BEASTS FROM THE EAST

Maxim - - CONTENTS - By Mike Tyson

MIKE TYSON TAKES ON THE FIERCE NEW CROP OF FIGHTERS OUT OF THE FOR­MER USSR

A NEW BREED OF BOX­ERS HAS EMERGED FROM THE FOR­MER USSR- HARD­ENED, FE­RO­CIOUS, AND HELL-BENT ON DOM­I­NA­TION...

TH­ESE GUYS FROM RUS­SIA AND THE FOR­MER SOVIET UNION ARE RUTH­LESS, VI­CIOUS FIGHTERS. AND YOU KNOW WHAT? THEY’RE SOME OF THE BEST BOX­ERS IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW. WE HAVE A PRE­CON­CEIVED NO­TION OF PEO­PLE FROM THAT RE­GION BE­ING LIKE KUBLAI KHAN: THEY’RE BLOOD­THIRSTY, THEY’RE CRUEL, THEY’RE MEAN, THEY’RE SAVAGES. THEY’RE DESCEN­DANTS OF AT­TILA THE HUN AND GENGHIS KHAN.

And in truth, they re­ally do have that fight­ing spirit. It comes from be­ing born into rough cir­cum­stances and see­ing no other way to im­prove your sit­u­a­tion than punch­ing your way out. It’s some­thing I can def­i­nitely re­late to. I’ve spent the past two and a half years pro­duc­ing a doc­u­men­tary, Champs, di­rected by my friend Bert Mar­cus, that goes deep into this idea. It looks at me and Evan­der Holy­field and Bernard Hop­kins—two of the great­est fighters of my era—and what it takes to be a cham­pion. The film shows that the fight out­side the ring, both in a boxer’s early life and af­ter his ca­reer ends, can be even more har­row­ing than in­side the ring. It’s about com­ing from noth­ing and be­com­ing some­thing great. I see that same fe­roc­ity in th­ese Eastern fighters who are win­ning world cham­pi­onships to­day.

Some­times you don’t choose boxing, it chooses you. It’s the only sport that lets you es­cape vi­o­lence and poverty through the act of vi­o­lence it­self. Th­ese Eastern box­ers are fight­ing to sur­vive, and they just hate to lose. They’d rather die than be van­quished in the ring. In my prime, I be­lieve I could have han­dled any man on the planet. Be­cause just like th­ese guys, I wanted to win. I needed to win. I wanted it more than any­thing else in my life. And more than that, I had to look spec­tac­u­lar do­ing it. Boxing is about hurt­ing your op­po­nent and emerg­ing vic­to­ri­ous. It’s that sim­ple. That pure. It’s been that way since the be­gin­ning of time.

Look at sergey ko­valev, the Rus­sian light heavy­weight cham­pion. He re­ally is fe­ro­cious. When you throw a punch at him, he’s com­ing back with two punches. That’s what made it hard for Bernard Hop­kins when they fought last year. Ko­valev throws all his punches with mur­der­ous in­ten­tions, and that’s in­tim­i­dat­ing in it­self. Bernard didn’t get knocked out, but he hes­i­tated to throw punches be­cause he knew some­thing bad was com­ing back. Some­thing real bad. Ko­valev doesn’t re­ally get as much credit as he de­serves for beat­ing Bernard, be­cause Bernard was al­most 50. But Bernard would have beaten any other light heavy­weight in the world that night ex­cept for Ko­valev.

Or take gen­nady golovkin, the mid­dleweight cham­pion from Kaza­khstan. What he has is the ter­ror of the un­known: that psy­cho­log­i­cal in­tim­i­da­tion fac­tor, that mys­tique. We re­ally don’t know enough about him yet. But even though he is kind of untested, he has al­ready be­come an al­most leg­endary fig­ure. I think Ko­valev and Golovkin will both be stars once they start fight­ing more top-notch guys.

My fa­vorite of th­ese fighters is the Ukrainian feath­er­weight cham­pion, va­syl lo­machenko. He has the best am­a­teur record in his­tory. He is so splen­did. He can fight, god­damn! My men­tor and trainer, Cus D’amato, would have loved this guy. Lo­machenko’s de­fense is im­pec­ca­ble. And de­fense is the num­ber one thing you need in or­der to be suc­cess­ful in boxing. But he’s also a very in­tel­li­gent puncher. Pos­sess­ing great de­fense and su­perb ag­gres­sion is what makes him a star to me. When you think about Golovkin, when you think about Ko­valev, th­ese guys are savages. They’re bru­tal. But they don’t have the de­fense. Lo­machenko does.

rus­lan provod­nikov and evgeny gradovich are both from Siberia. That’s a hard place to come up. It’s the tun­dra. The only thing good that comes from a place like that is great dis­ci­pline. I’ve spent time in that part of the world. The peo­ple are ab­so­lutely lovely. It’s very rare that you’re go­ing to run into a malev­o­lent type of per­son, but don’t try to take ad­van­tage of them. You’re not go­ing to have the chance to re­deem your­self, be­cause they don’t fuck around in Siberia. It’s no won­der th­ese guys are so tough. This sport raises you to the high­est of lev­els. But the be­gin­ning stage, when you’re start­ing out as a fighter, is the low­est of the low. That’s just what it is. You will never see a Har­vard Law School guy fight­ing as sav­agely as th­ese guys. We’re born in hell. Ev­ery fight we win is one step out of hell. We ac­cu­mu­late a lot of steps, and in our minds we be­come free. But it never hap­pens that way. Hell fol­lows you as long as you’re in­volved in the sport. It’s gonna fol­low you al­ways. Most fighters be­lieve they’re fight­ing for glory and honor. In all ac­tu­al­ity, we’re born with honor. We can’t win honor; we can only lose honor. We’re fight­ing for some­thing that al­ready ex­ists, that we al­ready pos­sess.

The raw and riv­et­ing doc­u­men­tary Champs ar­rives in se­lect the­aters and on Video On De­mand this month.

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