'I'm tired of being stupid'
Tyson turns over new leaf, prepares for fight vs. EtiennePosted: Tuesday November 26, 2002 9:19 PM
TUNICA, Mississippi (AP) -- Mike Tyson said he's ready to get back in the ring, bringing with him a new joy for life and an understanding of past mistakes.
"I feel good. I'm just very happy. I'm tired of being stupid," Tyson said Tuesday at a news conference announcing a Feb. 22 fight with Clifford Etienne in Memphis, Tennessee.
The fight will be at The Pyramid, where Tyson suffered through his last fight on June 8, a sound beating at the hands of heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis.
Smiling and laughing after playfully patting Etienne on the shoulder, Tyson said he has matured since the Lewis fight.
"Things basically have come together as far as my personal life," he said.
Tyson was unclear about what caused his emotional transition.
"I just feel so much good about my transformation and just forming to be a decent human being," he said.
The undercard will have eight fights, including the professional boxing debut of former Olympic skater Tonya Harding. An opponent has not yet been lined up for Harding, who has appeared on television's Celebrity Boxing.
"It is my goal to be the future undisputed bantam weight champion," Harding said. "My proven athletic ability, as you all know, and competitive nature will help this dream become reality."
Tyson, who spent three years in prison for raping a beauty pageant contestant, has a long history of violence outside the ring and in it.
He fought Lewis in Memphis because he was turned away from other venues, including Nevada, due to his rowdy reputation.
That included a fight between the Tyson and Lewis camps at a news conference in New York to announce their fight, originally scheduled for Las Vegas.
Nothing close to that occurred Tuesday at the Grand Casino in Tunica County, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Memphis.
Tunica has the largest complex of casinos between Atlantic City and Las Vegas.
Wearing a black suit with a modest brown and black striped tie and matching pocket scarf, Tyson said his rough past is behind him and he just wants to fight and make a living.
"We've all got to live. We've got to make a living ... I don't have to be a cold-blooded ... mean individual on the streets just to be a great fighter," he said.
Tyson said he was glad to return to Memphis because he was well received by the city before, particular in its poorer neighborhoods.
"That's where I come from ... I went downtown to the hood and everybody's got a gold tooth in their mouth and look like me," he said, drawing a hearty laugh from the audience.
Tyson, 35, was the youngest heavyweight champion ever at the age of 20. He has relied throughout his career on intimidation and his strength as a slugger.
Despite his new, gentler view of life, Tyson said he has no plans to change his fighting style.
The Etienne fight will be the beginning of Tyson's attempt at a comeback and a rematch with Lewis.
Etienne (24-1-1) was knocked down twice but managed a draw July 27 in his last fight against Francois Botha.
"Mike Tyson can still beat 99 percent of the heavyweights out there," Etienne said. "I just feel like I'm in that 1 percent that he can't beat and I'm going to show it."
The 10-round fight is being promoted by the Grand Casino and Prize Fight, a co-promoter of the Lewis fight.
The Lewis-Tyson fight drew 15,327 to the Pyramid and is generally considered the biggest sporting event in Memphis history.
The fight was one of the most lucrative in boxing history, with ringside ticket prices of $2,400 and pay-per-view sales trailing only the second fight between Tyson and Evander Holyfield.
Tickets for the Tyson-Etienne fight will start at $25. Top prices have not been announced.