BY MITCH ABRAMSON
Is the world ready for a Mellow Mike Tyson?
The high-pitched voice with the Brooklyn accent was familiar- but the words were not.
The former Baddest Man on the Planet didn’t threaten or even curse once during a conference call on Friday to hype his latest foray as a boxing promoter. He didn’t yell or say something off the wall.
There was no mention of anyone's ears.
No, it was a grown-up, buttoned down even reserved Tyson who appeared to discuss his role as president of Iron Mike Productions and his return to the Turning Stone Resort on June 6 for another ESPN 2 boxing show, his second in the past year at the upstate casino.
He said he's been clean and sober. He sounded happy, excited about the card.
If Tyson has proved anything, it's that he's unpredictable, and he certainly showed the randomness that is Tyson by acting, well, perfectly normal and behaving himself during the media call.
It wasn’t that long ago when Tyson suffered a mini-meltdown during a press conference at the Turning Stone in his debut as a promoter when he admitted he still struggled with sobriety, contradicting the popular belief that he had been clean at the time.
“I haven’t drank or took drugs in six days, and for me that’s a miracle,” Tyson said last August. “I’ve been lying to everybody else that thinks I was sober but I’m not. This is my sixth day. I’m never gonna use again,” his voice trailing off, welling up with emotion.
Earlier, he made this startling disclosure: “I don’t wanna die. I’m on the verge of dying, because I’m a vicious alcoholic.”
That unhinged Tyson was nowhere to be found during Friday’s call, which lasted just over 18 minutes. The media call-in was hyped by organizers as a return to the “exciting” and erratic Tyson, but it wasn’t the case.
Tyson, who retired as a fighter in 2005, was mostly gracious and outgoing in discussing his goals as a promoter. The one time he seemed to grow serious was when he was asked if he’s been abstaining from drugs and alcohol.
“Hey, I’ve been, yes I am [sober], and I’ve been that way since my last discussion, about it,” said Tyson, apparently indicating he’s been sober since last August. “It’s a struggle but as of now I’m winning. I can only deal with the moment and as of this moment I’m dealing with it very well.”
That was the only time he discussed his personal life.
Tyson will promote a pair of main events for the June 6 show (the literature lists them as both main events), with a 10-round junior middleweight bout between Yudel Jhonson (15-1, 9 KOs) and Norberto Gonzalez (20-3, 13 KOs) for the WBC Latin Title, and an eight-round welterweight fight featuring Sammy Vasquez Jr. (14-0, 10 KOs) against Jay Krupp (17-6, 8 KOs).
The rest of the call was spent chatting about the business of boxing and Tyson’s place in the sport's history.
Tyson didn't visit his financial situation, which has been a fascinating subplot throughout his career. Tyson filed for bankruptcy in 2003 and is reported to have blown between $300 and $400 million in career earnings and owes "millions" to the IRS, according to a 2013 episode of HBO's "Real Sports."
He currently lives in Henderson, NV with his wife, Kiki and their two children and has worked hard to pay off his debts. His best-selling memoir, “Undisputed Truth” is set to come out in paperback on Oct. 28 with an extra chapter. He also may bring his one-man stage show to the Middle East, sometime in October, according to his publicist. Tyson has a new animated series called “Mike Tyson Mysteries” coming out this fall on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, in which he teams up with a pigeon to solve mysteries. A call to Garry Jonas, CEO of Iron Mike Production, was not immediately returned.
Tyson, 47, was asked how he expects or wants to be remembered. “I can’t write that book,” he said. “That’s for the fans to write, the people who are following my fights in general.”
He also commented on his own makings as a boxing promoter, saying it was a lot tougher than he initially thought.
“The world is really doggy-dog,” Tyson said of the promotional business. “I have some friends who are promoters but once you get into the promotional business they're not your friends no more. That’s a really bizarre awakening.”
He also spoke of the differences between Tyson the promoter compared to Tyson the fighter.
“I can’t be as self-centered as I was when I was a fighter as I am as a promoter,” Tyson said. “I have to be very conscious of all the other fighters and their well-being and making sure they’re in the best possible [situation] and making sure they’re in evenly matched fights. They’re not over-matched. That’s my biggest thing- to be more responsible for them more so than I was for myself.”
Tyson also spoke of the affinity he has for upstate, NY, since it’s in the Catskills where Tyson first learned to box under trainer Cus D’Amato, becoming the youngest ever heavyweight champion as a 20-year-old when he stopped 33-year-old Trevor Berbick in 1986.
“Upstate New York is where it all started. It’s where I put on my first pair of boxing gloves,” Tyson said. “I never knew anything about boxing before I came to Catskill, NY and was under the tutelage of the legendary Cus D’Amato. I think fans have an affinity for me because I’m an Upstate guy.”
The one time when Tyson (50-6, 44 knockouts) flashed his silly side was when he informed the moderator of the conference call that he had to go soon because the plane he was sitting in was getting ready to take flight. But even that came off as charming.
“I’m in a plane and the plane is getting ready to take off,” Tyson said. “I have five minutes. Sorry guys.”
Mitch Abramson covers boxing for the New York Daily News and BoxingScene.com.