Mike Tyson is starting the Mike Tyson Cares Foundation on Dec. 7, and to commemorate the occasion, he’s auctioning off the chance to be his guest at the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez fight on Dec. 8 in Las Vegas.
As of Wednesday morning, the highest bidder for the two tickets stands at $10,500, and there’s still over a week left to go.
But the real question is, what exactly is it like to hit the town with Mike Tyson?
“It will be like no other night,” Tyson tells ESPN Playbook. “We’re going to be vocal. It’ll be exciting. We’ll meet some of my buddies and we’ll meet some boxers. It will be a dynamic evening. It’s not going to be like a fight night without me, that’s for sure.”
We spoke with Tyson more about his charity, his personal journey, his one-man show, UFC and more in an exclusive interview.
Why did you choose now to host this night and to start your charity?
I wanted to do something bigger than myself, that’s bigger than me. I’ve always done things for my own profit, and maybe while I’m getting rich I could also help society. Society has given me a great deal, I’m a very lucky man, and this is what I want to do with my life from here on out, instead of doing what I used to do, being selfish and only looking out for myself. I want to do things that help others.
You’ve said in the past you’re not a changed man, you’re just in a different phase of your life. Is that what you mean?
People always say this guy has changed or whatever, but nobody has ever changed. People just choose to go a different direction with their life. I chose a [different] direction in my life, a direction that is profitable for other people, more so than me. That’s why I don’t do things for myself anymore. If I do things for myself, I’m self-destructive. But to see I can do things that pay it forward and help other people, I see that as something admirable to do, instead of just being greedy and getting rich for myself. I can do so much more now for other people than I’ve always done.
You’re currently on tour with your one-man show, “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth.” What has that experience been like?
It’s been really, really awesome. I’ve just been welcomed and the crowds have been awesome. I found the crowds to be much better than I anticipated. I’m very grateful. That’s what I’m trying to convey these days: My gratitude. I’ve never experienced sold-out crowds, and I didn’t expect the kind of welcome I received in Australia; I have never even been there. I’m just so grateful, man.
Do you find that there are many fans who know you from your pop culture appearances, like “The Hangover” movies, rather than your boxing days?
Absolutely. That’s also something that I’m very fortunate and grateful for, that I have such dynamic and different groups of people at my shows. They’re real gung ho, real enthusiastic; it’s a sight to see. I’ve been making sure to take lots of pictures so I can show my friends when I go back home.
In your show, you speak very frankly about many people in your past. Has anyone taken issue with the way you portrayed them?
No, because it’s only been the truth. Look, everything is pretty much documented, so it’s all just been the truth.
You’re taking the highest bidder to a Manny Pacquiao fight. Will we ever see Pacquiao take on Floyd Mayweather?
I don’t know if they’ll ever fight, but Pacquiao took all the challenges to take all the tests. They probably think there’s something tricky going on. I’d like to see them fight, but they’re getting to the point where, for fighters, they’re middle-aged. There are so many young fighters coming up who are going to be the best.
Who are some young fighters who have impressed you?
Adrien Broner is an awesome fighter. Saul Alvarez, the young red-headed Mexican, is an awesome fighter. You got Michael Katsidis, the guy from Australia, he’s a very exciting fighter. Also, you have Vic Darchinyan, the Armenian fighter, he just had an awesome fight when he upset the great Puerto Rican [Luis Del Valle]. He must be just riding on the cloud nine right now. So, look, everyone will forget about the old fighters when the new fighters come in.
These days, with UFC being so popular, boxing isn’t necessarily getting the best fighters. If you were an 18-year-old kid now, would you still be a boxer?
That’d all depend on my trainer. When I came up, my trainer was a boxing guy. If my guy was in UFC, I’d probably go that way.
You’re into MMA, right?
Oh yeah, I love UFC, big time. How could you not be? They play UFC so much, you see it year round, and you just have to want to be a fan. If you’re not a fan, you’re not cool.
I think some young kids may think that in boxing you’re so restricted with just your punching power and your hand speed. In natural fighting, anything goes; you’re not restricted at all. Anything on your body is a weapon. I don’t disagree with that. Wouldn’t you like to have more than just your hands to fight with? You know how I feel; I got into a fight and bit Evander’s ear off. I didn’t plan to do it, that’s just how the mind thinks in that situation.
You sound like someone who wants to get in the octagon.
Yeah. I would love to do that stuff.
Last thing: What’s it like for a Brooklyn native like yourself to see your borough first get an NBA team in the Nets, and now an NHL team in the Islanders?
Man, that’s awesome, too. We’re getting the respect we’re due. Brooklyn has a reputation of being all tough guys, but now it’s getting reputation for what it should: having the best athletes in the world.