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TYSON THE TIMID, TYSON THE TERRIBLE
Gary Smith
March 21, 1988
WHAT CONSUMES THE HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD, WHAT MAKES MIKE TYSON AS IMPOSING AS ANY FIGHTER IN BOXING HISTORY? HIS OWN FEAR, PERHAPS
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March 21, 1988

Tyson The Timid, Tyson The Terrible

WHAT CONSUMES THE HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD, WHAT MAKES MIKE TYSON AS IMPOSING AS ANY FIGHTER IN BOXING HISTORY? HIS OWN FEAR, PERHAPS

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"When I say I'm the best fighter on the planet, I don't say it because I want to prove something. No one knows I'm a jerk more than me—I screw up all the time, I'm somewhat immature. I just say it because I want to get under people's skin. I want people to boo me when I walk in the ring. The chip on my shoulder is my security. I'm the bad guy, I want to be the bad guy...but I'm not the bad guy.

"What society gives me doesn't mean anything to me, because I know when I go it will be like I never existed. I don't want celebrity. It's disrespectful, coming up and asking me for autographs while I'm eating. What does a 70-year-old white person have in common with a 21-year-old black man? Nothing. Nobody is going to come up to me and say they love me now, when he has no reason to love me. Where was he when I needed someone to love me?

"Five years before I was born, black people had no rights. If you were 20, five years before I was born, your ways were set. It's hard for me to believe that someone who was 20 in 1961 could change his mind about blacks. It's still inside them. People don't want to see a 21-year-old black man making 60 million dollars a year, owning four, five cars. But I don't need them to love me. I don't need anyone but myself.

"Tell me, how do people expect me to react: Give the nigger a little money and he's satisfied? Why is my friend Rory a great guy when he's with me, but not when he's not? I'm a commodity, I'm supposed to entertain them. You know in the old days, how slaves sang and danced for their masters? Then they had to go home and mop the floors. Think about it. I'm supposed to be a role model. What kind of role model would I be if I forgot where I came from?

"I know that basically I'm not wanted here. Americans aren't civilized people. I love the freedom of speech and opportunity here...but sometimes, I'm embarrassed by America. We should be a great enough country to take care of the weak. If there wasn't poor, there couldn't be rich. If there wasn't sickness, there wouldn't be health. Suffering is the only way we don't take life for granted, it makes us realize how good we have it. I love retarded people, animals, kids—they're innocent. But people take affection for weakness. When people do that, I get very upset, I don't know what I might do.

"If a man hit me outside of the ring, I'd kill him and not think anything of it. I refuse to take———. I took enough of it when I was a kid. I ran away—I don't ever want to do that again. If somebody smacks me, it's reason to fight to the death. Then I will take responsibility for what happens. Be a man.

"I love to hit people. I love to. Most celebrities are afraid someone's going to attack them. I want someone to attack me. No weapons. Just me and him. I like to beat men and beat them bad.

"I'll break Spinks. None of them have a chance, I'll break them all. When I fight someone, I want to break his will. I want to take his manhood. I want to rip out his heart and show it to him. My manager, Jimmy I Jacobs I, tells me not to say those things. But that's how I feel. People say that's primitive, that I'm an animal. But then they pay $500 to see it. There's so much hypocrisy in the world. The world is so———up."

His listener asks about the letter Tyson's old social worker, Ernestine Coleman, wrote to him in 1986 after his devastating sixth-round knockout of Jesse Ferguson, when he told the media, "I wanted to drive his nose bone into his brain."

"Be an athlete," Coleman wrote. "Not an animal."

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