Mike Tyson’s latest act in life begins with comeback fight against Roy Jones Jr.
Idle hands are the devil’s workshop — the saying can ring true especially during a pandemic. There are few people in the world who’ve let their hands go more ferociously, or had more divisive dates with the devil, than Mike Tyson.
Tyson has journeyed through his roller coaster of a ride called life in the public eye since he became the youngest heavyweight champion in 1986. His wild moments have been chronicled exhaustively. The stories and scenes transcend age, race and language, and he’s still one of the most recognizable names in the world.
Tyson has been knocked down far too many times in life to count. Whether it be surviving a broken home, being arrested 38 times by the age of 13, serving a prison sentence for rape, losing hundreds of millions in dollars en route to bankruptcy, battling drug addiction, tragically losing a child or displaying an unhealthy buffet of volatile behavior, the setbacks outside of a boxing ring have been more prolific than his losses inside one.
No matter the magnitude of the blows, however, “The Baddest Man on the Planet” has always gotten back up from his checkered past. It’s what fighters do. Iron Mike has an iron spirit and more than just a puncher’s chance at anything he tries.
Although he has painfully detailed his successes and shortcomings in a one-man Broadway show and autobiography, Tyson is still adding to his story, turning the page and starring in his latest act in life at the age of 54.
Former L.A. Times boxing writer Bill Dwyre says the sport is intoxicating, fascinating, mind-boggling — not in the ring, but everything outside it.
“I can’t reintroduce myself. I don’t know who I am either. You have to accept what you perceive from me,” said Tyson.
During spring lockdown, idle hands led Tyson to exercise a lot more. He’d already knocked out obesity but was still sporting a paunch. Fifteen-minute treadmill runs at home evolved into two-hour sessions. Then suddenly, a ring reentered the picture, and Tyson took the internet and social media by storm when he released a series of explosive workout videos viciously hitting mitts and mauling through heavy bags with the same force as in his prime.
In parallel, TV networks aired Tyson fight reruns and scored significant ratings. Sports-starved fans started wondering if Tyson would contemplate a comeback.
It turned out Tyson was wondering as well; his ego was reignited and, as he framed it, the gods of war revived him and asked for more.
Fifteen years after a faded Tyson quit on his stool against little-known journeyman Kevin McBride and retired, he’s announced his return to the ring against Roy Jones Jr. in an eight-round exhibition match Saturday at Staples Center on Triller pay-per-view.
Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth, Tyson once famously proclaimed.
Tyson has rolled with the punches in life, and now he’ll get punched in the face in public for the first time since 2005 — only this time as a graying former boxer turned businessman looking to extend his commercial brand.
As with many of his ventures, Tyson has paired the pugilistic resuscitation with a business plan. The fight against Jones is the flagship event of his newly launched Legends Only League, a sports startup designed to bring back the stars of yesteryear and engage them in competition in whatever ways their bodies will allow.
He’s also adamant that part of his $10 million payday will be donated to a series of charities, including Mike Tyson Cares, Standing United and My Yellow Shirt.
“Life is all about giving. We can’t die with wealth. It’s about spreading it,” said Tyson.
Tyson says his newfound demeanor is about living selflessly and using his power and platform to change lives. This is the sentiment he repeatedly shares while burning through mounds of marijuana.
Recently, the Brownsville, N.Y.-bred and now Newport Beach-based Hall of Fame fighter has been steadily growing his promising cannabis company and Tyson Ranch brand from El Segundo headquarters.
Tyson is now even-keeled and mild-mannered. He once unnecessarily apologized during our 2019 interview, a far cry from his self-destructive days when he could blow up and berate anyone sitting across from him.
He previously has detailed how he’s gone sour on the sweet science, and how he gets hives and sweats anytime he’s near a boxing gym.
“I was always a nobody and boxing made me somebody,” said Tyson. “I feared myself, because I wanted to live up to that fake image.”
Tyson and Jones both insist their fight won’t be some sham or ballyhooed ballet peppering shots and looking busy. They are both promising a real fight, although the California State Athletic Commission has told them to engage in a friendly and glorified sparring session using 12-ounce gloves over two-minute rounds to limit damage to the quinquagenarians, even without headgear.
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Tyson says fighting and competition still give him an orgasmic twinkle, and for the man who once said he could sell out Madison Square Garden simply by masturbating, many are still willing to pay $50 to see what he has left in the tank.
“When I’m on that stage, my subconscious hates that person,” said Tyson. “I have to ask my wife [Lakiha “Kiki” Spicer] and people what I was like in my 20s and 30s. I don’t really even remember my boxing career, or how I felt in particular fights. In my conscience and my ego, maybe I have shamed myself from that profession, so I blacked that out. I have guilt from that particular field that I was in.”
For the purpose of this fight, Tyson has abstained from marijuana, but the business opportunities that come with his association in the industry are burning brightly. Tyson already licenses his likeness on cannabis strains such as Purple Punch and KO Kush, and he’s welcoming discovery platform Weedmaps to be one of the main sponsors of the fight, hoping to help pave a path for other cannabis companies to partner with major sporting events.
Tyson is also reintroducing himself to the public and portraying his evolution through scripted entertainment. In the coming year, he will star in the comedy “Rolling With the Punches,” in which he’ll show what it’s like to manage a marijuana farm, all while trying to replicate the acting gravitas he showed in the “Hangover” franchise in a “Curb Your Enthusiasm”-like role.
There’s also a biopic in the works starring Jamie Foxx, and a handful of other original content series.
But the granddaddy of them all is set to be Tyson Ranch, a 1,400-acre marijuana-themed resort near Desert Hot Springs, Calif., scheduled to open by the end of 2023. The space is set to be replete with hotels, restaurants, concerts, lazy rivers and even a marijuana university, so that the “disenfranchised can unite and be the amalgamation of just one love,” said Tyson.
“This is a company that I am really high about,” said Tyson. “It looks like it’s going to be a massive success. My ego says I want world domination. I want to be the best cannabis company ever. No one can be in my league. They’ll get crushed … but that’s the guy I don’t want to be.”
Boxing gave Tyson everything he had but it took it back.
“If my ego left, I could never reinvent myself,” said Tyson. “If I was steering my ship, I wouldn’t be here [and alive today]. I’m not smart enough to live in this universe on my own free will. … Young Mike believed he was God, and old Mike asks God to have mercy on his soul.”
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