On August 24, Mike Tyson made the painful admission that he is still suffering from drug and alcohol problems. After a long of history of personal issues that included a three year period in jail for rape, Tyson seemed to have turned himself around in recent years. In discussing his problems, Tyson openly discussed how he was giving everyone the impression that he had turned the corner on these issues, but it was all a lie. He said that as of August 24 he has been sober for six days, but if he cannot continue it he will be dead soon.
The news that Tyson is still struggling hit me pretty hard. I am a huge Mike Tyson fan. I always have been. I was just starting high school when he knocked Trevor Berbick from one side of the ring to the other as he became the youngest heavyweight champion of all time. That fight made Tyson fights events that nobody wanted to miss.
Tyson was the champion all during my high school years, and next to Michael Jordan he was the biggest thing in sports. The anticipation I felt when his fights approached was almost too much to bear. He fought every second of every round with bad intentions and let it all hang out. Looking back at his fights I realize that, while he was powerful and aggressive, he was not the most technical of fighters, but at the time all I knew was that he was a bad man.
Everything started to change when the Barbara Walters interview aired. Watching him sit silently while Robin Givens described their life together as “pure hell” was shocking. He continued to destroy his opponents in the ring but odd stories from outside of the ring started hitting the news, like the time he wrecked a Bentley in the middle of the night.
Through it all I never stopped cheering for Tyson. I vividly remember the night he lost to Buster Douglas. I argued with anyone who would listen that the fight should have been ruled a knockout for Tyson earlier when Douglas received a long count that allowed to him to get to his feet before being counted out. It all seemed downhill for Tyson after that loss, from the rape trial to the jail time to the unbelievable Holyfield ear-biting episode.
Tyson himself always brought up the early death of boxing great Sonny Liston. He was afraid that he would suffer the same fate as Liston. It seemed that when passing the age at which Liston died made Tyson feel a little better about his own fate. He acknowledged drug and alcohol issues during this time but was fighting to turn himself around.
It seemed for a while like he had. His appearance in “The Hangover” was fantastic, as was the documentary that was simply titled “Tyson.” Tyson’s one-man Broadway show, “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth,” is a monster hit. Tyson gave the impression that through all this success he had turned his demons away and was living the life that many feel like sporting legends deserve.
It seems that, at least for Mike Tyson, there is no “happily ever after.” This is a man who has had to fight his entire life. He fought to make something of his life as a boxer and then again to become a success later in life. However, it seems like every time Tyson finds success he has trouble dealing with it. This latest episode only confirms that opinion.
I will always be a Tyson fan. I remember with great fondness the moment right before a Tyson fight started, when everyone was exiting the ring, leaving only the two fighters and referee. In that moment it felt like anything could happen and it could only be good for Tyson. It still feels like anything could happen with him but that almost none of it will be good. I for one will always be pulling for him to win this battle. Good luck Mike.