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Outside the Lines:
Tyson's Final Act
Here's the transcript from Show 114 of weekly Outside The Lines - Tyson's Final Act
BOB LEY, HOST- June 2, 2002. Mike Tyson.
MIKE TYSON, FOMER WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT BOXING CHAMPION- My style is impetuous. My defense is impregnable. (Unintelligible). You're not man enough to (Expletive Deleted) with me. You can't last two minutes in my world, bitch.
LEY- Once the greatest boxer. Now a fascinating study in antic behavior and meltdowns. And still unparalleled at the box office.
TYSON- I'm the biggest fighter in the history of the sport. If you don't believe it, check the cash register.
LEY- No matter what he's said or done or because of it, fans and the media remain transfixed.
TEDDY ATLAS, TYSON'S FORMER TRAINER- I think the only reason this fight's happening is because of the morbid curiosity of what he might do.
TYSON- I wish one of you guys had children so I could kick them in the (Expletive Deleted) head or stomp on their testicles.
SHELLEY FINKEL, TYSON'S MANAGER- Is he an angel? No, but he's not the devil that he's portrayed as either.
LEY- Is he truly out of control, or a canny promoter, or both?
LENNOX LEWIS, HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION- I don't think he's that crazy.
TYSON- I'm crazy, but I'm not crazy like that.
TOMMY BROOKS, TYSON'S FORMER TRAINER- If Mike is crazy, Mike is crazy like a fox.
LEY- Today on Outside The Lines, just what is real with Mike Tyson?
Several weeks ago, promoters proudly announced that all the tickets for the Lennox Lewis/Mike Tyson championship bout had sold out in one day for a record gate. And just this week, magically, it was learned that many thousands of seats are still for sale. And no one bats an eye. Where else but boxing? Where else but boxing could a fighter approach a heavyweight championship with more talk of his mental health than his ring skills? And where else but boxing could a figure such as Mike Tyson thrive if for no other purpose than to sell tickets?
Somewhere between Tyson's alternate personas, the ex-con thug and the aggrieved victim, lies the single most elusive item in boxing, the truth. Which part of the public Tyson is an act? Well, that question collides hard with the ultimate truth, the calendar. Six days from what might be Tyson's last chance to regain the championship, Jeremy Schaap considers his enduring attraction.
JEREMY SCHAAP, ESPN CORRESPONDENT- It's been more than a decade since Mike Tyson won a significant fight against a significant opponent. Still, Tyson is unquestionably boxing's biggest draw, despite or more likely thanks to his transgressions, both on and off the canvas. Why would people pay $55 to watch this fight?
SHELLEY FINKEL, MIKE TYSON'S MANAGER- Obviously, to see Mike Tyson, not Lennox Lewis.
SCHAAP- Shelley Finkel is Tyson's manager.
FINKEL- In the last maybe eternity of boxing, he is the most exciting personality in and outside of the ring.
SCHAAP- Others say that Tyson, a convicted rapist and serial biter, simply appeals to our baser instincts.
MICHAEL KATZ, FORMER NY TIMES WRITER- This is the world going to see a car wreck, going to see a train wreck maybe. It is not about a fistfight.
WALLACE MATTHEWS, FORMER NEW YORK POST WRITER- There's just a fascination with people who are on the verge of some kind of a collapse. You know, I guess it makes fascinating viewing for some people.
ATLAS- He's marketable because he's a candidate to be a guest appearance on "Jerry Springer" at any moment.
SCHAAP- Teddy Atlas trained Tyson in the early 1980s. He's now a boxing analyst for ESPN.
ATLAS- People are looking for the same reason, unfortunately. People stop and rubberneck when there's an accident.
SCHAAP- He's an accident waiting to happen?
ATLAS- Well, I think he's happened a few dozen times. I mean...
SCHAAP- He's an accident waiting to happen again.
ATLAS- There you go. He's an accident waiting to happen again.
There you go. He's an accident waiting to be taken to the dump heap and crushed into a disposable little box. And then, there's no more car going on the road again.
SCHAAP- In his last several fights, Tyson bit off the chunk of Evander Holyfield's ear, attempted to break Frans Botha's arm, and nearly punched a referee who tried to come between him and Lou Savarese.
When he was provoked at a January press conference, Tyson's behavior was equally disturbing.
TYSON- Come on, you bitch! You scared coward. You're not man enough to (Expletive Deleted) with me. You can't last two minutes in my world, bitch!
The average person believes that I'm a (Expletive Deleted) nut and I deserved whatever happened to me. That's what I believe.
SCHAAP- In 1998, doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital spent five days assessing Tyson's mental health.
