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Bruce Newman
June 13, 1988
In the aftermath of Jimmy Jacobs's death, many are hungering for a piece of Mike Tyson
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June 13, 1988

Who Owns The King?

In the aftermath of Jimmy Jacobs's death, many are hungering for a piece of Mike Tyson

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While he and Robin (and, of course, Ruth) were on their way home to New Jersey from Manhattan in the morning hours of May 8, Tyson swerved his $180,000 silver Bentley convertible into a parked car. Depending on whose story you believe, he was either attempting to avoid hitting a stray cat or being hit by his wife. According to several accounts, Tyson and Robin were quarreling, and when she began slapping him, he lost control of the car. (The story was denied by Givens's publicist, Karen Samfilippo, the same woman who declared Givens's pregnancy "not official yet," even though Tyson was widely boasting about his impending fatherhood.)

What is known is that Tyson got out of the car, surveyed the wreckage, and when two police officers appeared, offering assistance, told them they could have the Bentley. "I've had nothing but bad luck and accidents with this car," he said. The two cops, Dana Bratton and Stephen Barnes, demurred at first, but they eventually accepted the keys to the Bentley and stashed the car overnight in a Jersey City garage, only to be brought up on departmental charges when word of the curious episode leaked out a few days later.

Before meeting Tyson in Los Angeles in early '87, Givens's only previous experience with fighters was being punched out once by actress Holly Robinson of 21 Jump Street for making a rude remark about Robinson's mother. Givens, a 1984 graduate of Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y., dated both Eddie Murphy and Michael Jordan before she decided to pursue an acting career. For a while she told interviewers that her determination to become an actress forced her to make the painful decision to drop out of Harvard Medical School. Recently, however, somebody got around to checking with Harvard and discovered that Robin had never been enrolled at the med school.

Roper, who owns a Manhattan data processing consulting firm, had also made the acquaintance of at least one athlete before her daughter wed the heavyweight champion. Last week it was revealed that New York Yankee slugger Dave Winfield had settled a suit with Roper in which she accused him of giving her an undisclosed sexually transmitted disease three years ago. Winfield denies the charge.

Givens and her mother persuaded Tyson to order Cayton to show them the books, and Roper's lawyer, Michael Winston, sent Cayton a letter demanding to be shown a full accounting of Tyson's fortune. Cayton found the letter insulting because it seemed to imply that he had exploited Tyson for personal gain. "It was the kind of letter that we received, the tone of it," he says.

Cayton showed the letter to Tyson, who insisted that he hadn't authorized it. Cayton then took Tyson to his accountant's office and let the fighter pore over ledgers for several hours. When Tyson dropped his manager off at Grand Central Station that night, according to Cayton, "Mike said, 'Bill, I'm happy with what you're doing. As long as I fight, you're my manager.' " Yet Tyson was not so trusting that he wasn't interested in soliciting a second opinion.

"Bill Cayton showed me figures in the accountant's books," Tyson told The New York Times, "but I'm not that sophisticated to comprehend. So I said to myself, Don King knows what's going on. But by no means do I trust Don King."

Tyson wasn't sure whom he could trust. "All the leeches are out," Tyson's trainer, Kevin Rooney, told the Times. "People are putting pressure on him, but he's got to go through this sooner or later." It was Tyson's own brainstorm to tell one interviewer that he was thinking of packing up and moving to Monaco, where his income would at least be sheltered against taxes. But when it was explained to him that to become a subject of Monaco he would have to renounce his U.S. citizenship, Tyson decided instead to go back to Jersey and sulk. But not to train.

When Jacobs and D'Amato were alive, Tyson trained for every bout with monkish zeal, reportedly adhering to D'Amato's strict prefight dictum of celibacy. Now, on the eve of the biggest fight of his career, his priorities have clearly changed. "It's the power of the woman," Tyson's assistant manager, Steve Lott, told Newsday, a New York metropolitan-area daily. "He's obsessed with her."

Tyson didn't go into training for the Spinks fight until late last month, and he showed up weighing 237 pounds, nearly 20 pounds more than his normal fighting weight. "Of course, he was distracted," says Cayton. "He couldn't begin his training because he was with his wife. We wanted him to start training at the beginning of May so he would get in six or seven weeks of work, but he was out in California with his wife. She wanted him to spend extra time with her, so he couldn't train. Of course, that was distracting, but she's his wife."

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