“Cough up a lung, where I’m from, Marcy son- aint nothing nice.. Been a lot of places, but I’m Brooklyn’s own.”
Shawn Carter, alias “Jay-Z”, “Where I’m From”, “In my lifetime Vol. 1”
Mike Tyson hails from the Brownsville section of New York’s most notorious borough of Brooklyn. But “where he’s from” had nothing to do with “where he went”.
If not for the rescue from the hell of urban warfare and drama by the legendary training figure Cus D’Amato, the 1980’s would have been incomplete. For without him- there is never a such thing as Mike Tyson.
A fractured and emotionally unstable mess upon delivery, D’amato was able to mold Mike into a fistic gem, and inculcated in him that he would be the greatest champion the heavyweight division would ever know.
Mike came to believe he was omnipotent.
D’amato’s nurturing way also enabled him, and it gave birth to a union that could’ve been regarded as the greatest fighter/trainer relationship in the history of the sport. Knowing he was short on life, Cus gave birth to the bond that was Kevin Rooney and Mike Tyson.
Mike was an unbeaten (35-0, 31KO’s), undisputed champion of epic and almost mythical proportions with Rooney.
Upon leaving The Barclay’s Center following Zab Judah’s domination at the hands of Danny Garcia, which essentially ended an outstanding- but “coulda-woulda-shoulda” career, I couldn’t help but think of Tyson. His career and his life, was after all, influenced by the spector of Mike Tyson.
But how could it not be?
When RUN-DMC and Aerosmith told urban kids to “Walk This Way” in 1986, Tyson was telling them to “act this way“, and listening to the ground-breaking rap duo’s album “Raising Hell” while raising more of it on his own.
The marketing savvy that went into the making of Mike Tyson will forever be a masterpiece, for he burst on the scene with footage of one mind-bending knockout after another.
Larry Holmes was well.. He was corny.
It also didn’t help that he wasn’t particularly good looking either. Hated for not only beating up Ali, but for not “being” Ali. So when Tyson put a demolition job on him- audiences cheered. Here was this angry, menacing figure on the scene, as the defiant artform of rap was establishing itself with an in-your-face, bottom-line flavor.
Mike Tyson was a “hood” Godzilla, or a videogame you couldn’t wait to watch or pretend to play out. His ringwalks were the stuff of legend, and almost as entertaining as his fights. He was Dempsey and Liston, with the “bad guy’s” swagger from your favorite movie.
We just didn’t know he was so fragile.
Those around him knew better. The opportunistic Teddy Atlas revealed a troubled and turbulent teen, who if left unchecked, would be a cancer to society and to himself.
Cus did know this. But in appeasing Mike, he unknowingly cultivated a “God-complex”, making Tyson feel not only invincible- but infallible.
His mentors/business masterminds Jim Jacobs and Bill Cayton, had already started a machine that couldn’t be stopped. Following the death of Jacobs in particular, no one could protect him from the mental manipulation of Don King, or from getting into the clutches of the lecherous actress Robin Givens.
Will anyone ever forget that interview with Barbara Walters?
Questions persist with Tyson. To the imaginative mind, one has to wonder what would have happened with him had D’Amato lived maybe 5 years longer. What if he never left Kevin Rooney? Where then, would Mike rank in heavyweight history?
The fighter who made his way into the ring against Michael Spinks amid that demonic noise that filled an electrified arena in Atlantic City, NJ, in June of 1988, was as close to a perfect fighting machine that the world will ever see.
His defense was impeccable. He was the best offensive heavyweight fighter in history, possessing every combination you could throw and with one-punch power.
He would have dropped Trevor Berbick four times with one punch, had Mills Lane not jumped in front of Berbick in his title winning destruction in Summer 1986.
When he beat up street tough guy and boxer Mitch “Blood” Green in Harlem, and it hit the tabloids, it only added to his street credibility to go along with the enormity of his myth. Who could really blame Zab Judah, or anyone of that generation for wanting to “Be like Mike”?
We thought he was invincible.
But funny things happen if “you think” you’re on your way to immortality- you are rendered mortal.
If “Iron” Mike Tyson had the mentality of Bernard Hopkins, and had stayed with Kevin Rooney throughout his career, we’re perhaps talking about the best heavyweight fighter of all-time, and a top 5 fighter of all-time.
He would have never lost to Evander Holyfield or had his career and life interrupted by that egregious rape crime.
He would have beaten and chopped down Riddick Bowe, in an ultimate showdown for Brooklyn bragging rights.
He would’ve survived and detonated Lennox Lewis, who in their actual fight hit Tyson with nuclear bombs, yet it was his hands that were radioactive afterwards, from repeated flush shots on the still granite chin of Tyson- who had a 20-inch shock absorber of a neck.
Only a prime Ali, who was a pyschological master, could’ve really dealt this version of Tyson a hand of cards he couldn’t really play with.
Unfortunately and in reality, he didn’t play with a full deck. It just hurts to know that he left trump cards on the table.