They determined that you were suffering from depression, low self esteem, and that you had problems with anger management. How would you try to address those problems?
TYSON- That's all they said was wrong with me?
SCHAAP- It appears from a distance when you're watching him, that he is unbalanced.
FINKEL- I was up at Mass General when he was doing his evaluation. And the doctors there said it was amazing, the amount of things he has overcome to be where he is.
SCHAAP- Those same doctors though, Shelley, at Mass General said that he suffered from low self-esteem, the anger management problems. How is he addressing those issues?
FINKEL- He has people who he is working with on it.
SCHAAP- And you're satisfied that it's working?
FINKEL- I'm satisfied it's going in the right direction.
SCHAAP- Tyson's mental health has been at issue for years. He's acknowledged using antidepressants, but says he has stopped taking them. His handlers have often said that Tyson was scarred by his troubled childhood, especially his incarceration as a pre-teen.
ATLAS- He was in a place, which is a hellhole on Earth. I don't know if it still exists, but it shouldn't exist, a juvenile detention center for kids in the Bronx in New York. Terrible place, where terrible things happen. If something terrible happened to him there. And he started then thinking about himself in those terms, or feeling about himself. I would say that that was starting place for other things to happen.
SCHAAP- The Mike Tyson we see at the press conferences, the Mike Tyson who is berating people, who is foaming at the mouth, is that the real Mike Tyson?
KATZ- I think part of him is. I think the real Mike Tyson is a whole bunch of people. He's sort of this symbol of boxing. He's become a caricature of Mike Tyson. The foaming, frothing at the mouth Mike Tyson that we see is very real, unfortunately.
SCHAAP- Trainer Tommy Brooks was in Tyson's corner for each of his last six fights. Tyson fired him last November. He, too, sees multiple Mike Tysons.
BROOKS- You got Mike that's the calm, collective guy. You've got Mike that's the intellectual. You've got Mike that's the street guy. You've got Mike that's the hardcore guy. You know, I'll bust your head just for looking at me, you know. And then you got Mike that's the, you know, oh man, why me? You know, the baby Mike.
SCHAAP- More than any other American public figure, Tyson has displayed his anguish. If Bill Clinton felt our pain, Mike Tyson wants us to feel his pain.
TYSON- I know I say things and I offend people. I asked this lady lewd questions because I'm in a lot of pain, too. You know, I'm just in pain that I'm going to have for the rest of my life. So you deserve to feel the pain, somewhat of the pain that I feel. If I wished one of your guys had children, if I could kick them in the (Expletive Deleted) head or stomp on their testicles so you could feel my pain, because that's the pain I have waking up everyday.
ATLAS- Mike Tyson's a shallow, fractured guy with no identity. And it's --he's almost to the point of being pitied now.
FINKEL- Is he an angel? No. He's not an angel, he'll tell you he's not an angel, but he's not the devil that he's portrayed as either.
SCHAAP- How do you see the Mike Tyson story ending?
FINKEL- I hope he wins back the championship. I hope that some things change in his own self-outlook, based on him being champion again and being able to rid himself of some of the things that have bothered him over the years.
SCHAAP- There are demons?
FINKEL- I don't know if demons is the right word. I think we all have things that bother us. It's just how you deal with them and your own self-esteem of how you've gotten where you are and what you think of yourself.
KATZ- Here is a guy who has big problems mentally, psychologically, who is not taking medicine, who is only being locked up and then let out to fight and make other people money. He is angry. He has rage. He is the guy that says these outrageous things partly because he's nuts, partly because he's trying to intimidate other people.
SCHAAP- You don't think that he's actually crazy?
LENNOX LEWIS, HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION- No, I don't think he's that crazy.
SCHAAP- But you think this is all part of his strategy?
LEWIS- Yes, absolutely. I mean, we've seen it time and time again.
SCHAAP- But is it an act? Is Tyson really just a savvy promoter?
BROOKS- He's just a salesman, that's all. He's, you know, he's trying to sell the next fight. Mike knows what's going on. Mike is -- if Mike is crazy, Mike is crazy like a fox. This guy, he's a con man, you know.
MATTHEWS- You know what? If he's trying to sell tickets, the guy's the greatest actor and the greatest publicity man in the history of anything. And I mean, forget P.T. Barnum. Forget Don King. Forget everybody. You cannot make up this kind of pathology.
LEY- And to consider what could be Tyson's final act, we welcome live Tommy Brooks, who trained Mike Tyson for three years for six fights, including the bout against Lou Savarese. Tommy Brooks and team Tyson parted company earlier this year. And Tommy joins us this morning from Totowa, New Jersey.
