A Round or Two with Mike Tyson

More than a few recovering alcoholics/addicts, myself included, have compared their time in active addiction to getting into the ring with “Iron” Mike Tyson, and for good reason. The former undisputed heavyweight boxing champion of the world (1987 – 1990) was widely known during his heyday for crushing his opponents, sometimes in as little as a few rounds, and then for finding … interesting ways to take them out even in his decline.

Coupled with some of his behavior outside the ring that signified him as a bad, bad dude who would put the hurt on you one way or the other, the comparison was apt: Whatever any of us wanted to believe going in – “Well, maybe just one more round, for old time’s sake.” Or, “One or two rounds never hurt anyone.” Or, one of my personal favorites, “If I could just MAKE myself quit after the third round, I’d be alright,” or any of the other 1,001 things we told ourselves – chances were still better than great that we would wind up getting our asses kicked again and again and again, with little to no variation on the theme.

Finally, our last best hope to become the champions of our own lives was to not just get out of the ring and leave Iron Mike alone, but to STAY out. For good.   (READ MORE…..)

So, imagine my surprise when I learned in May’s ESPN The Magazine article that Iron Mike has been fighting the same battle with himself – chiefly in the forms of “blow and ho’s” – all these many years, and you have the makings of one of the greatest personal redemption stories of all time.

I found myself not only surprised at the irony of it – “So…huh. Mike Tyson can’t go toe to toe with Iron Mike, either.” –  but also surprised by my willingness to grant empathy to someone I would have previously written off as not much more than a moronic thug, a living cautionary tale of a hideous childhood environment morphed into the sad byproduct of too much money and too much notoriety given to those with his prodigious physical gifts. He knows it, too.

“I can say I want to be a new guy, but burying the champ is not going to happen,” he says. “I won’t have any success when I bury that guy. All my life I’ve been trying to bury that guy. That’s why nothing good came out of it. Got to embrace him. Got to embrace him.”

It wasn’t hard to deem his profound honesty, humility, and intelligence refreshing and worthy of applause.

So, imagine my further surprise – and yet, also none –  when a couple of weeks ago during a press conference to announce himself as boxing’s newest big-name promoter (move over, Don King!), Tyson – evidently feeling ashamed and guilty (two emotions all addicts know like the backs of our hands) about the inaccurate portrayal of himself as in the ESPN article, came about as clean as one can get without actually taking a public shower: Mike Tyson says he’s on the verge of dying!

The final sentence in Tyson’s admission includes a phrase most of us have declared as emphatically as we fought back in the good old days  – he’s never gonna do it again.

Mike was on Day 6 as of the press conference, and I wish him nothing but success in staying out of the ring, and offer him the hope that his counting goes way past ten.

— Bobbi C.