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Tyson: All Things Must Pass
By Jim Cawkwell (June 11, 2004) 
"Iron" Mike Tyson
The events of every calendar year in boxing usually manifest an unpredictably ordered array of greatly contrasting emotions. From euphoric highs to bland indifference or extreme distaste and right down to the devastating lows; reactions are usually nothing if not intense. Barely halfway into 2004 we have already seen Lennox Lewis abdicate his throne; seemingly plunging us into a void which will not be adequately filled in the foreseeable future. Former pound-for-pound champion Roy Jones Jr was deposed in a rather less willing fashion and certain deficiencies have been brought to light in our scoring system in the Marquez-Pacquiao super-fight, ever so slightly compromising the image of the entire sport… yes, again.

But there is one individual who manages to stir the gamut of the aforementioned emotional barrage more than any other. In light of the dramatic events also previously mentioned, many people with awfully short memories are beginning to seriously wonder if he can ascend to prominence once more.

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The myth of Mike Tyson has been dug up and buried so many times that it’s conceivable that his new entourage will resemble the dance cast from Michael Jackson’s 'Thriller'. The public hold a fascination for Tyson that simply will not allow him to leave boxing. Whether it is fueled by morbid curiosity or sentimentality is irrelevant; what is certain is that it, along with his last physical gift in the form of his punching power, is the only thing that is keeping the myth of Mike Tyson alive.

He still physically resembles the prodigy that truly realized Cus D’Amato’s violent vision and wrote wondrous new pages in boxing’s history. But reality has an indifferent attitude to quashing fanciful dreams and it reminds us that the precocious young boxer who inspired fear in every man that ever saw him fight is no more. In his place is a thirty-seven year old man who more regularly succeeds in inflicting more damage upon himself due to his vitriolic tongue than anyone else. Certainly, he may be capable of causing injury to another fighter through legitimate means, but those wounds would heal; Tyson might never recover from his pain.

Some fans are too ready to forgive when the need to reconcile the ill deeds of a fallen hero arises. When Tyson returned to boxing after his incarceration for raping Desiree Washington, I was astounded at just how many people were ready to overlook the crime and focus on Tyson resuming his career; desperate enough was the need to believe.

And even now far too many people gladly forget Tyson’s professional exploits of the last few years: the disdain for training, the violently erratic public conduct and the gratuitous fleecing of American and European audiences in exchange for increasingly paltry showings.

It is not my intention for this article to be perceived as a character assassination on Mike Tyson. I would not dare to disrespect this once formidable champion of the noble art. The facts speak for themselves and I seek to enlighten those who are unfamiliar with a more intimate perspective of Tyson and his life to this point, but also to draw attention to the reasons why I feel he will not attain the heavyweight championship once more.

To anyone who has reacted with astonishment and disgust at the misconduct he has displayed in the past I would keenly recommend the book: "Money, myth and betrayal" by Montieth M. Illingworth. This fine publication goes to great lengths to outline grievous deceptions and corruptive influences and their gradually corrosive effect on an already vulnerable human being.

Even Tyson’s aura of invincibility is shown to be one that was flimsily held together in contrast to the persona that was first crafted and broadcasted in snippets to the public during his rise to fame. The feeble version of Tyson that was bullied and beaten by Lennox Lewis in 2002 made many appearances long before that famous night in Memphis. But for Angelo Dundee, "Enry’s ‘Ammer" may have been the ruin of Cassius Clay and the world would have been denied the "Greatest of all time!"

Fate’s hand bore Tyson through his own early crises and allowed us the privilege of watching his incredible wrath as a fighter.

Of course, Tyson was not without gain himself because of fate’s intervention. How many can truly claim to have experienced the same fabulous wealth and decadent lifestyle as he did at the peak of his prowess? But now that these distractions have all but vanished, where will fate lead him now? At various points I would argue that we have probably all felt outraged by his behavior, but condemnation without an attempt at understanding is equally as irrational.

The indelible impression I now hold of Mike Tyson is that of a severely damaged individual; the peril of a similar depth is one that may befall any of us. Mike Tyson is a man who needs help to understand and reconcile his past so that each day does not appear to be a daunting task without the suppression offered by anti-depressants. Mike Tyson fights to remedy his mounting financial predicament, but I sense that boxing is the last thing he truly needs in his life.

Perhaps the routine of training offers temporary goals, but time and trial have already conspired to rob him of almost all of his physical weapons. To the uneducated eye, fighters are not recognized as the expertly technical beings they truly are. The success of a fighter relies on not only his physical gifts but also his ability to master the art of negotiating the combative minefield in milliseconds, with no margin allowed for error. For a fighter to no longer be able to maintain this diligence is for the game to be all but up.

The worst of Tyson’s notorious acts in recent years earned him exile from America. Of course, several European ports of call were starving for his presence and he duly nourished them with his signature brand of badness, in and out of the ring. His current attraction is increasingly based on his mood shifts, which have been known to change at a kaleidoscopic rate. From surly un-cooperation to wrenching depression to his scathingly animated rants, all are unpredictable, all are craved by the public and all are pushing his ring performances further into insignificance.

His supporters might point to the destructiveness he has shown against all of his opposition except Lewis in the last few years. I would remind them and all of you that such destruction manifested only because each of his opponents was hand picked for their predictability to fall at his feet. The proof of what would happen to Tyson upon meeting a real fighter was realized when he fought Lewis; a fight which happened merely because of Lewis’s stubborn persistence and Tyson’s great need for money.

The merry-go-round is about to start again though folks. The opportunist in Tyson is setting his stall out wherever he can make the most money. Certainly no sponsor would entertain the thought of using his likeness or endorsement. So it’s the boxing ring or K-1 mixed martial arts? Perhaps we may even see him in one of the horrendous reality television shows which were being conceptualized not so long ago. Avid historian of the game and legendary iconic figure he may be, but one thing I am certain of and that is that if Mike Tyson can earn more money without being punched in the head, he’ll do it regardless of the weight of anyone’s expectations.
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