Boxing’s once and forever Man of the Ear and the youngest heavyweight champ in history has recast himself as a promoter and raconteur, writes
It’s been 28 years since a truculent ball of hate named Mike Tyson exploded on the scene like a cruise missile and became the youngest heavyweight champion in boxing history. ¶ And it’s been eight years since he retired following an ignominious KO at the hands of journeyman Kevin McBride. ¶ But now the sport’s once and forever Man of the Ear is back with a bang. He’ll make his promotional debut on Friday night at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York, fronting the IBF super featherweight title clash between champion Argenis Mendez (21-2) of Argentina and Canadian challenger Arash Usmanee (20-1).
Tyson opened Wednesday’s final media conference by introducing himself ... and apologizing for his fractured pronunciation of some of the fighter’s names.
“Hey, listen, I didn’t do good in school but I’ll give you the best I can,” he said. “I’m just being funny because I’m a little nervous. This is a very exciting thing for me.
“I’m privileged to have Argenis Mendez in my stable and he’s gonna go against Arash Usmanee, who’s from Afghanistan I take it?”
The 31-year-old Usmanee, who moved to Canada when he was five, smiled and nodded as Tyson went on: “OK, guys! And we’ve got Claudio Marr ... ero, who’s going up against Jesus ... please help me here ... Cuellar?”
The main event fighters were clearly intimidated by their promoter, but did their best to hype the show.
“I chose Arash for the first defense of my world title because I thought he was robbed in his last fight, which was his first loss,” said Mendez.
“I understand what’s entailed in preparing for a championship fight and he does too, so that’s why I expect a great effort from him on Friday. But he’s gonna have to go through ‘la Tormenta’ (the Storm, Mendez’ nickname). I’ll be ready.”
Usmanee, who was born in Kabul and saw his father killed in a Soviet rocket attack, said the title shot is the culmination of years’ of preparation.
“I’ve worked so hard for so many years, it’s kind of surreal to be here,” said the five-time Canadian amateur champion. “I had a great camp and I’m looking forward to a great fight, a real war.”
After listening to the fighters gush with gratitude for the opportunity to appear on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights and the inaugural show for Iron Mike Productions, Tyson gently chided them for being so, well ... unTyson-like.
“I don’t know if this is politically correct or not, but nobody talks about hurting anybody no more,” he later said in the Oneida (NY) Dispatch. “I don’t know ... they talk like they’re going to dance, not fight.It’s not like back in the day.”
Not even close. This was the guy who took a bite out of both of Evander Holyfield’s ears during their 1997 title bout — a stunt that cost Tyson a long suspension and a $3-million fine.
A couple of years later, at a media conference to promote his bout with Lennox Lewis, he memorably declared his desire to kill the champion and eat his children.
But that was the old Tyson. As a newly-minted promoter, he’s reinvented himself yet again and seems comfortable in the role of self-effacing raconteur.
He closed the media conference by signing autographs and inviting awestruck fans up on the stage for photo ops.
“I’m having fun,” he said. “I’m gonna watch the fights as a fan, of course. And I’m gonna be so happy that I’m not in there taking punches.”