Tyson winces at past Contrite: Reflective fighter rues mistakes, says he's determined to be role model for three young daughters.

November 07, 1996|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

LAS VEGAS -- For all the books he read and all the lectures he received about changing his errant ways during his three-year incarceration in an Indiana prison, it took a chance meeting with a fellow prisoner to reveal to Mike Tyson how troubled his past had been.

"I was trying to talk some sense to this guy," recalled Tyson. "But he kept saying, 'Mike, that ain't the real you.' And then he started bragging about all these women and wild partying he was going to do when he got out.

"And I said to myself, 'Wow! It's like looking in a mirror.' This guy was behaving like a juvenile delinquent, and that's just the way I used to be. It was real scary."

Tyson, who defends his World Boxing Association title against Evander Holyfield on Saturday night, briefly let his guard down at Don King's home Tuesday night to reveal a man trying desperately to exorcise his demons and serve as a role model for his three young daughters -- Gina, 7, Miky, 6, and Rayna, 9 months, all of whom were born out of wedlock.

"Now, I have to set an example for my kids," he said. "I have to stop them from doing what their father did. They may want to be rebellious like I was, but I couldn't deal with what my mother had to.

"I'd like to believe my wild behavior was due to financial or environmental reasons, but now I think it was just in me. I remember what the great Jackie Robinson said after his son got hooked on drugs: 'All the kids listen to me except my own.' "

Tyson, who adopted the Muslim faith while in prison, said he has reformed.

"I can't be Mr. Playboy anymore," said Tyson, 30. "That life is over. I gave up a lot of good times to accomplish what I have. Now, I just do my prayers, my fight training and think of my children. I'm not trying to be righteous, just trying to make sure my kids aren't screwed up."

Having earned more than $65 million in three lightning-quick fights since his prison release, Tyson, guaranteed an additional $30 million Saturday night, has established trust funds for his daughters.

"I used to fight to win trophies and belts. Now, it's to open doors for my children. I may go broke, but my kids never will," he said.

"But I can't spoil them. Look what happened to me when I was a millionaire at 19. I was out of control."

Tyson, who would rather talk about the mastery of boxing legends like Joe Gans, Jack Johnson and Ray Robinson than his own ring prowess, said celebrities should be more conscious of the impressions they make on young minds.

"When I was 14, Roberto Duran was my big hero," he said. "I was intoxicated with his style and passion for fighting. But his 'No mas' fight in his rematch with Ray Leonard really devastated me. For the longest time, I couldn't deal with it."

Because of his rape conviction and past indiscretions, Tyson realizes he will never be a hero like Joe Louis, or, to a lesser extent, the well-regarded Holyfield, who wears the white hat in Saturday's morality play.

"I'm not trying to make anyone love me, just to respect me. I feel fTC deserve that," he said.

Speaking to some two dozen reporters on election eve, Tyson displayed an interest in politics and expressed regret at being disenfranchised.

"When you're an ex-felon, you can't vote," he said. "That's regrettable, because it's only been in the last few years I've been conscious of wanting to vote."

Given a chance to vote, Tyson said he would have supported welfare reform.

"I know that may not be popular with the minorities, but I think people use welfare as a crutch. It takes away your dignity, pride and zest for fighting the odds.

"Do you know this is the first time the Tyson family has been off welfare? For someone from my background who's been in prison, that's pretty incredible."

When the conversation finally returned to his chosen profession, Tyson was asked if he still had a zest for fighting.

"Boxing is still interesting," he said. "Sometimes, when I'm in my dressing room before a fight and put on the gloves, I say to myself, 'I can't believe I like doing this.'

"But there hasn't been anything else I've been successful at. And, at $30 million a pop, I guess I'm doing pretty good."

Then he quickly returned to the more pleasant topic of fatherhood.

"Do you get up in the middle of night and change diapers?" a man asked.

"Yes, I've done that," he said with a broad smile. "Now, I know I'm capable of doing it; just in case of an emergency."

Tale of the tape

How Saturday's Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield fight measures up:

........... MT ..... EH

Record ... 45-1 .. 32-3

Age ........ 30 .... 34

Weight .... 219 ... 211

Height .. 5-11 1/2 .. 6-2 1/2

Reach ...... 71 ... 77 1/2

Chest ...... 43 .... 43

Biceps ..... 16 .... 16

Forearm .... 14 ... 12 1/2

Waist ...... 34 .... 32

Thigh ...... 27 .... 22

Calf ....... 19 .... 13

Neck ...... 20 1/2 19 1/2

Wrist ....... 8 .... 7 1/2

Fist ....... 13 ... 12 1/2 Pub Date: 11/07/96

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