Tyson: Today's fighters 'have to stand up'

The cluster of people around Mike Tyson at the 89th Boxing Writers Association of America awards gala, held at the MGM on Thursday night, spoke volumes.

Iron Mike is still one of the biggest names in boxing. At age 47, almost 10 years since he's gloved up in the ring, he's still got the buzz, the aura, the "it" factor, the masses surrounding him wanting a photo, an autograph, a hug.

I cornered the ex-Baddest Man on the Planet, whispered to him that I wish him well on his continuing bout with substance use, as I truly comprehend the difficulty involved in putting a cork in it.

Then I asked him about the current Cold War, the fractured state of the sport which has resulted in there being, essentially, two boxing big leagues. One featuring Top Rank and HBO, with Manny Pacquiao being the lead wagon puller, and the other linking Golden Boy and Showtime and uber adviser Al Haymon ... with the result being that because some of these various personalities can't get along, the fans lose out on seeing some no-brainer matchups.

"It's a shame that Mayweather and Pacquiao haven't fought yet," he told me, a little bit after giving the Fight of the Year award to Ruslan Provodnikov and Timothy Bradley, and about an hour after Floyd won Fighter of the Year. "That's what kills boxing and gives boxing a black eye."

So what explains the gulf, the inability of people to get along enough to make the fights fans want and deserve to see? Greed?

Tyson told me that back in the day, he and Evander Holyfield and other guys possessed a fighting spirit that would override allegiances among deal-makers. They needed to know if they were the best, or not. So, how can we achieve peace, Mike? Can you, in your promoter role, help in a mediation process?

"It will take humbleness, and people stopping being so self-centered," he said. "They're robbing the fans. If you believe you're the best fighter in the world, you should be willing to fight everyone in your division."

So, the fighters have to demand that the best fight the best?

"Absolutely, the fighters have to stand up. But they're not interested in fighting, they're businessmen now. In my era, we liked money, we had money, we lost money, but our main concern was nobody could say they were better than us. In my time, there were 6 billion people on the planet. In my time, I said I could beat every single one of them in a fair fight. Will they be able to say that?"