By Scoop Malinowski
Mike Tyson did an interview this summer with Sports Illustrated, and the reporter asked the former heavyweight champion for his observations about the recently held Olympic boxing event in Brazil. Tyson completely ignored the inquiry of the question and began to talk about Olympic tennis. Quite clearly Tyson illustrated he has lost a lot of interest in modern boxing and is more curious and intrigued by professional tennis, which he and his young daughter Milan have begun to play. (Milan Tyson is actually a very good nine year old player who is good enough to win tennis tournaments.)
It’s alarming that a once devout boxing historian like Mike Tyson has become so bored with boxing that he has shifted his attention and interest to tennis.
In his biography UNDISPUTED TRUTH, Tyson revealed why boxing is becoming irrelevant and has lost so much ground to mixed martial arts fighting and the UFC: “There is no sport in the world that is more passionate than fighting, when it is done correctly. You want to fight your brother or your father because the guy you’re rooting for is you. He’s representing your whole barometer about how you feel and think. Mixed martial arts are more popular than boxing now because you see so much more passion in the cage. Boxers don’t have that passion any more. There’s no guy that really has the heart to say: ‘Not only do the Gods deliver me and vex me, but one day I will reign with them.’ Today’s guys don’t say that shit. They don’t have the balls. They spring from a milieu too meager to comprehend my reality. They don’t want to do that because they’re afraid they will fail and people will laugh at them. That’s why today’s fighters don’t get the total respect because they’re afraid to really grab true greatness. They are looking at boxing as a check, they don’t see it as something noble. They want money and adulation. I wanted adulation and immortality.”
Very true words written by Tyson. He is most certainly unimpressed by the Mayweather career and modus operandi. When Tyson was the “face of boxing”, boxing was on top of the world. Tyson was an electrifying figure who transcended sport. With Mayweather as the face of boxing for a decade, boxing has lost large margins of excitement, cultural relevance, integrity and honor.
“What makes an exciting fighter is his ability and willingness to want to hurt the other man,” wrote Tyson. “That makes great fighters and superstars. When I was in the ring I protected myself as an animal. Like a dog in a pit, I was there to entertain the audience. The more I hurt someone, the quicker I hurt him, the more adulation I got from the crowd, and I fed off that. Today they don’t dream about hurting their opponents. It’s like the wussification of boxing. Sugar Ray Robinson, Rocky Marciano, those guys were going to die for that belt, you’d have to kill them to get it from them.”
Like many of us, Tyson is clearly down on boxing now and how handpicking and ducking and protecting certain “star” fighters is the fundamental principle that is running – and ruining the sport, as we knew it. But Tyson offers hope that the sport can dig it’s way out of this downward spiral to oblivion or irrelevance.
“A lot of people have pronounced the death of boxing but I think that’s a little too premature. Boxing will come back, trust me. It’s been around almost two hundred years, legally. It’s not going to die easy. Just wait until we see the next great heavyweight fighter. That will be a sight that we’ll want to see again and again.”
Let us hope that “next great heavyweight fighter” does emerge and annihilate and conquer the sport, by the way of his own two hands and boxing brain, without needing any political protection, corrupt interference and manipulation. Let’s hope that whoever this heavyweight force of nature is, he happens upon us naturally, and his not chosen by the powers that be, because of the color of his skin or the popularity of his country or the potentiality of this fighter’s selling power.
Just like it used to happen in boxing. And the way it happens in professional tennis. Where the best compete against the best on a level playing field to determine who is the very best.