Look on Mike Tyson, Ye Mighty, and Despair
There he is, like he’s always been, perpetually on the brink of breakdown, hands grasping for nothing in particular, eyes twitching, voice abruptly fluctuating in and out of his signature cartoon squeal. It is late August and Mike Tyson is at a press conference discussing his new life as a boxing promoter—but his comments occasionally veer into barely coherent memories, like a veteran suddenly gripped so severely by flashbacks he starts giving orders to a unit in a battle that happened long ago. But mostly he spends 15 minutes dispensing how-great-it-is-to-be-here platitudes about boxers you’ve never heard of.
He has been enthusiastic and hyperbolic. It has been a very encouraging Fresh Start and now he is ready to leave. But someone has one more question, about Tyson reconciling with Teddy Atlas. Atlas helped train him when Tyson was 16, but was dismissed when he threatened to shoot the teenage boxer in the head after he grabbed Atlas’s 11-year-old sister-in-law’s ass. They didn’t speak to each other for the next 30 years.
This is how Tyson responds:
“I’m a motherfucker. I’m a bad guy sometimes. I did a lot of bad things, and I want to be forgiven. So in order for me to be forgiven, I hope they can forgive me. I wanna change my life, I wanna live a different life now. I wanna live my sober life. I don’t wanna die. I’m on the verge of dying, because I’m a vicious alcoholic. Wow. God, this is some interesting stuff. I haven’t drank or took drugs in six days, and for me that’s a miracle. I’ve been lying to everybody else that think I was sober, but I’m not. This is my sixth day. I’m never gonna use again.”
He turned a fight into a press conference, a press conference into a confession, a confession into a suicide note, a suicide note into his own eulogy. Mike Tyson has never been uncomfortable walking hand in hand with death.