Mike Tyson: I’m in a good place…but if I met the younger me he wouldn’t be nice ©

Chief Sports Writer Oliver Holt met former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world Mike Tyson and discovered a mellowed man who has put his demons behind him.

Mellowed man: Mike Tyson looks back on a successful, but controversial, career

Mellowed man: Mike Tyson looks back on a successful, but controversial, career

The baddest man on the planet is no more.

He is an ogre only in our memories now. The savage fighter, the man polite society came to regard as a monster, is finally at rest.

The rage that defined him inside and outside the ring, the rage that terrified his opponents and thrilled his fans, is at bay.

When Mike Tyson thinks about the way he was and the things he used to do, he laughs sadly.

Once, more than a decade ago, he told a group of British journalists that he had grown “old too soon, smart too late”.

But against all expectations and in defiance of the violent chaos that used to rule his life, he has reached middle age.

And now that he is there, he has found the happiness that once seemed far beyond his reach.

On Friday, he will begin a six-night one-man show at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas called Undisputed Truth where he will lay bare his life and career.

He topped the bill at the MGM many times, including the night he bit off a chunk of Evander Holyfield’s ear. This time, he promises he mood will be different.

And even though his tone can still veer with unsettling speed from articulate ­introspection to fierce disdain, it is clear that at 45, he is embracing this new phase of his life.

“I am a big glory freak,” Tyson says. “I am an ego-maniac. I like being a peacock and strutting on the stage.

“I guess I was born to ­entertain. It just happens that the first way I found of doing that was by fighting.

“Now I have moved on to another way. Fighting, dancing, singing, telling stories.

“I make people cry now but in a sympathetic way, not because I am causing them pain.”

He is revelling in his new direction. He has a new generation of fans now, people who know him as the cameo star of The Hangover movies, admirers who saw him inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame in Miami a fortnight ago.

I remind him about what he said about being “smart too late” and he laughs again. “Better late than never,” he says.

He talks now with a mixture of pity and curiosity about the kid who became, at 20, the youngest world heavyweight champion there has ever been.

He never watches footage of the night in 1986 when he destroyed Trevor Berbick at the Las Vegas Hilton and sent him stumbling round the ring like a drunk.

“No way,” Tyson says, retreating from his former self. “I never watch any of those fights now. If I met that young guy right now, I know he wouldn’t be nice to me. I don’t like the person I was back then.

“He had no reason to be so angry. All that money and he still wanted to be angry. I should have been a little kid having fun.

“I want to stay away from that place where I was. I had to be that frightening person to reach the top.

“Looking back, I suppose I had to make people ­frightened of me because I was an ­insecure kid.”

Iron Mike: In his prime Tyson was dubbed "The Baddest Man on the Planet"

Iron Mike: In his prime Tyson was dubbed "The Baddest Man on the Planet"

The truth, of course, is that there were plenty of reasons for Tyson to be angry.

His father deserted the family when Tyson was two and Tyson ran wild in the notorious Brooklyn suburb of Brownsville.

He had been arrested 38 times by the age of 13 and spent several years in Borstal before he was taken into the care of boxing trainer Cus D’Amato.

The rage stayed with Tyson throughout his boxing career, unsatisfied by the accolades, the titles and the millions that he won.

He served three years in jail after being convicted of rape and the rage grew worse as he began to decline.

By the time he agreed to fight Lennox Lewis at the start of 2002, Tyson was gripped by self-loathing.

In January that year, I sat a few rows back from the stage at the Hudson Theatre in New York for the formal fight announcement.

It turned into a brawl. Tyson threw a punch at Lewis’s minder and all hell broke loose.

When Tyson emerged from the melee, standing on the stage like the Hulk unchained, a journalist standing behind me who called himself “Scoop” Malinowski baited him.

“Someone get a straitjacket,” Malinowski yelled. “He’s an animal. He belongs in a zoo.”

Tyson looked as if he was about to climb down into the audience and take him out. He wanted to. That was obvious.

Instead, he settled for screaming and gesturing at him from the stage and ­threatening to introduce him to a form of prison romance.

Tyson was a man out of control. “By the time I was fighting Lennox Lewis I was so miserable I just wished somebody would have shot me,” he says.

“I hated myself and ­everything around me. I heard Sugar Ray Leonard talking recently about how difficult he found it when his career was ending but it was 10 times worse for me.

“Imagine if he was in the position I was in when my career was over and he was not fighting any more and they were still treating him like he was the champ.

“People still treat you like you’re the champ but you aren’t sh**.

“There is no way I miss boxing but if I was 17 or 18 years old again, it is still the first thing I would do.

“When I was fighting, I was at my best. It was easy money for me. I would be a fighter again if I was a kid.

“But my life has moved on. The WWE Hall of Fame night was one of the highlights of my life because my kids were there.

“I wanted them to see that Mike. I don’t want them to know nothing about that other guy that I used to be. Now I’m trying to do all the right things.

“Am I happy? Well, as long as I’m not fighting with my wife and she is not running out the house in the middle of the night with my kids, I am happy.

“This is a different stage of my life. I had children before, I was in love before but I was never committed. My life is stable now. I am cool. I am where I want to be.”

Wrestling icon: Despite his boxing success, he says being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame was one of his proudest moments

Wrestling icon: Despite his boxing success, he says being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame was one of his proudest moments

Tyson, who suffered tragedy three years ago when his four-year-old daughter Exodus was killed in a freak accident, is still a compelling man. There is still a fierce intensity lurking behind his softly-spoken words.

It emerges now and again, mocking Frank Bruno for crossing himself as he came into the ring before one of their fights or railing against first wife Robin Givens.

There is intensity too when he talks about the history of boxing. For five minutes, he breaks off into a eulogy about Ted “Kid” Lewis and the great Jewish fighters.

He carried the spirit of men like that with him when he fought, Tyson says. It helped give him the air of ­invincibility he once carried.

“I think the ­heavyweight scene is pretty good right now,” Tyson says.

“The Klitschkos are doing great. They are beating everyone. It’s not their fault that there is not enough competition.

“What David Haye did in Munich when he had that brawl with Chisora, that was not good. That was the kind of stupid stuff I once did.

“I thought that when I was watching it. No one did as much as me to bring boxing low.

“Haye and Chisora would have had to go some to beat what I did. At least Haye didn’t bite anyone’s ear off. They’ve got to do a bit more to get down to the level I was at. What they did was nothing.

“But I don’t buy the idea that today’s fighters are not as good as the old fighters. If you had asked Joe Frazier if he could beat me when I was at my best, he would have said ‘hell, yes’. That’s the way boxing goes.

“I think I could beat the next generation of fighters but the reality of history is that the fighters get better and better, bigger and bigger and stronger and stronger.

“I was bigger than Rocky Marciano and I was not even one of the big guys in my generation.”

The conversation draws to a close. Tyson has to rehearse for his show. He thanks me for being respectful, as if it is something he is still getting used to.

“I feel good,” he says. ­

“Everything is beautiful right now. I have no control over anything or anyone but myself.”

mirror.co.uk™©

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About Tommy Z.™

Just A Human Want's To Live A Life View all posts by Tommy Z.™

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