Let’s get something straight: Kimbo Slice is not Mike Tyson. He’s not a Tyson-like figure. There’s no “aura of Tyson” around him, no impending “Kimbo Slice’s Punch Out” ready to hit shelves. It’s a bad analogy. If you don’t believe me, just look at the people who keep making it.
First it was Gary Shaw, who kept bringing it up in last week’s media conference call. His thesis was, essentially, that while Kimbo doesn’t have many fights he does have the same kind of energy and popularity that made Tyson a star in the eighties and early nineties.
It’s not hard to see why Shaw likes this comparison. Just as Don King made a lot of money off “Iron Mike”, Shaw stands to do the same in regards to Kimbo. I don’t fault Shaw for drawing the comparison and attempting to force it on others. He’s a promoter. That’s what he does. But the rest of us should know better than to swallow that message without thinking about it.
For instance, Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports starts a recent column with this sentence: “It’s hardly a stretch to suggest that Kimbo Slice is the Mike Tyson of the 21st century.”
Really? It’s not a stretch to suggest that a guy with a 3-0 pro record is the 21st century version of a once-dominant heavyweight boxing champion? Seriously?
Let’s imagine for a moment that this is a true statement. If it were, it would prove only that the 21st century is dumber than the late 20th century. It would mean that we live in a time that values the cult of celebrity over actual accomplishment, and that we have become so obsessed with fame that we have lost the ability to make qualitative value judgments.
This isn’t a knock on Kimbo. I’m not saying Kimbo isn’t talented or that he won’t accomplish anything in the sport, only that he hasn’t yet. Consider that when Tyson turned pro he’d already become a national Golden Gloves champion and had more than twenty amateur fights to his credit. He went on to become the youngest heavyweight champ in boxing history before his colossal collapse.
Kimbo hasn’t done anything meaningful in the sport of MMA as of yet. Even if it were accurate to compare him to Tyson, it would just mean that as a century this one is off to a very stupid start.
I’d like to think that isn’t true. I’d like to think that we are not just a generation of raccoons who love any shiny object so much that we can’t tell the difference between stainless steel and a ball of tinfoil. Then again, I’d like to think that someone who writes about sports for a living would do his own thinking before buying Gary Shaw’s hazy logic about Kimbo’s mass appeal.
Shaw told Iole that Kimbo is a superstar right now because he has an “it factor” that is evident when they go to restaurants together.
“I’ve been to a high-class steakhouse with Kimbo and I’ve seen it,” Shaw said. “People, not just the young kids, all stand up and say, ‘Kimbo! Hey, there’s Kimbo!’
“You could take most of the best fighters in the world and have them walk into a place like that and the maître d would say, ‘OK, we’ll have a table for you in 40 minutes.’ Kimbo is a superstar right now, and he’s only going to get bigger.”
This is exactly my point, this kind of reasoning that Shaw spouts off and Iole accepts. Kimbo is a “superstar” because he is recognized in public. He’s a star because he’s treated like one, because people have seen his face. He’s famous because he’s famous.
It’s a terrible logic that conflates being recognized in steakhouses with having climbed to the pinnacle of a given field, the way Tyson did. It’s a useless comparison that only serves to make the person who believes it look absolutely clueless.
Enough. Kimbo Slice is not Mike Tyson. They’re both black, they’re both fighters, they’re both famous. The same is true of “Rampage” Jackson. At least he has established himself as a legitimate champion.
Maybe if Dana White can prove Jackson’s celebrity status to Iole with a trip to Ruth’s Chris we can start making “Rampage”-Tyson comparisons. It would be a welcome improvement.