A fighter whose Tyranny became commonplace, whose ring victories became ritual and uneventful, at least ought to become interesting in defeat. If the rules of melodrama hold, and daytime television tells us they do, Mike Tyson must be wandering around the Catskills wearing Floyd Patterson's fake beard, a hand-me-down that passes from one humbled heavyweight to another. As far as we know, given his free-fall, Tyson may even be contemplating....
"Mike," a man shouts during a rare sighting—actually, a Don King press conference in Los Angeles—"the tabloids at one point had you as suicidal." There have been, in fact, reports of heavy drinking and of dropping down to Manhattan from the Catskills to buy luxury automobiles off showroom floors, of impulsive and unrestrained behavior unrelieved by any public explanation. "Suicidal," the man shouts. "Those were the headlines."
For all the secrecy that has shrouded Tyson since Buster Douglas unseated him as heavyweight champion of the world on Feb. 10, evidence of turmoil, if not despair, has nonetheless persisted. King recently airlifted Tyson out of the Catskills, installed him in King's new Las Vegas home and coaxed him into workouts in the garage. Just over a week ago, even as Tyson was proclaiming his confidence in the corner work of Jay Bright and Aaron Snowell, two parties to the biggest upset in boxing history, veteran trainer Richie Giachetti was added to the entourage. Friends from the original Team Tyson speak of the former champion as "being in a mental hole," unhinged by defeat and notions of vulnerability. Bill Cayton, his estranged manager, looks at the entourage—"King's henchmen," he calls them—and sees the fighter "pretty well surrounded" yet "all by himself, and he doesn't even know it." Gloomy stuff.
Says the man at the press conference, "Those were the headlines, Mike. Didn't want to go on with your life."
Earlier that day, a white limo pulled up to Caesars Palace's corporate Gulfstream at the Las Vegas airport, and the startling hulk of Tyson emerged, wearing white leather bib overalls and no shirt. He later would say he weighed about 226 pounds, eight more than fighting trim. He did not seem fat, as he certainly was in the weeks before the Douglas bout, and the naked arms and shoulders did not belong to a man gone soft.
Aboard the jet, Tyson sat at a folding table. Training-camp coordinator John Home, whose principal function is to look stern and prevent interviews, was seated across from him, and Rory Holloway, who obliges Tyson as a toil—thus the title of assistant manager—sat beside him. King was across the aisle, examining Las Vegas newspapers for coverage of the previous day's press conference, at which he had announced that he and bitter rival Bob Arum, now partners in Tyson's June 16 comeback fight against Henry Tillman, "were doubly rededicated in the unity capacity."
"This," King shouted to Arum, seated behind him, "is a good one."
Horne and Holloway are much like Tyson; they are kids, childhood buddies of his. The entourage, at least for this brief flight to a Los Angeles press conference, seemed to function as little more than an organized childhood for Tyson. Airborne, Tyson broke out a deck of cards and distributed chips. "You know the game pitty-pat?" Tyson asked Holloway, who nodded. They played that, although Holloway played it very badly. Tyson wondered what in the world Holloway was doing, discarding a 6 on his own queen. Realizing his error, Holloway slapped his forehead and said, "I'm playing tong!"
Tyson examined the dark circles under his friend's eyes and decided not to blacken them further for his foolishness. "You already got two black eyes," he said. "You're like a raccoon." Holloway looked sheepish.
Angelo Dundee, Muhammad Ali's trainer for the famous George Foreman bout in Zaire but now Adilson Rodrigues's handler for the somewhat less significant Foreman fight on the same card on which Tyson will be fighting, wandered by and suggested bringing in an old witch doctor for a subsequent press conference. This remark introduced the topic of Africa, and Tyson suddenly became wide-eyed. "There are places in the bush that are unexplored," he told Home. "I'm going to go there and visit some tribes."