Two years ago this month, Lou Savarese fought Mike Tyson, and that bout in Glasgow, Scotland ended in the first round. And that included Tyson punching the ref and threatening the children of Lennox Lewis. Lou Savarese this morning is in Richmond, Virginia.
Ron Borges writes for "The Boston Globe," where his byline has appeared for 18 years, as both reporter and columnist. And this morning, he joins us from Atlantic City.
Good morning to you all. Tommy, we all care, I guess, as humans on some level what people think about us. Does Mike Tyson care what people think about him?
BROOKS- Of course he does. He's human just like everybody else. I would imagine that -- well, he himself has said many a times, he's only concerned what his peers think, but in my estimation, I would say he cares about what people think.
LEY- Ron, what do you think?
RON BORGES, THE BOSTON GLOBE- I think he does. But I think in the earlier piece, Tommy really hit it when he said, you know, Mike's a con man. He's been a con man all his life. Unfortunately, he's conned himself now. And he's become a professional victim and a professional victimizer. And he knows what he's doing.
LEY- Lou, does he? Is he a canny promoter? You've been in the fight game. I mean, if you want to promote a fight, there are a lot of ways to do it. Is Tyson promoting his fights when he goes off the end?
LOU SAVARESE, FOUGHT TYSON- Yeah, I say he is and he isn't. I mean, how do you -- you can't say that. I mean, he does -- you have to have some knowledge of what he's doing and the hype he presents, but you know, if he takes it to the next level, where he's going to be jailed, you know, you wouldn't do that consciously. You know, go ahead and, you know, with a rape conviction, to go ahead and get jailed. So I don't say we -- I don't think we can say he's a master promoter in that sense, because you wouldn't take it to that level.
LEY- Well, Lou, let me ask you, when you were training to fight Mike, he had already had the incident with Holyfield, the biting of the ear. He had attempted to break Frans Botha's arm. He admitted as much. That had to be in the back of your mind as you were training. Was it?
SAVARESE- Yeah, I mean, you have to kind of -- it'd be crazy not to think about that or at least try and get your game plan to be ready for that. I mean, you almost have to be ready for anything when you fight Mike, because, you know, the sad thing is we do have rules. The marques of Queensbury made these rules. And you want to kind of have an even playing field. And Mike is a great athlete and a great fighter. And it takes away from his fighting ability.
I mean, I listened to everybody now. And they say how he's just a con, you know, a hype and he's this and that. But nobody talks about his boxing skills. And I mean, Tommy would know better than anybody. I think he still has the boxing skills. I mean, the guy can still fight. He's one of the quickest finishers. And he's a great fighter, but you don't hear about that now because of all the outside stuff.
LEY- Yeah, one of the things, of course, we're talking about this morning is whether it is an act. We have a piece of tape. I want to apologize in advance for some of the material you're about to hear, but it's germane to the conversation. It was in Maui. It was last month when a woman reporter at a media press conference attempted to ask Mike Tyson a question. Here's what he said.
QUESTION- How confident, Mike, are you that you can win this fight?
TYSON- Do you -- are you talking out of turn? I normally don't do interviews with women unless I fornicate with them. So you shouldn't talk anymore unless you want to, you know.
LEY- Tommy, why is he saying that? Is that premeditated? Does he know the way that's going to be received and played across the country?
BROOKS- He probably doesn't even think about it. He just says it off the top of his head. He probably just didn't want to answer a question.
LEY- Ron, what do you think? You've spent a lot of time with Mike?
BORGES- Well, yeah, I have. I've been around him since he was 14. I mean, he's like a comedian. And he knows his audience. He knows what he can get away with various people. I've never had a cross word with him, and I've talked to him for 22 years.
You know, in that particular piece of tape that you're showing, what should have happened is everybody should have got up and left the room right there, and that would be the end of the entire show.
LEY- Yeah, but they won't. And why won't they?
BORGES- Because then you've got to come home and your boss says, "Well, what do you mean you left, you know, Joe Schmo from Philadelphia didn't leave?"
LEY- Well, the bottom line though, isn't it Ron, that he's such an attraction, you've got to bring home the copy because people still want to hear and read and see Mike Tyson?
BORGES- Well, that's, you know, that's one of the great -- you're right, Bob. And that's one of the things that drives Tyson crazy. He knows how fraudulent and hypocritical even we are. You know, we say how terrible these things are, these terrible things he's saying and doing. Yeah, we're right there like lap dogs, writing it down and putting it in the newspaper.
