(Eat up Mr. Feathers. I chewed up these worms and grubs special for you.)
From the time he first began knocking out anyone who was foolish enough to stare across a boxing ring at him, Mike Tyson has been one of the most polarizing fighters in professional sports.
From his highly publicized problematic personal life that included a stint in prison for a rape he still contends never took place to his falling out with promoter Don King and his business managers who he says all robbed him blind, Tyson walked a thin, yet precarious line of contradiction between the seemingly invincible, cold, calculated killer in the ring and the frail, emotional and mental midget outside of it.
If you were a fan of boxing in the 90s, you were more than likely a fan of Tyson. Pound for pound, many feel he was the best fighter who ever competed. He was the "Anderson Silva" or the "Fedor Emelianenko" of boxing long before either fighter ever competed in a cage or ring.
In recent years, the former champ who was purportedly once worth more than $300 million has suffered a lifetime’s worth of tragedy and tribulation, claiming bankruptcy in 2003 and tragically losing his four-year-old daughter in 2009.
In a recent Q&A with Details magazine, at times during the interview Iron Mike displays a level of intellect that went previously unnoticed, due perhaps to his large number of mental lapses in judgment over the years.
Here’s what Tyson, who was once in talks to fight Bob Sapp in K-1 had to say about a number of topics including his turbulent life and career and what went wrong with both of them:
On how he feels about his fans:
"Objectively, I’m a pig. That’s why it’s very difficult for me when people are offering me all that adulation and love. I just feel dirty. These people want to hug me, they want to touch me, and I’m feeling like, "Get your fucking hands off me." I feel that energy of theirs, and it’s just filth and murder. It’s not that they’re bad people necessarily; it’s just that they did something bad, and you can feel it on them. I have to go and wash up before I touch my own kids."
On his old neighborhood:
"I went back to Brownsville with my reality-TV-show crew, they’re doing a segment about my childhood racing pigeons, and Brownsville’s all upscale now. They got surveillance cameras, buildings that were abandoned cost, like, a million now, and I’m thinking, My life must’ve been a lie, ’cause there’s nothing there that looks like my childhood. This white woman come up, and I’m thinking, ‘Wow. When I was a kid, she would’ve been robbed and raped and left for dead. This is a real strange scenario, and I just wanted to cry. I’m like, "Who am I? Where’s my heritage?"
On still being alive at 44 in spite of himself:
"I only know I’m not supposed to be here. I’m supposed to be in prison for murder. I’m supposed to be dead by now, have AIDS or something.
I never thought I’d make it to 25, man. People just gotta love each other, treat each other better. I don’t know about the Zen stuff to transcend to. I still got that fire in my heart, and it just burns, man. I don’t want to have any misconceptions here. I’m not a pacifist and never will be. I still get angry, and I still scream. I can talk about humility, but I’m not humble. I mean, if you say, ‘I’m humble,’ you’ve just contradicted yourself. But I’m trying to be, man, I’m trying so hard."
On his tumultuous life:
"My life is like a tornado, a fucking hurricane. It’s like I’m a naked tornado that comes through a city and there’s just so much wreckage. There’s so much destruction, and when it’s finally over, it’s like the morning after and you’re sober and…what the fuck happened here?"
On how he mastered the art of intimidation:
"I studied every fighter in history, at my manager’s house up in Catskill, ’cause he had all the greatest fights on film, he had every last one of them, and I watched them all, every night. They were all so vicious, man. Jake LaMotta, Henry Armstrong, Carmen Basilio. Sugar Ray—God, he was vicious. But Jack Dempsey more than anyone. All these guys let you know they wanted to murder you, and they’d take shots from you, over and over and over, get beat senseless, just so they could get theirs in. Sugar Ray maybe most of all. But Jack Dempsey? He wanted to maim you. He didn’t want you dead. He wanted you to suffer. He wanted to shatter your eye socket, destroy your cheeks, your chinbone. That’s what I learned from Mr. Dempsey, and I believe I learned it well."
On what he learned from Ali:
"Believe it or not, with all that poetry and the butterflies, what I learned from Ali was meanness. He was the meanest fighter of all time. He’d be in there with Foreman, hardest puncher of all time, he’d be in there with Frazier, another hardest puncher, and he’d be taking it, boom, getting pounded, and then he’d turn, when it was his time, and you’d look at that face, and he’s screaming. [Does an Ali impression] ‘I’m not [Throws a punch] scared [Throws a punch] of you, you fucking faggot. [Throws two punches] You fucking punk. I’m fucking God, and worship me. I’m the greatest. [Throws two punches] You’re a little fucking boy, cocksucker.’ Nobody at ringside reported it, but nobody shit-talked like Ali."
On controlling emotions in the ring:
"There’s no rage and terror in boxing. If there is, they’re counting to 10 over you."
On his definition of discipline:
"Discipline is doing what you hate to do, but nonetheless doing it like you love it."
On whether or not he has found a mentor to replace Cus D’Amato:
"I’m not a guru follower. I have to be my own Cus. I have to be the man who takes the boy under his wing, protects him, knows him better than himself. I’m still that little boy; I just have to learn how to protect him a little better."
On what led to the first loss of his pro career against Buster Douglas:
"I just stopped caring. I just stopped feeling Cus inside me. All those headlines. I didn’t care about boxing. And when Douglas got up after I knocked him down and came back at me—I didn’t have it in me. I didn’t have it in me when I knocked him down, either. It’s just…more power to him, he got up. Nobody else had."
On what went wrong against Holyfield:
"Man, I didn’t care about boxing anymore. I was wrong to do that—all wrong—all crazy to do that. But that wasn’t about boxing. I just wanted to fucking maim him. I had no business being in that ring. A year out of prison, 16 months out of prison, already with two belts to defend? I had no business with those belts. I was already done. They put you, a writer, in prison, for three years, hands tied behind your back. Then they put you up against some hack, and you outwrite him, and they give you two awards. And then I put you up against a Nobel Prize winner? Absurd."
On what went through his mind before he bit Holyfield’s ear:
"I wasn’t thinking. I wasn’t training for that fight. I was on fucking drugs, thinking I was a god. I should’ve been home with my family, man. My kids."
On Bruce Lee’s influence on his life and career:
"Yeah, and I would never disrespect Bruce, but it wasn’t his fighting that really got to me. There was too much showmanship there, even in his real fights. It’s his philosophy—the best ever, off the hook: "You must be like water. The most insignificant substance but the strongest and most destructive force on the planet." You have to be both weak and strong. Strong alone is not enough. You cannot reign if you have not served. If you have not served a king, how can you ever know what it’s like to demand that kind of obeying? That’s water-deep. That’s the ocean. Everything he did was extreme. He wasn’t no nice guy, and people don’t like extremists. But he was a perfectionist."
On why he got his Che Guevara tattoo:
"You know, physically, he was just a pussy. He walked into this room, people would think he’s a wimp. He can’t kick no one’s ass. But his intensity, his tenacity. Wow, it’s like: What kind of guy is this? He was a doctor, man. He was a wimp. And then he’s a killer? A revolutionary. He got turned out! But they got him. They got him good. And when that guy came to shoot him? The guy respected him, and he hesitated. Che said, "You gonna shoot me? C’mon, shoot me, you fucking pussy."