More than eight years after walking away from the sport he commanded like no other, Mike Tyson is giving boxing another go as a promoter.
The former heavyweight champion of the world who captivated audiences with his brutality in the ring and antics outside of it is a partner in Iron Mike Productions, which has its first card set for Friday night at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, N.Y. Dubbed “Tyson Is Back,” the card will air on ESPN2 as part of the network’s “Friday Night Fights” series and includes title bouts in the featherweight and super featherweight classes.
“I didn’t want to get involved with boxing at first because I knew it was going to be a headache, and I have demons from boxing,” Tyson said during a conference call Monday in which he discussed his journey back from his bleakest days, when his Hall of Fame career and personal life deteriorated.
“I was planning on killing myself,” Tyson said, recalling especially heavy drug use during 2008 and ’09. “I was just going full-blown every night. I was just, ‘Wah.’ I can’t believe I was waking up.”
Tyson last was in a boxing ring as a fighter June 11, 2005, when he faced Kevin McBride at Verizon Center, then known as MCI Center. The bout ended when referee Joe Cortez, at the behest of Tyson’s corner, halted the proceedings following shenanigans in the ring in the sixth round, awarding the match to McBride via technical knockout.
Tyson first tried to injure McBride by locking up his opponent with a left arm bar. Later in the round, Tyson caught McBride with a purposeful head-butt, compelling Cortez to deduct two points while McBride’s trainers tried to stop the bleeding.
“It was the best moment of my life when that fight was over because I knew I was going to retire,” said Tyson, revealing he was boxing merely for financial reasons at the time because he no longer had a passion for the sport he took by storm as a teen in the mid-1980s. “Once I retired, that was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
During Tyson’s fighting days, he went through two divorces and served three years in an Indiana prison after being convicted of raping Desiree Washington, a Miss Black America pageant contestant.
Four years after Tyson left boxing behind for good, tragedy struck when his 4-year-old daughter, Exodus, was found unconscious tangled in a cord from an exercise machine at her home in Phoenix. She died in the hospital the following day.
Authorities ruled the death accidental, and Tyson said in subsequent interviews he needed to put his life back in order in the wake of his daughter’s passing.
That same year, Tyson appeared in the hit comedy “The Hangover.” So positive was the audience response to the movie and to Tyson’s cameo role that he appeared in the movie’s sequel, which was released in 2011.
In 2008, Tyson starred in a self-titled documentary that received critical acclaim, and more recently, Spike Lee directed Tyson in a one-man Broadway show titled “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth.”
“A lot of my life went so fast, my boxing life,” Tyson said. “I didn’t really know where I was as a boxer. Being a professional promoter, I’m just really, really interested in helping young kids, giving back to the community. I don’t know how much money I made. If I did make money, I’m never going to have money [again]. I owe too many bills. I’m never going to be wealthy again, but I can still give back.”