King spoke of his time in Zaire. "I've got film of a pygmy wedding," he told Tyson. This was improbable news. Now Tyson was doubly intrigued. The notion of marriage, even though he suffered an upset there as well, obviously has a hold on him. "What's that like?" he asked King. "A pygmy wedding? Do they walk on coals or on spikes?"
"That's only in America, Mike," somebody said.
As the plane continued its passage over the Nevada desert, it occurred to Tyson and his troupe that their destination was not far from Rodeo Drive, the Beverly Hills shopping mecca. He and Holloway began chanting "Ro-de-o, Ro-de-o." Tyson asked King if they could go there after the press conference. King squinted at the prospect and then said yes.
The jet continued on to Los Angeles, to the press conference where a man will ask Tyson about his suicidal tendencies, where his apparent self-destruction will be the topic of the day. Can he come back, recover that aura of invincibility that entertained a world for nearly four years? Can he at least beat Douglas?
In a quiet moment, as the jet bore down on Los Angeles, Tyson wondered aloud about that visit to Africa, all those different tribes in the bush. He would like to go there and find his true heritage. "I just know I'm from a warrior tribe," he said.
The strange truth of the matter is this: While mightily embarrassed, Tyson is not especially subdued by defeat. He has had some awkward moments, starting with his trip back from Tokyo, when he discovered he was booked into first class alongside Evander Holyfield, the man Tyson would have fought in a battle of unbeatens. Then there was the time he was introduced to a New York nightclub audience as the heavyweight champion of the world—"ex, ex, ex," Tyson kept muttering during the intro. Mostly, though, it has been business as usual: hanging out, fooling with his pigeons, seeing a variety of women (one of whom bore him a son earlier this month) and now, finally, getting ready for another fight.
At the press conference in L.A. he says, "Sooner or later you lose. You get out of line and you get your head handed to you. It's embarrassing. But I'm going to tell you, these things happen."
For Tyson, the only insufferable aspect of his defeat is the pity. "People feel sorry for me," he says, "but I hate anything weak around me." The champ—"ex, ex, ex"—pauses. "I've been five years in boxing, and in that small increment of time, I put a mark on boxing. I beat 37 guys. I'll probably come back and beat 40 more."
Some people, his former handlers being chief among them, do not believe that will happen. Cayton, who is still Tyson's manager of record, proclaims King's stewardship "an unmitigated disaster." He sees Tyson turning in increasingly desultory performances for diminished purses, and enjoying an enviable nightlife all the while. Of Tyson's drinking and womanizing, Cayton says, "I hear things. I get five calls a week from people who spot him at discos, about Mike just letting himself go." Cayton says that Tyson has distanced himself from the legacy of Cus D'Amato, the man who found him and made him into the youngest heavyweight champion ever.
The distancing continues. Cayton, who has called Bright and Snowell "inept," was not surprised when King brought in a veteran boxing man. "King would have a black eye if he let Bright and Snowell continue," says Cayton. Yet he is astonished by the choice of Giachetti: "Cus had the lowest regard for Giachetti. He hated him more than King and Arum—of whom he once said, 'God couldn't make the same mistake twice.' Giachetti, I must tell you, made fun of Cus. Mike must know this. I am sure Cus communicated his dislike to Mike. To me, this shows you the stranglehold King has on him."