Mike Tyson brings one-man tour to Indianapolis
Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson returns to Indianapolis for the first time since serving prison time on a rape conviction.
Tyson begins a 10-week tour of his own-man show February 13th at the Old National Centre in Indianapolis. "Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth" is billed as a "rare, personal look inside the life and mind of one of the most feared men ever to wear the heavyweight crown."
I was granted an exclusive interview at Tyson's home in a gated community near Las Vegas, Nevada. It was extraordinary access to a place the public has rarely seen before. We arrived 30 minutes early to set up our production equipment inside Tyson's living room. Tyson was at the gym. A film crew was shooting exteriors of his home for a new documentary produced by the former champ. Photographer Steve Rhodes set up multiple cameras and lights. When Tyson arrived home, he greeted us with a warm handshake and smile. After changing into a dark turtleneck and pants, Tyson sat down on his couch. As we began chatting, Tyson's eyes occasionally looked up to a large window in the ceiling where he could watch his pigeons fly in the air.
Swan: When is the last time you put on gloves?
Tyson: Oh man, never (laughter). Let me tell you, when (CNN host) Piers Morgan did a skit, we had gloves.
Swan: So, there's no possible way you'd come out of retirement?
Tyson: I would never do that. You have to have a certain mindset. Be that kind of individual. For me to be that individual,
I can't have my family. The house would be in disarray. That guy, he's dead. He's gone.
Swan: But with the kind of money they could offer you to come back?
Tyson: That's not my motivation in life no more. That's not my yardstick for success anymore.
Swan: Was there a time in your life when you thought money was everything?
Tyson: The world that I lived in would make you believe that.
Swan: How much were you worth?
Tyson: I don't know. It was a lot of money. It never meant anything. I never could get anything accomplished. I have not even one percent of the money that I once possessed and I'm able to get so much done now. I possess so much from a humanitarian perspective.
Before, I was almost like a Neanderthal with all that wealth. I'm pretty stable now.
Swan: Since we are an NBC affiliate, I want to ask you about "Law and Order SVU." Why did you take that role Mike?
Tyson: It's an opportunity for Mike not to play Mike Tyson. I became so pervasive with the character of Mike Tyson. It was almost inconceivable for people to see me as anything but Mike Tyson. My name almost supercedes my popularity. I jumped to the opportunity to play someone who wasn't Mike Tyson.
Swan: And yet there's been some controversy with you playing this role.
Tyson: There's always going to be controversy. People are entitled to their own belief. That's all I can say. I am trying to spread positivity and it really comes from my new life I'm embarked on. There's nothing I can do. I'm only human. There's nothing I can do to deter people from how they think.
Swan: Let's talk about your new life. It's been 21 years since most Hoosiers saw you in Indiana.
Tyson: 21 years?
Swan: 1992. You were convicted of rape in Indiana. You spent time in prison in Indiana. Why would you book a show in Indiana?
Tyson: I didn't book the show. It doesn't mean that I'm afraid of Indiana. Doesn't mean that I have a soft spot because I had an ordeal in Indiana. I have a lot of friends in Indiana. I have no qualms with Indiana. In fact, I'm looking forward to going there.
Swan: What about your show can people expect to see?
Tyson: It's just a show. It's just me on stage. I'm just doing a story.
Swan: How much of Indiana do you talk about?
Tyson: Not much. It's just a chronological period of my life and that period we speak about it.
Swan: Do you talk about the case? Do you talk about the conviction?
Tyson: We talk about a lot of stuff. We talk about everything.
Swan: Will there be anything unique about your show in Indianapolis, anything you'll talk about there that you wouldn't in other cities?
Tyson: No not at all. It's going to be the same show.
Swan: What's been the most revealing part of doing this show to you?
Tyson: When I first did the show I talked about some tragic things and people thought it resembled standup, so people thought it was a standup act. It wasn't. I was just talking about tragic moments in my life. People thought it was funny.
Swan: How do you describe your life Mike?
Tyson: I have an awesome life. I have an awesome wife and awesome kids. All the tragic destruction that I caused in my wake are mending.
All the pain is mending. I'm trying to bridge the gaps between my moral behavior, my conduct, who I am, who I want to be. To be real, I need to forgive myself and forgive people. It's gonna be hard. It's gonna take a lot of struggling, a lot of reflecting, a lot of thinking.
I'm just trying to heal. That's all I'm concerned about. I've made a lot of accomplishments since 21 years ago. I've won a Golden Globes (Award) being involved in The Hangover. I won an Emmy - in depth. I'm just really grateful. That's what I want to convey in this interview of gratitude that nothing that ever happened in my life, going to prison, losing my daughter, losing friends, There's nothing in my life that can damper what I feel about myself. It's just an inside job. Maybe I just grew up. I'm a glutton for punishment. I decided to throw the white flag up and let's surrender and be of service. Maybe I can do something for someone less fortunate than myself.
