Michael Rosenthal

Tyson opens up on “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel”

Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson will appear on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel at 10 p.m. ET / PT, 9 p.m. CT on Tuesday (Feb. 15).

Tyson was interviewed by Jon Frankel. Here are some exchanges:

On his life today:

Mike Tyson:“What I really am is some schmuck trying to find out all the right answers, you know what I mean? Just trying to get through.  I know what not to do more so than what to do.”

Tyson: “I had great moments and I had great lows.  I don’t think I accomplished anything besides never having to wait in line for a table or date a hot chick. And when you get 44 years old, you realize all that stuff is nonsense, insignificant s—.” 

Jon Frankel: “When you were going through it, did you enjoy it?”

altTyson: “I was never that guy. Just not that guy. My family are not tough people.  I’m just not a tough guy, you know? I’m a decent person, but I’m afraid to be a decent person.  Because all my life, a decent person, he’s gonna get the short end of the stick.”

Speaking about one of his most-treasured pigeons:

Tyson: “He hasn’t flew in years. I’ve just been breeding him. I’m afraid a hawk or something might get him. I’m so proud. This bird has been around here. He’s been with me since 2002, when he was a baby. When he was first born ,,, The year he was born, I had him. Pure eyes. Pearl eyes. Hard to find a white one with pearl eyes. I love this bird. I love this bird. I know it’s goofy, but this is what I love.”

Frankel: “No, no. I get it.”

Tyson: “I love birds. OK? I love f—— pigeons, all right? I love f—— pigeons.”

Tyson threw his first punch at 12 after a neighborhood bully in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn took one of his pigeons and killed it.  He explains his life following that experience:

Frankel:“Was that the first seed for you wanting to be a boxer?”

Tyson:“No. Never even thought about being a boxer. But I wanted to fight everybody all the time. I wanted to be in the neighborhood and be a tough guy so people would stop bullying me, you know?  So, no one could ever pick on me. ‘Cause that’s where all this stuff comes from.” 

Frankel“Why did you get picked on so much?”

Tyson: “Because I was fat.  You know?  Because I was fat and I wore glasses.”

Frankel:  “How fat were you?”

Tyson:  “I was fat and obese little kid and I wore glasses.  OK?  That’s why, you know?  That’s just how people are.”

Following some time in upstate New York with trainer Cus D’Amato, Tyson speaks on how he was tempted to return to the life he had left behind in Brooklyn:

Tyson:  “My friend had a drug operation or something going on.  I wanted to help him, be involved, because it looked exciting. And then I’m … I’m never gonna forget what he said. ‘These white people love you. And I wish I had some white people that loved me.’  That blew my mind.  Never forgot that when he said that.”

Frankel “That white people love you?”

Tyson: “And he said ‘Man, go back with them, Mike.  Don’t stay here with us.  Man, you’re gonna get opened up out here man.’  And he’s dead now.  They killed him, too.  But that’s what made me really just sit down and really concentrate on fighting.”

Speaking to his wild public persona at the height of his heavyweight career:

Frankel:  “So, when you had moments of acting out, was that planned?  Was that to sell tickets?”

Tyson “I don’t know.  I knew it does sell tickets.  But at that time, I just wanted to be great.  I just thought that all came with being great.  But I didn’t understand being all great men … most of the great men that I read about weren’t all good men. You know what I mean.  And second or third phase of my life, I want to try to be a good man, you know what I mean.  But yeah, my friend said, ‘You being good … you being a good man would be harder than you trying to win the heavyweight championship again.’ ”

Reflecting on his boxing career:

Frankel: “Do you think boxing was a gift, or a curse?”

Tyson:  “I don’t know. Both ways. Maybe I didn’t handle it in the proper perspective and it turned into a curse.  But I could have handled it differently. I could have handled it differently.”

Speaking to the infamous ear-biting incident in his rematch with Evander Holyfield in 1997:

Frankel: “If you could take back the Holyfield incident, would you?”

Tyson: “You know, thinking now, yeah, I would.  You know in that moment, no.  Probably a year ago, you asked me, two years ago, I would have said ‘To hell with him.’ You know, that’s how I was programmed to think, you know what I mean?  Have no feelings for people.”

Frankel: “Do you regret that that’s how a lot of people will always remember you as a boxer?”

Tyson: “People will remember me for being the most ferocious fighter the world has ever seen.  And that’s what they’ll remember me for.  And all that’s intertwined with me biting his ear as well.  So it’s really bizarre but that’s just what it is.”

Comparing the highs and lows of his life:

Tyson “I remember my drug days better than I remember my fighting days.  I have to talk to people that were there, because I don’t remember too much about my boxing days.  Either I don’t want to remember them, probably, that’s probably part of it.  Some of them … like, even the good times were really not good.  You know.  Even the fun times weren’t really fun.  You know, they just appeared to be fun.”

Frankel:  “The good times weren’t that good?”

Tyson:  “No.  Never. No.  This is the best time of my life, ever.  This is so interesting about my life, that I realize now.  It’s because at this stage in my life, with so little, I did so much.  And at that stage of my life I had so much, I couldn’t even do a little.”


Note: The Tyson interview replays many times on HBO

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