If it's so terrible, you know, why are we talking about it at all? Hasim Rahman last week said an interesting thing about Tyson. He said, "all those things he said in Hawaii, nobody would know about them if you didn't tell anybody."
LEY- Yeah, very true.
BORGES- And he's exactly right.
BROOKS- And he's playing all sides against the middle.
BORGES- That's right.
SAVARESE- Bob, even from my perspective as a fighter, it's kind of a Catch-22. You know, we -- myself, I mean, nobody likes what he does, but he does bring money to the sport. And other fighters, too. I mean, to fight Tyson, if you've been involved in a Tyson event, I fought Foreman, and that was a big media event. But with Tyson, it's 10-fold, literally. I mean, it's unbelievable the magnitude of a Tyson fight. I mean, the money that can be generated for him and his opponents, too.
So it's a tough call. I mean, we know nobody wants to, you know, agree with what he does, but it's so hard for the press and for myself for -- you know, because you do make money to fight the guy. So he does bring a lot of money to the sport, unfortunately.
LEY- So by that definition, though, you're saying he's good for the game?
SAVARESE- No, you know...
LEY- Not a lot of money in your pockets?
BORGES- It's like a double edged sword.
SAVARESE- It is, exactly. I mean, I'm a boxing historian and I love the guys like Joe Lewis. They brought so much class to the sport. I mean, they were gentlemen. And you know, I wish there was two ways to go about it. I mean, like Tommy or the other guys were saying it's the -- is the same people that want to see them are the same people that, you know, go to the hockey fights, hockey matches to see the fights or go to the races to see the accidents, you know.
BROOKS- And see, that's one of the things that Mike understands. People want to see other people get hurt, because some people don't have the guts or some people don't have the initiative to go out and hurt somebody. So instead of going to jail, they go pay to see Mike Tyson hurt somebody.
LEY- All right. We're going to step aside for just a second. We'll pick up on Mike Tyson. Is it real? Is it an act? More with Tommy Brooks and Lou Savarese and Ron Borges as we continue considering the final act of Tyson, the one-time youngest ever heavyweight champion, whose life has encompassed so much controversy and so much success in the ring.
LEY- And we are back with Tommy Brooks, Mike Tyson's former trainer; Lou Savarese, who has fought Tyson; and Ron Borges of "The Boston Globe." Shelley Finkel, Tommy, had said in our report by Jeremy that he saw evidence of Tyson addressing his problems. Do you agree? Did you see evidence of him addressing the psychological issues that were identified?
BROOKS- Well, not necessarily, because I always saw the same Mike -- I never even knew when he was on medication. You know, I'm not a psychologist. I'm not a doctor. You know, I'm his trainer. And as I said, you know, I always saw the same guy.
LEY- Ron, what was it? I think age 21, when you had a chance to sit down, when Tyson was 21...
LEY- He said something rather revelatory to you. Tell us that story?
BORGES- Yes, it was right after he had won the title for the first time. And in those days, you could sit down with him one-on-one a lot easier than you can now. And we were talking. And I had known him since he was 14. He used to come to Massachusetts to fight with the Western Massachusetts Golden Gloves team. And we were talking about this and that.
And out of the blue, he said to me, "You know, I know I'm messed up, man," although he used more colorful language. "I know I'm messed up." So I sort of, you know, you're a bit taken aback. And finally, I said, well, you know, you're in a position now. You could probably go talk to somebody or do something about it. And there was like long pause. And I'll never forget it. And he looked up and it was the saddest face you've ever seen. And he said, "If I do, will I still be Tyson?"
BORGES- And I think it was obvious -- it became obvious to me right then that he was not willing to take that risk, to become maybe what I would consider much more of a man and less of a Mike Tyson. And consequently, his whole life has turned into a cartoon.
I mean, if you asked anybody, Tommy probably knows this, but if you asked most people what did Mike Tyson first go to prison for when he was 12 or 13, they more than likely will say armed robbery, assault and battery. He went to prison for being a purse-snatcher. He took old ladies' purses. He took them into elevators in the projects, and took their groceries and smacked them in the face. That's the guy you're talking about. You're not talking about some street warrior.
SAVARESE- And another thing, though, Bob...
LEY- Lou, let me ask you, Lou, how important it is for someone in the fight game to have somebody who can give you the boxer, the unvarnished truth? Take the bark off and say, "Hey, Lou, this fight's good for you. Lou, you're screwing up. You need to change." How important is that?
SAVARESE- Oh, absolutely. I mean, the people that are around, I mean, you know, it just seems like to me as an outsider and Tommy could probably comment better, but these guys just seem like, you know, the (Unintelligible) of society. From what I've been around, they're not class acts. They're taunting him, instead of keeping him down and yelling. I mean, they're doing the same stuff Tyson's doing.
