The most impactful moment occurring on the "Friday Night Fights" season finale didn't occur in the ring, in the main event, which pitted IBF super featherweight champion Argenis Mendez against Arash Usmanee, or on the undercard at Turning Stone Casino in Verona, NY.
No, that signature moment occurred when Mike Tyson, the promoter of the event, walked up to ESPN analyst Teddy Atlas before the TV bouts kicked off.
Not so strange, considering Atlas had helped train Tyson, along with their common mentor, Cus D'Amato, in upstate NY in the early '80s. But the falling out between Atlas and Tyson was explosive. Atlas, in his biography, recalled that he reacted heatedly after he found out that the young boxer, then age 15, had approached a young girl, who was the daughter of Atlas' wife's, in a crude manner. Atlas borrowed a .38 from a pal, tracked down Tyson one night in 1982, told him to smarten up, and fired the gun, deliberately missing, for emphasis. That was the end of Atlas helping Tyson learn the ropes.
Through the years, the analyst hasn't been shy about critiquing the power-punching former Kid Dynamite. He dismissed his moral fiber, labeled him "boxing's version of the Jerry Springer show."
"Mike has always been looking for an escape, a trap door," said Atlas of Tyson in 2003. "He always lacked one essential ingredient in situation building character: the ability to confront himself."
They haven't had a relationship, save for maybe a nod at a charity dinner, since the blowup.
Until Friday. Tyson, before the show started, came up to Atlas at his station. "He behaved like a man, what can I say," Atlas recollected to partner Joe Tessitore. "He came over, extended his hand and asked me if I'd shake it and said, 'You're not still mad at me, are you? I wish you wouldn't be'. ... I give him credit for showing a gentleman's side."
"Life is short, I made amends with everybody," Tyson explained about the gesture to FNF host Todd Grisham after the first fight finished. He said making amends is important to his sobriety, describing himself as a "vicious addict. I'm recovering and I'm gonna die, if I don't follow my steps, I'm useless." Atlas, he said, was extremely important to him back then. "I was wrong," he admitted, so he's was happy to get a chance to say so.
"I have a lot of pain, and I just want to heal it, and that was part of it, right there," he said, before the main event, which saw Mendez fight to a majority draw against Usmanee, started. Tyson told Grisham his mom was a hooker, his dad was pimp, he's shot at people, and so all that fame and fortune didn't feel right to him. He said he feels better emotionally than he ever has.
It was riveting material, a powerful expression of the power and possibilities of forgiveness, and redemption.