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I Was Short and Ugly and I Had a Speech Impediment
October 22, 2013 8:26 AM   Subscribe

My Life as a Young Thug (Mike Tyson, for New York magazine)
posted by box (17 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Man, I'm conflicted about Tyson. He's a really fascinating guy, but I'll be damned if I ever believe anything he says. I used to work with a few retired cops in their second careers who worked his neighborhood when he was a teenager, and they had some stories.

Still and all I'll probably wind up reading this book, fighting myself the whole way.
posted by nevercalm at 8:55 AM on October 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, eboxysterical.
posted by nevercalm at 9:14 AM on October 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'll be among the first in line for a really good biography of Tyson -- he's one of the most compelling (in various ways, both positively and negatively) people of his generation -- but not an autobiography.

Mostly, when I think about Tyson these days, I wonder at how difficult it must be to be done with the one thing you're good at when before you hit 40. Other athletes can coach or manage or be a talking head, but Tyson seems like he was just too crazy-talented to be useful as a trainer or an analyst ("Okay, at this point, you're going to punch him so hard he falls unconscious." "You mean, after 90 seconds?" "Yeah. What, you can't do that?" "No, Mr. Tyson, I can't." "Well, shit. I don't know what else I can teach you."). Even if he hadn't lost so much of the money he'd made by then, what the hell else is there for him to do?
posted by Etrigan at 9:24 AM on October 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


An excellent and very sobering read, thanks. I think it makes sense for Tyson to do an autobiography - that way (even though obviously the writing is assisted and the details are part-researched) we get to hear it in his own voice.
posted by iotic at 10:00 AM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


nevercalm: "Still and all I'll probably wind up reading this book, fighting myself the whole way."

Just like Mike, then...
posted by chavenet at 10:20 AM on October 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I still want to know how Tyson felt about getting KOed by Little Mac in just 3 rounds. That's still got to sting.
posted by Strange Interlude at 10:42 AM on October 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Tyson's world made fighters the way Arrakis made Fremen.

I think there's a kind of fascination in seeing how sometimes, some people do seem to have a destiny. Tyson's whole life and world conspired to make him dominatingly good at exactly one thing. It made him awful at nearly everything else in consequence. He's become a hateful, pitiful figure (characters who are slaves to their destiny always end up tragic; ask the Greeks) but apparently we're still fascinated by him.

It's probably a fake idea. We have this apotropaic idea that true genius happens only at the knife's edge of self-destruction, right? The artist who paints beautifully or makes lovely music but whose candle must burn out young; the mathematician with crystalline, elegant insight who is driven mad by his own thinking; and the fighter who can't control his impulses, who turns into a monster. It's too Just-So a story to be true. But maybe it comforts those of us who'll never approach such heights? At least we're still sane. At least we're human.

I guess it's not controversial that the same things that made him a good fighter made him a bad person. But that leads us to the idea that the things that make someone the BEST fighter make them the WORST person. Does that follow? I don't know; for some reason I hope not.
posted by penduluum at 10:49 AM on October 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


But that leads us to the idea that the things that make someone the BEST fighter make them the WORST person

Well if that is the case then Tyson cannot be that bad of a person because he was never a great boxer. He beat a pretty good Marvis Frazier on his way up, but he never fought anyone like Joe Frazier. Michael Spinks was a has-been by the time Tyson fought him. Remember when he got knocked out by Buster Douglas and lost his title? Or how Evander Holyfield beat him like a rag doll twice (resulting in Tyson taking a bite out his ear.) Lennox Lewis beat him pretty handily too.

I don't get the fascination with Tyson and it says something that Tyson - the thug - is more famous than a class-act (and better boxer) like Holyfield.
posted by three blind mice at 11:55 AM on October 22, 2013


Someone told me back in the olden days people kept pigeons to eat them but eventually it became a hobby.