And to hear, you know, the comment before from Shelley Finkel, you can throw that out the window. I mean, really, what is Shelley going to say? Shelley's making millions of dollars off Mike Tyson. He's not going to tell you the guy is crazy. We're not going to get the honest opinion from Shelley. I mean, it would just be --that's ludicrous to listen to him saying, well, he thinks he's getting the right help. You know, if the Mike Tyson boat stops, Shelley Finkel, you know, he's going to be out a lot of money.
LEY- All right, we mentioned at the top of the program that there are still thousands of tickets still available. Tommy, do you think the sports marketplace is nearing the end of the line? They're Tyson'ed out? They've seen enough?
BROOKS- I would think so. As a lot of people have said in the past, it's become almost a circus. Me, personally, I like Mike. I don't condone a lot of the things that Mike does. But you can't be responsible for what a grown man does or says. You know, he got -- and when you make the bed, you got to sleep in it, man.
SAVARESE- Hey, Tommy, I have a question for you. Do you think, I mean, it seems like his boxing attributes are still there, they just need somebody like yourself or a good guy to get it out?
BROOKS- Lou, listen, Mike has more talent in his little finger than most of these guys got in their whole bodies.
SAVARESE- I believe you.
BROOKS- But I mean, it's a matter of him putting forth the effort. I mean, Mike has been to the big dance on many occasions. He knows what you have to do. And as we said before, he's an historian of the fight game. That's the problem that I have. If you are a historian, you've seen what happened to Jack Johnson, you've seen what happened to Sonny Liston. And you know, why go down that same path, if you know the outcome already? You know, go a different direction.
LEY- All right, let's go around the horn quickly one time. Not does he have the ability, but will he, Ron Borges, win the fight, quickly?
BORGES- I think he's got three rounds to win the fight, after which I think he'll crack as he's done in the past. If Lewis puts up any resistance at all and lands some punches, he'll win the fight.
SAVARESE- I agree exactly with Ron. If he goes three rounds, I think Tyson's going to self-destruct after the third round. I think he's going to disqualify, but he has a great chance of, you know, starts make fights. And Mike's a quick starter. Lennox isn't the best starter. It's going to be interesting.
BROOKS- I think it's a matter of how good a shape Mike is in. I think also it depends which Lennox Lewis shows up. What I mean by that is, if Mike is a tremendous shape, he can go six, eight, 10, 12 rounds. I like Mike early in the fight, but I think that Lennox is trying to make a statement in this fight. And I think that knowing Emmanuel Stewart, Emmanuel's going to send him right out after him.
LEY- All right.
BROOKS- And if he doesn't go that direction, he's going to take him out in the deep water and let him drown his own self.
LEY- Tommy Brooks, Lou Savarese and Ron Borges, thanks so much for talking about Mike Tyson. We appreciate it.
As we continue next, the question of sports celebrities' private lives, and your reactions to last week's debate as to just how much the media and the public are entitled to know about the folks on the sports page.
MATTHEWS- A lot people in this country either haven't read the First Amendment, don't know it exists, or forgot about it. And when Mark Cuban says, "I don't know what they're going to write," well, guess what, Mr. Cuban, you're not supposed to know. And it's not your business.
LEY- Last Sunday, we considered just where the line is between the private lives of sports celebrities and the media and the public. Among the issues that sparked that debate, the Mike Piazza sexuality story and the complaints by the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban, against a magazine that was planning to write a story on his fiancée. And we had a torrent of mail to our inbox from Pittsburgh.
"Donovan McNabb, who was part of last week's show, and Mark Cuban invited the media into their personal lives once they started to make a profit with their names. So McNabb can hawk soup, but we can't hear who he's getting engaged to? I can't name the owner of the Kansas City Royals or the Jazz, but I do know who Cuban is. Gentlemen, you can't have it both ways."
From St. Paul, "Wallace Matthews stance if anything goes because of the First Amendment is why there's growing mistrust of the media. I believe the founding fathers' intent was to protect the questioning of the government, not who Chris Webber or Mark Cuban is dating."
From Miami Beach, "How can Cuban become a media millionaire and still not understand that by protesting his lack of privacy, he has generated far more publicity for the issue than if he had just kept his mouth shut?"
Check out our library of streaming video and transcriptions on the ESPN.com. The key word is "OTL Weekly." Our e-mail address -- and we look forward to your thoughts on Tyson's final act -- OTLweekly@espn.com.
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