Once upon a time, Mike Tyson was the self-proclaimed Baddest Man on the Planet. Those days are long gone.
Media reports are circulating about the former heavyweight champion boxer. He is in great shape. He wants to fight. He’s ready to go.
He’s also 53 years old.
I don’t know if this is all a massive publicity stunt or if Tyson actually wants to get in the ring with a boxer or MMA fighter. UFC president Dana White, a friend of Tyson, told ESPN on Thursday that Tyson has something “lined up” in the way of a fight, although he did not disclose details.
But White also shared his concerns about Tyson putting himself in such a situation.
“I got him a TV show that he’s gonna do because I was trying to do everything to get him to not fight,” he said.
White added Tyson is a “grown man” and can do what he wants. White said he supports Tyson in whatever decision he makes.
A short video clip of Tyson hitting the pads and a heavy bag went viral. His trainer said Tyson has “the same speed, same power as guys 21, 22 years old.”
Stop it. Stop the nonsense.
It’s time to inject some levity and reality into this discussion. Tyson may be in great shape for his age, but he is 53. In one month (June 30), he will turn 54.
And let’s address the video that got Tyson’s fanbase so riled up.
In his famous film “Enter the Dragon,” legendary martial artist Bruce Lee had a few words for a man he’s about to fight. The man breaks a board in front of him as a show of strength.
“Boards don’t hit back,” Lee says, staring the man dead in his eyes.
An important point. It’s one thing to look impressive hitting pads or a body bag. It’s another thing entirely to get in the ring with another man trying to hurt you.
Teddy Atlas, who trained Tyson in his early glory days, reiterated that point. When asked about Tyson’s prospects for a comeback, he said, “Nobody was hitting back on that video the last time I [looked].”
Atlas added, “Let’s not confuse ourselves, let’s not get crazy here,” in overstating Tyson’s abilities at his advanced age.
There was an outlandish report about Tyson fighting current heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, who, as you might expect, was named after the guy who dominated the division in the late 1980s.
Fury said he was contacted about fighting the 53-year-old former champ in an exhibition match. For the record, Fury is a foot taller than the 5-foot-10 Tyson, and he’s 22 years younger.
Even if it is an “exhibition,” it has the potential to go wrong. Very wrong.
This is about protecting a man from himself. Because I don’t think anyone wants to see an over-the-hill Tyson get hurt. And if he fights a man like Fury in a serious fight, he could end up in the hospital, suffer permanent brain damage, or worse.
Tyson’s celebrity is fueling this. He still has an army of fans who worship him based on his early-career dominance and persona. The fact is, Tyson never beat a great opponent in their prime, and he was destroyed by the best fighters he faced, Evander Holyfield (twice) and Lennox Lewis.
In 1986 at 20 years old, Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in history. That’s wildly impressive, no matter what. He was a great talent and had a great career.
But he is not an all-time great. His celebrity is mostly due to hype, the Don King PR machine, outrageous antics and a violent past.
Tyson was convicted of rape in 1992 and served three years in prison. Another reason why I don’t understand the fanboys who still idolize Tyson. Celebrating a convicted rapist should make oneself look in the mirror.
Those fans have an odd obsession with Tyson, and they believe he is a much greater fighter than he was. They are also delusional enough to think he could still be the Baddest Man on the Planet in his 50s.
When Tyson (50-6, 44 KOs) was still an active fighter, he ended his career getting beaten down by a couple of no-names. He was knocked out in the fourth round by Danny Williams in 2004 and suffered a TKO defeat to Kevin McBride in 2005 after he failed to answer the bell in the seventh round.
Tyson was 38 years old in both of those knockout losses. So he’s actually going to be a better fighter at 54 than he was at 38? Without a single pro fight in the last 15 years?
Luckily, it’s not just up to Tyson. He would have to gain approval from a state athletic commission before moving forward with a fight.
I’m hoping the Nevada Athletic Commission, and any commission in any other state, will think about the health and safety of Tyson and deny his request.
Tyson is a grown man and can do what he wants, but there’s a reason why we don’t see men older than 50 in professional boxing. It’s far too dangerous, and we don’t want to see these men maimed or even killed.
When forced to make a decision, athletic commissions will need to do the right thing.
And that means saving Tyson from himself.