I'm never going to get wealthy again. But, I feel wealthy.
Swan: The image some people have of you, 'Baddest man on the planet, convicted rapist, have you changed?
Tyson: Those are images people will always have. I was probably those things back then. But, this is what I'm doing now. It's not going to make you a millionaire. But, it's going to make you happy. I never said I was a great actor. I love acting. That's how I look at life from a positive perspective and when people try and throw negativity, I understand, because I was once one of them. But I forgave myself for that as well.
Swan: Let me ask you about Desiree Washington. You've maintained for 21 years that there was no rape, that it was consensual sex.
How do you feel 21 years later?
Tyson: She knows she was not telling the truth. I know she was not telling the truth. But, I can live with that and go on and I'm going on with my life. That's 21 years ago. Tell me something bad that happened 5 or 6 years ago. I've been sober 5 years, since I've been married, since my life has changed. That's people. Bad news sells quicker than good news. I have a wife. I have a family that love me and respect me. I'm sorry. Things are going good. I don't know what to say when people say "What do you think about Desiree Washington? What about the rape conviction?" I don't think about it unless somebody brings it up.
Swan: You're married. Kiki is your third wife. You have eight children. You have some boys. What have you told your boys about your past and in particular, what will you tell your boys about how to treat girls as they get older?
Tyson: Heh, listen. What I do with my boys is what I'm going to do with my sons. I don't have to tell them too much about me. They see stuff on television. They know their father. It doesn't matter what people say about their father. I'm their father.
Swan: How has being a father changed you?
Tyson: I'm just happy to be a father. I've been a father many times. I'm happy to be a father at this stage of my life.
Swan: What has been your happiest day?
Tyson: I don't know. I'm happy now. This is the happiest day of my life.
Swan: Talking to me?
Tyson: That could be good too (Laughter). I'm not on drugs. I'm not in any chaos. Life is just great.
Swan: How long have you been clean and sober?
Tyson: Five years.
Swan: How does that feel?
Tyson: It's awesome.
Swan: Was life out of control?
Tyson: That's just what drugs bring to you. Life is out of control. Life is great now. I'm not doing those things. I'm not dealing with any kind of conviction. Everything is positive and good.
Swan: Let me talk about your charity.
Tyson: "Mike Tyson Cares" is an organization for kids like myself. Underprivileged kids , homeless kids, giving them a fighting chance for a better life.
Swan: Do you wish there was something like that when you were younger? How would your life turned out differently?
Tyson: Life turned out great for me. I was fortunate to meet Cus D'Amato and I had a wonderful career, a wonderful life.
Like everybody, everybody deals with hard times. I'm sure you dealt with hard times. People will die. I may get sick and die and that's just life on life terms.
Swan: How is your health by the way?
Tyson: I don't know, it seems to be awesome.
Swan: What did Muhammad Ali mean to you? What does he mean to boxing?
Tyson: He's just an incredible person in the 20th century. He has to stand high on the totem pole as the number one fighter that ever lived.
We admire him because he inspires us all to be higher and greater than what we should be.
Swan: Muhammad Ali at his best. Mike Tyson at his best. Who wins?
Tyson: I never look at that. This world that we live in is all about who's better. Who has more money than who. It's really pathetic and it's really shallow. That's not what I'm about. Muhammad Ali wins. He knocks me out. So what, am I a bum now?
What does that make me? Throw me away. He's nothing. He's no use to nobody.
Swan: But you're such a historian of boxing?
Tyson: What does that mean if he beats me? I don't care about boxing. Joe Palooka could beat me. Fighting is dead. Fighting allowed me to do this.
Swan: You mentioned before we started that life is better now without boxing.
Swan: Why is that?
Tyson: I'm older, I'm wiser. I don't have negative energy around me no longer.
Swan: You're 46.
Tyson: How old are you?
Swan: I'm 49. I'll be 50 this year.
Swan: I look a lot older than you Mike.
Tyson: In our 20s we thought 50 was old. And now that we're getting closer to 50, 50's not that old. (laughter)."
Swan: So, if you could go back and tell the 20-year-old Mike Tyson who became the youngest heavyweight champion, this is the way you should conduct your life.
Tyson: That's all hypothetical. It's not realistic. If he listens to me, he'd probably be dead or something. Everything happens for a reason.
God allows everything to happen for a reason. We can't supercede God. We have the greatest advice in the world. God ordained that to happen.
Swan: You mentioned God. Where is God in your life?
Tyson: I'm very conscious of God. It's how I look at life. I'm not a religious freak. I'm conscious of God. I'm conscious of my mortality.
I'm sure you are at this stage of life?
Swan: You are conscious of your mortality?
