Mike Tyson's re-branding is the sort of turnaround that just about never happens.
Back in 2008 and 2009, he was depressed, he said, to the point of contemplating suicide, and using drugs in a completely reckless manner. "I was overdosing every night, I couldn't believe I was waking up," Tyson said on a Monday conference call to hype his Aug. 23 debut as a boxing promoter.
But meeting current wife Kiki, and the tragic death of a four-year-old daughter in a treadmill accident in 2009, forced him to snap out of it.
Tyson, now 47, couldn't handle the pressure and fame and mercurial fortunes that were dumped into his lap when at age 20 he won the heavyweight championship, the youngest man to do so. By 2008 or so, he said, he was a "full-blown addict," and couldn't fathom a comeback when then-friend Kiki suggested he do a one-man show on stage and try to get into film work. "Look at the state I'm in," he remembers thinking when Kiki visited and spoke hopefully. "My daughter died, and I wanted to live my life differently," he said.
Look at the state, indeed. Spike Lee is producing his one-man play, which gets rave reviews, and he will kick off another leg of the tour in November. On Nov. 12, his memoir, "Undisputed Truth," gets released. On Friday, he will promote, as part of Iron Mike Productions, a show that will be featured on ESPN's "Friday Night Fights." A title fight between Argenis Mendez, the IBF 130-pound champion, and Arash Usmanee, will top the card at Turning Stone, in Verona, N.Y.
Tyson was asked what he learned from the promoters he worked with, most notably Don King. He said he learned that it isn't proper to put your hands on a business associate when you disagree on terms of a deal or the delivery of promised revenue. "I put my hands on 'em, you should never ever do that," he said. "I was an immature, spoiled kid, I'd never do that again, striking people."
He said he forgives business partners who crossed him, and hopes they forgive him for trying to throttle them. His old edge did peek out a bit when he admitted he's irked that King hasn't been forthcoming with advice or help in this promotional endeavor, though Tyson did say he'd be open to working with his old handler, who turns 82 on Aug. 20 and promotes infrequently. "You will never hear 'Mike Tyson stole from me,' " Tyson said.