play of Jekyll and Hyde, of good pulling against evil and evil winning out, permitting this man who lived by a brutal business to grab, paw, hurt or abuse people when the urge moved him.

It is a tragedy that any human should have to spend six years in prison. It is more a tragedy that he should have raped a woman; she will live with the experience all her life. There are indications that she was not his first victim, and the judge in Indianapolis refused to release him on bail because she feared there would be more.

What Tyson indicated Thursday at his sentencing was not remorse; he said he had not hurt anyone. And in his mind, perhaps he had not.

Perhaps if Cus D'Amato and Jimmy Jacobs had lived and kept their influence on Tyson, perhaps if the likes of Bill Cayton, Steve Lott and Kevin Rooney had been able to fight off the devil King and the harpies Robin Givens and her mother, Ruth Roper, this Tyson would never have emerged. Cayton, Lott and Rooney would like to have it seen that way. They have their ax to grind, understandably. And maybe they're right.

We'll never know. Maybe the brute inside was too much for any social restraints short of handcuffs and prison bars. Tyson got what he deserved Thursday -- except Rooney, the trainer, argues that King and Givens should have to serve time with him. It is as if they deliberately fed the animal. But maybe there was no

civilizing that animal.

Cayton and Lott -- manager and assistant manager -- say they were making progress until King and Givens took over. "He was coming along magnificently," said Lott, who had virtually lived with Tyson much of the time. "Then Cus died and Mike got married and King moved in."

Certainly Cayton and Lott were making money from Tyson until King and Givens took over the business. "I would say Mike was positively not a time bomb waiting to explode," Cayton said from his New York office. "The key to his ultimate destruction, I'd say, began with his marriage to those two women -- they came as a team -- and their conspiracy to steal him from Jimmy Jacobs and me. King worked with them and got his tentacles on Mike."

D'Amato found Tyson in a reformatory upstate when he was 13. "He was an animal on the streets of Brooklyn," Lott said. "By his own accounts, he was mugging people left and right like any punk on the street."

From there, D'Amato began by teaching Tyson how to eat dinner at the table with knife and fork. "Mike wanted to be a fighter," Lott said. "Cus told him it was more important to be a person. For a period of five years, Cus painstakingly peeled off layers of hate, racism and distrust. Cus knew he had to do that to get to the person inside, and for him to be a fighter it was important to show the basic person what a fighter should or should not be."

What Tyson showed in the ring on his rise to the championship was savagery. What Lott and Cayton say they tried to teach was that Dempsey and Louis and Marciano fought with savagery, but were gentlemen outside the ring; they learned the distinction. "He was certainly likable before King's permissiveness," Cayton said. "King would never correct Mike; he felt if he did, Mike would walk out. Jim and me would call Mike in if he did something and he'd never do it again."

Lott maintains that in 1988, with the marriage to Givens and Jacobs' death, King took over and deliberately put back the layers of evil. "King and the animals he put around Mike took him back to the streets of Brooklyn," Lott said. "Things he would do or say to women, things he said to the press, he never did before. King was acting to keep Mike from maturing; the last thing he wanted was for him to be his own man."

Givens left her imprint. To get Tyson to marry her, she claimed he had made her pregnant, which she wasn't. One of her first acts, Lott says, came after she soon discovered that Tyson was sending $15,000 or $20,000 a year to Camile Ewald, the aged woman in whose home Tyson lived in Catskill, N.Y. It was a pittance for a man making millions. Givins insisted that Tyson make the woman change her will to give the house to Tyson. "She told me, 'My husband will punch you in the . . . head,' and I knew she had conned him," Lott said.

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