Tyson: Oh, absolutely. In order to live you have to die. You have to prepare for the inevitable and that's dying.
Swan: Do you think about death?
Tyson: Yes. I just think about preparation about death.
Swan: Do you believe you'll go to heaven? Do you believe there's a heaven?
Tyson: I don't know. I know there's God.
Swan: Will there ever be another Mike Tyson? Will the heavyweight division ever get back to the point where there's somebody as incredibly talented as you were?
Tyson: Well, my arrogance would like to say no. The realization of the situation is yes, there will be another sensational fighter that supercedes me and any other fighter that was better than me. They get better as time goes on. I don't know about intestinal fortitude but physical build.
Swan: What was your best fight? Your favorite moment in the ring?
Tyson: I don't have any idea.
Swan: Not one.
Tyson: They're such a blur.
Swan: First time you won the heavyweight championship?
Swan: You've got all of these championship belts.
Tyson: My wife put them up there. I'm getting ready to throw them on auction.
Swan: Seriously, you're going to auction off all your belts?
Swan: Why are you going to do that?
Tyson: Somebody who really cares about them like a fan who wants a souvenir.
Swan: You don't care about them anymore?
Tyson: That was a different stage of my life.
Swan: Don't you think your kids might want to see what dad did?
Tyson: These are all replicas. They have all that stuff. It's all about this now.
Swan: Are you gonna sing any Justin Bieber on stage?
Tyson: (Begins to sing: "I will always love you no matter how much money you have." Laughs and claps)
Swan: "The Hangover," for a lot of people, is just such a great movie. Your performance was really fun. I came in your home, I expected to see a tiger.
Tyson: Nope, Not here. Not in this place.
Swan: Was this not the home where The Hangover was filmed?
Tyson: No, that was in Los Angeles. But, I was just fortunate to be involved. That's opened a whole new paradox in my life.
Swan: Do you want to be remembered as a boxer or as something else?
Tyson: Just a good human being. All of that boxing stuff. You're just an athlete or a newscaster for a short period of life. When that's over, you're still a human being. I'm trying to work on my human skills.
Swan: You're happy you went bankrupt?
Tyson: I'm happy I lost everything because it helped me develop who I was as an individual.
Swan: Are you happy you went to prison?
Tyson: I'm not happy but a lot of good came out of it.
Swan: What good came out of it?
Tyson: I stayed alive. I wasn't living a good healthy life. I was living a bad life. Real violent life. Going there pretty much saved my life.
I was pretty promiscuous back then. I could have died. A lot of my friends died from AIDS and crack and God forbid, bullets.
The early 90's was just a bad time. Life wasn't worth 20 cents back then.
Swan: And you had everything.
Tyson: That's what appeared is that I had everything. What is having everything. You tell me.
Swan: I would think the world would say…
Tyson: I want to know your opinion.
Swan: You want to know my opinion? I like the fact that you don't think about money. Because I think there's more to life than money.
For me, it's my wife, it's my three kids, it's my faith, those are the things that are important to me, not what car I drive, not what clothes I wear. That's not important to me. But, I think the world tells a different story. The world tells you you're supposed to have more.
More money, more fame.
Tyson: Whenever I try to find happiness in the world, it never happens. I was never successful. It's an inside job. I'm working and I've come along way. I'm proud of myself. I've never been proud of myself before. I'm working on developing a happy family.
My older kids respect me. I would not forgive me. They're so much stronger than I am. Right to this day, I wouldn't forgive me.
Swan: What you're saying is that they've forgiven you?
Swan: Have you forgiven yourself?
Tyson: Yeah, I've done that. It's not 100 percent. That's a hard job.
Swan: Do you watch any of your fights anymore?
Tyson: No way. I watch Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. (Laughter).
Swan: Which ones do you watch?
Tyson: The first one in New York, the Thrilla in Manilla, and then the Rumble in the Jungle. Those are the only fights that I have.
Tyson showed me a display case in his living room filled with championship belts, plaques, trophies and boxing memorabilia, including a signed pair of black boxing shoes. Tyson told me he modeled himself after former heavyweight fighter Jack Dempsey who wore black shorts and shoes with no socks in the ring. Tyson pointed to the first championship belt he won by defeating Trevor Berbick.
Swan: What was that like?
Tyson: Fulfilled dream for me to be the best. More than money. Money wasn't important. 200 years from now, they'll have boxing.
Somewhere in the conversation, my name will come up. It'll come up.
Swan: What happened in the James "Buster" Douglas fight?
Tyson: I got my ass kicked.
Swan: Why did you bite (Evander Holyfield's) ear?
Tyson: I don't know. I was getting frustrated. He was hitting me too damn hard.
Swan: How do you think you'll be remembered?
Tyson: It doesn't matter. I'll be remembered.