I knew people who kept roosters, I hated those fucking things, I sometimes saw them in the street outside the cock fighting spot and stayed the hell away, they would come flapping at you. And I even knew a family with a goat in their backyard, but never knew anyone who kept pigeons.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:24 PM on October 22, 2013


Remember when he got knocked out by Buster Douglas and lost his title? Or how Evander Holyfield beat him like a rag doll twice (resulting in Tyson taking a bite out his ear.) Lennox Lewis beat him pretty handily too

Few points:

1 - Tyson was a skilled boxer — as is related in almost every thread — whose technique went out the window when D'Amato died.

2 - His loss to Douglas also involved illness, a ridiculously excessive party life-style, and he was KO'ed in the 10th round. (Not exactly a squash match.)

3 - His losses to Hollyfield were after wasting what remained of his prime in jail. By this time, from what I understand, he was no longer even training seriously. The Tyson who lost to Hollyfield was not the same boxer who went to jail.

Dislike the man all you want, but do not pretend he wasn't a good boxer in his prime.
posted by Dark Messiah at 1:43 PM on October 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I guess it's not controversial that the same things that made him a good fighter made him a bad person.

That is controversial. When he was a good fighter, he was a happy person, and he wasn't a thug. Viciousness and "not controlling one's impulses" was not what got him the wins. He had incredible defense and great head movement. Yes, he was also incredibly powerful with good fast-twitch muscles, but that doesn't correlate with bad personhood.

If you think about it, if simply going out there and being a vicious savage beast was all it took to beat all these incredibly disciplined fighters, why are so many successful fighters so disciplined and methodical?

I do understand why someone might think that Tyson owes it all to savagery, though – promoters love to play up the primal in combat sports, especially when black fighters are involved. It is unfortunate but dominant aspect of the marketing.
posted by ignignokt at 1:45 PM on October 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Look at MMA, all those "raised in the streets" bros get annihilated once they get beyond the mid-tier of the regional scene. Being an asshole does not make you a good fighter.

The idea that the thug life teaches you skills that work against professional fighters is laughable to the point of hysteria.
posted by Dark Messiah at 1:47 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


The great loss of 20th century boxing is, in many ways, what Tyson might have become had Cus D'Amato not died. He was incredibly young when he started winning; he could have been more dominant for longer than almost anyone else, ever.
posted by uberchet at 2:12 PM on October 22, 2013


In the clearing stands a boxer for 90 seconds against 19 year old Mike Tyson.
posted by humanfont at 3:56 PM on October 22, 2013


That is controversial. When he was a good fighter, he was a happy person, and he wasn't a thug. Viciousness and "not controlling one's impulses" was not what got him the wins.

It's amazing to me how few people realize how much effort and dedication it takes to become a professional athlete on Tyson's level, even if you think he's overrated. To get to that point, you have to prove that you're better than hundreds of thousands if not millions of other people who want to be champion just as much as you do. It hasn't been possible for probably a hundred years for anyone to waltz into a major professional sport with minimal training and achieve greatness based on just natural talent. These folks, even the ones that get blown off as flakes or soft or not dedicated enough, work long hours to do what they do.
posted by Copronymus at 4:01 PM on October 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's not a fake idea. Godel, Escher, Bach. Mania. Divine inspiration at the expense of everything else. The hard work is probably largely slogged through by people of moderation and perseverance. But a person who seems maximized to fit certain roles for reasons biological and psychological falls short hard in other areas. Like breeding pot for potency or taste and losing yield or rerolling a character in an RPG desperately trying to maximize strength and charisma. It's not a hard and fast rule but I think some people go to extremes that others can't imagine, and they entertain, entrance, and sometimes even enslave people along the way. The ones that go furthest might be the ones that go unnoticed the longest. Hmm
posted by lordaych at 4:43 PM on October 22, 2013


One minute and 26 seconds of Mike Tyson talking about his racing pigeons on Larry King Live
posted by bukvich at 10:44 AM on October 26, 2013


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