Rolling with punches, Tyson says he regrets misspent life

Bankrupt boxer returns to ring Friday night

Boxing

July 26, 2004|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

He has blown millions of dollars in purses and been incarcerated twice during the past 18 years since being crowned the youngest heavyweight champion at the age of 20.

But even at rock bottom, Mike Tyson was "too wimpy to commit suicide."

"I [often] said I wished I wasn't born," Tyson confesses to Roy Firestone in a Face 2 Face segment scheduled to air tonight on HDNet.

"Doing the total censorship [suicide] at its finest hour ... I really don't know if I'm capable of doing something like that."

Firestone, who conducted the 30-minute interview at Central Boxing Club in Phoenix, where the former champion (50-4, 44 knockouts) is training for Saturday's 10-round bout with Englishman Danny Williams (31-3, 26 knockouts) in Louisville, Ky., told The Sun after the interview that he sees "a more human and mortal" Tyson.

Tyson says on the segment that he "was a glutton for pain." The 38-year-old says the mothers of three of his five children "never let me hang out with the kids alone."

"I've been blessed to meet a lot of good women, but sometimes my antics turn them into bitter women," says Tyson, who long was unrepentant after a 1992 rape conviction. "The thought of somebody dating my daughter, or her dating anybody that resembles me in any fashion - I would just die of a heart attack."

The HDNet show airs tonight at 9 and midnight, Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. and Thursday at 1 a.m.

"I've done more television interviews with Mike Tyson probably than anybody, seen him through all kinds of ugly, nasty, unforgivable experiences," Firestone said. "In the many reincarnations of Mike Tyson, this is the most humble Mike Tyson I've ever seen."

Michael Katz, a 35-year veteran of boxing coverage, also saw a different Tyson during a one-on-one earlier this month.

It contrasted with the Tyson who, during a 1999 road-rage incident, kicked one elderly man in the groin and punched another in the face in Rockville.

It contrasted with the Tyson who once said he wished to kick in the heads and stomp on the private parts of reporters' children, and to eat the offspring of former champion Lennox Lewis.

And it contrasted with the Tyson who nearly bit off Evander Holyfield's ear in the ring, who tried to do the same to Lewis' thigh during a news conference fracas and who once hoped to "smear [Lewis'] pompous brains all over the ring when I hit him."

"Mike Tyson spoke of responsibility for the wrongs he's done. There's a maturity and growth about him. He's no longer that little kid from the wrong side of the tracks who was never socialized, reined in or disciplined," Katz said. "Mike can put on the charm as well as any con man, but this time, he was different."

But USA Today's Dan Rafael and boxing historian Thomas Hauser are among those who aren't sold on the new Tyson.

"People say, `Mike deserves a second chance,' " Hauser said. "Well, Mike has had a second, and a third, and a fourth and a fifth chance. He'll continue to get chances because he's the money machine."

Boxing's biggest draw, Tyson once boasted of surpassing Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis and Jack Johnson in popularity. He has been in eight of the top 12 highest-grossing pay-per-view fights and nine of the top 20 events.

But Tyson has been softened, Firestone said, by bankruptcy. He owes $38.4 million to creditors, including nearly $9 million to ex-wife Monica Turner and approximately $18 million to the Internal Revenue Service.

"He's 38 years old, broke and has only his fists," Firestone said of a man who has owned more than 100 cars, six mansions and two Bengal tigers. Tyson now reportedly lives in the $100,000, two-bedroom home of an acquaintance, drives a not-yet-paid-for Hummer and had to catch a cab to a recent training session, Firestone said.

Tyson's attorneys have laid out a plan in federal bankruptcy court in New York under which he'll fight seven times during the next three years.

Tyson dropped a $100 million lawsuit against promoter Don King in exchange for a settlement in which King must pay $8 million up front, an additional $3 million in January 2005 and $3 million in January 2006.

"I've buried all of my hatchets," Tyson says of King.

But Rafael, with whom Tyson nearly became violent during an interview, doesn't buy it.

"Mike Tyson has conned us far too many times in the past," Rafael said. "The only way Tyson can prove himself is by showing us in his actions. Otherwise, we've seen it all before."

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