Published: Thursday, September 28, 2006
Youngstowners' fight draws Tyson
A kindler, gentler Mike Tyson said he's trying to stay humble and "keep cool about life."
By JOE SCALZO
YOUNGSTOWN On Wednesday afternoon, Michael Gerard Tyson sat quietly in a chair inside the Chevrolet Centre media room as his handlers trotted out the familiar phrases of his past: "The second coming of Joe Louis"; "the greatest heavyweight who ever lived"; and, of course, "the baddest man on the planet."
But Tyson's heart wasn't in it. When promoter Sterling McPherson, the director of Sterling Promotions, told the crowd of 75 people assembled that "When you look to [my] left, you're looking at an icon," Tyson seemed uncomfortable.
"Thank you," said Tyson, who turned 40 in June. "I was once."
Seconds later, McPherson said, "That's what this tour is about, it's about Mike Tyson."
Tyson shook his head.
"It's not about me," he said.
Throughout Wednesday's press conference, which announced Tyson's upcoming four-round exhibition with Corey Sanders at the Chevy Centre on Oct. 20, a humbler, more peaceful Tyson appeared.
"The best decision I ever made was retiring from boxing," said Tyson, who insisted the exhibitions will not lead to a return to competitive boxing. "I don't want to get involved with all that stuff anymore.
"I don't like Iron Mike. I like Mike Tyson."
A few months back, Tyson had grown fed up with his life and his physique "I was a little overweight and I was smoking too much," he said and wanted to get back in shape. He held a workout in Las Vegas, attracting a massive crowd eager just to see him train. Tyson was overwhelmed by the attention he hadn't fought since quitting after six rounds against unheralded heavyweight Kevin McBride in June 2005 and, for the past month, has performed public workouts at the Aladdin Resort & Casino with his trainer, Jeff Fenech.
Tyson had also been watching a few fights "Something I should never do," he said and started letting his mind wander.
"I would think, 'Oh, I can beat that guy,'" said Tyson, who described his current conditioning as "pretty horrible" but vowed to be in better shape next month. "Anybody can beat anybody from their couch or their chair."
Tyson knew he wasn't in shape for a 12-round bout and had little interest in putting in the time to get to that point "I'll never be in the shape I was when I was younger," he said but he also knew he could go a few rounds. Enter McPherson, who pitched the idea of fighting Sanders, the 6-6, 300-pound former sparring partner for Tyson. McPherson, a Niles native, wanted the fight held in Youngstown, and Tyson, who once owned a home in Southington, agreed.
"These are fight people," Tyson said of Youngstown. "They're people from factories who have had to fight their whole lives."
One of McPherson's representatives then contacted Matt Hufnagel, the Chevy Centre's executive director, who liked the idea.
"We've had a lot of great events here but nothing of this magnitude," Hufnagel said. "We're in the event business and this is certainly an event."
Tyson, whose pro record of 50-6 with 44 knockouts will not be affected by the exhibitions, has battled financial trouble in recent years. He filed for bankruptcy in 2004 and owes millions to creditors. Although the bout will be televised on pay-per-view, Tyson doesn't expect it to help with his "financial quagmire."
"The money I make here, it won't help pay any bills," said Tyson, who said he could fight up to 100 of these exhibitions, although no others have been finalized. "But I'll feel better about myself. It's very easy to be depressed. I just can't believe I'm still upright, that my words aren't slurred.
"Life is a struggle. I've learned life is very short and I have to stay humble and not get angry. I'm trying to keep cool about life."
Next month's event is also expected to include the boxing return of Paul "The Pittsburgh Kid" Spadafora in a 10-round junior welterweight bout, although Spadafora's handlers haven't signed off yet.
"We're almost there," McPherson said. "We should be there in the next day or two."
Cleveland junior middleweight prospect Juan McPherson (3-0, 2 KOs) will also fight on the card. McPherson, who is not related to the promoter, lost a court fight to gain a spot on the 2004 U.S. Olympic team after he was medically disqualified because of a neck injury.
"These are going to be solid fights on the undercard," said Sterling McPherson. "We want to produce solid young fighters."
Regardless of what happens, the focus will still be on Tyson. But those expecting to see the man who once bit off a piece of Evander Holyfield's ear and told an opponent he wanted to "eat his children," are in for a surprise. That man is gone, Tyson said.
"I took myself too damn serious," he said. "I just want to have fun and put on a show."