Bad­dest and loneli­est man

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

NEW YORK — It can’t n’t be easy to say no to the Man on the Planet.

But Neil Leifer did d ex­actly that, turn­ing down an in­vite from the one and only Mike Tyson.

Leifer is one of the best known sports pho­tog­ra­phers in the world. rld. The New Yorker has shot more than 200 cov­ers for Time, Sports Il­lus­trated and Peo­ple le and he was the first snap­per ever in­ducted cted to a pro­fes­sional sports hall of fame — the In­ter­na­tional Box­ing Hall of Fame in 2014.014.

Twenty-six years be­fore efore that hon­our, Leifer was pho­tograph­ing Mike Tyson in his prime. It was 1988, and Iron Mike was about to fight Michael Spinks in a heavy­weight ti­tle bout in At­lantic City.

In Leifer’s eyes, Tyson was the big­gest sport­ing name on the he planet at that point in his ca­reer, al­though gh “Michael Jor­dan was gain­ing on him”.

While Time mag­a­zine zine rarely put ath­letes on its cover, Leifer had been com­mis­sioned to shoot Tyson in At­lantic an­tic City for a pre­view story be­fore the highly ly an­tic­i­pated bout.

“Tyson was sched­uled uled to train be­tween noon and 2pm,” Leifer er wrote in his new book Re­lent­less: The Sto­ries Be­hind the Pho­to­graphs.

“On the ap­pointed ted day, noon came but Tyson n didn’t. Twelve-fif­teen, no Tyson. One-thirty, no Tyson. n. His guys kept say­ing, ‘ Don’t worry. We’ll get him. We’ve got all his phone one num­bers.’

“A half-hour later, er, when it was ob­vi­ous us that Tyson was not ot go­ing to train, they ey started call­ing his s num­bers, in­clud­ing those of what­ever ladies they knew he might be with. They didn’t reach him. They said, ‘Don’t worry. He’ll be here to­mor­row. Ev­ery once in a while he de­cides to skip train­ing.”

Leifer had time on his side — there was still two weeks s till dead­line.

The next day, Leifer er re­turned. No Tyson. on. But it would be third ird time lucky.

“He trained, he came over to my makeshift ft stu­dio and he was fab­u­lous,” ” Leifer wrote.

It did not take longng for Leifer to pro­duce his cover shot, hav­ing ing given con­sid­er­able thought to the shoot in the lead-up. Now it was time forr sup­port­ing photos. The pair went forr a walk and Leifer took shots of Tyson talk­ing to peo­ple on the board­walk, at the he beach, catch­ing pi­geons in his hands s and fi­nally they came across an ex­pen­sive nsive Ital­ian cloth­ing store close to an n apart­ment the champ was stay­ing in. n.

Leifer de­scribed Tyson yson as a “sharp dresser” and he thought ght photos of him try­ing on the fancy suits would be a good idea. Tyson agreed.

The shop owner closed the store while Tyson pe­rused and Leifer snapped.

“I’d read about the queen of Eng­land go­ing to Har­rods and how the owner would close the store,” Leifer ex­plained.

“It turned out to be a smart busi­ness move be­cause Tyson went on a tear.”

By “tear”, Leifer meant Tyson went on a spend­ing spree, buy­ing a suit, sports jacket and shirts, hand­ing over thou­sands of dol­lars.

Af­ter the shoot was when Leifer — who had been forced to wait two days to shoot Tyson — turned the ta­bles.

“I had the­atre tick­ets in New York that night, so I told him I had ev­ery­thing I needed and had to get back to the city,” Leifer wrote.

“He said, ‘ What do you mean? You got a hot date?’

“I told him I was tak­ing my as­sis­tant to the the­atre. Tyson said, ‘Hey, why don’t we go the movies?’”

Leifer went on to paint Tyson as a lonely fig­ure, de­spite the fame and for­tune.

“It oc­curred to me then that he didn’t have any­body to hang out with ex­cept the peo­ple who were hang­ing around, suck­ing up to him for a hand-out. I told him I really had to leave,” Leifer con­tin­ued.

“‘Get her on the phone,’ (Tyson) said. talk to her.’ ‘I’ll

“I said, ‘Mike, I can’t do that. I promised I would take her to din­ner and a show. I’ve got to get go­ing.

“I fi­nally left but I couldn’t help feel­ing bad for him.”

A year later, Leifer was com­mis­sioned to shoot Tyson once again, this time for Lifemagazine, and this time in Cleve­land.

Again, Tyson “wanted to hang out”, Leifer wrote.

This time, Leifer agreed, go­ing to lunch with Tyson, his pro­moter Don King and the mayor of Cleve­land — plus two of “Mike’s peo­ple”.

Tyson then de­cided he wanted a dog, so they went to­gether and he bought a St Bernard for “$800 or $900”.

Af­ter more “fool­ing around”, Leifer put it to Tyson that they needed to get the shoot fin­ished, and the boxer locked in a time of 7pm that evening to meet and get it done.

“Eight o’clock came and went and so did nine,” Leifer wrote, de­scrib­ing it as the “Spinks as­sign­ment all over again” as Tyson’s peo­ple called all his num­bers to no avail.

By 1am, King told Leifer: “I’ve got a feel­ing Mike’s not gonna show up. Don’t worry. I’ll get him here to­mor­row.”

Leifer had a 4pm plane to catch that day, but was as­sured Tyson would make him­self avail­able be­fore noon. But by 10am, Leifer be­came ner­vous and he, with King in tow, went in search of the heavy­weight cham­pion of the world.

King traced Tyson down to his girl­friend’s place, and they rang the door­bell. The girl­friend an­swered.

The woman told them Tyson was up­stairs, and that’s when King turned to Leifer and said, “You’re on your own.”

“I went up and found Mike sit­ting on the edge of the bed. I sat down next to him. I said, ‘Mike, you’ve got to come with me right now. I can’t wait any longer.’

“Mike said, ‘I don’t feel like go­ing right now.’ “‘But you gave me your word,’ I said. “He looked straight at me and said, ‘Well, Neil, I guess my word is no f*ck­ing good.’ “And that was that.” The pho­to­shoot never hap­pened and Leifer was not a happy man.

“I must ad­mit that when I left Cleve­land that day, and for many years af­ter­ward, I was def­i­nitely not a fan of Mike Tyson,” he added.

The pair did, how­ever, even­tu­ally sort out their dif­fer­ences.

“In the years since that day, I have watched him change into one of the nicest peo­ple I know, and I am proud to say that I con­sider him a good friend of mine.”


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