Part 2: Tyson’s ‘Undisputed Truth’: Drugs, hookers — and perseverance

Mike Tyson in Las Vegas as photographed by Tom Donoghue.
Photo: Tom Donoghue/

In Part 1 of my interview with Mike Tyson posted Thursday, the boxing legend and Las Vegas resident talked about Robin Givens, Evander Holyfield and Cus D’Amato, among others. Here is Part 2 of our fascinating conversation on the day that “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth -- Live on Stage” debuts at the Hollywood Theater at MGM Grand and continues through Wednesday.

Robin Leach: You had at least one horrible marriage.

Mike Tyson: Big time. I had two horrible marriages.

RL: Did you have to have the bad in order to get to the good?

MT: I don’t know, that’s what they say, right, but that was extra, extra, extra bad right there. I made a lot of bad mistakes with women because my parents are both sex workers -- my father was a pimp, my mother a prostitute, so what kind of relationship do I know with a woman? I need to beat her over the head with a bat to prove that I love her? No, I don’t like that relationship anymore. I just love my wife, and we respect and understand each other. She knows I’m a pig, I don’t care about, I act like I care, I act like I’m jealous, but I just want her to know that I am there for her.

That is all that matters. What am I going to do with my life, really? I am 45 years old, how much life do I really have left in me? That is why I explain the less we fight, the better it is. We don’t have much time left as it is. If we had 100 years, it’s still not enough. It’s not enough time when it’s really true love and respect. It’s just not enough time.

RL: In your career, you went through a lot of money.

MT: Yeah, people stole money, too, and I spent a lot of money, too. I never really wanted to live long back then, so I had a lot of fun spending money. Nobody wants to live long and be old and be in a nursing home -- nobody wants to do that.

I didn’t know anything about setting bonds and protecting your future, and even if you did have money when you were 75, 80 years old, and you’re impotent and your legs are broken and sitting in bed and you can’t walk, and you can’t talk, and somebody that really loves you now is taking advantage of you over money and you’re no longer a person, you’re just an entity, I just want to have a purpose in life. I just want to be able to be useful to my family and friends.

Mike Tyson, Roberto Duran at Fight Nights Press Conference

RL: What advice from your life would you give to young boxers who are now making tons of money?

MT: This is what I found out in life, my experiences, I knew Sugar Ray Robinson lost his money, I knew Joe Louis lost his money, I knew Muhammad Ali had money problems, I knew all about all these fighters’ money problems. I read all their stories. But listen, you never realize this stuff until it actually happens to you. You think you are better than those guys, you think you are smarter than those guys, but it’s not true.

These guys are just like you, and this is how I know that I’m happy. You’re a young guy, and your manager and the people who control your finances are usually an older guy, an experienced guy, and that’s just the history of this sport. Guys now are smarter than the guys when I was fighting, they’re more corporate then we were. That’s why I’m catching up late, but at least I’m caught up.

RL: You were at the recent Muhammad Ali 70th birthday event. He was a legend in the sport, as you are a legend in the sport. What examples does the art of boxing teach young people?

MT: The art of boxing, in metaphor, is just living life. It doesn't really teach you, fighting is really fighting, fighting is really in life not what it appears to be. Everybody in fighting thinks it’s all about the punches you can land, how hard you can punch, but in life it is about how much you can take, and endure, and keep moving without giving in.

And you continue going forward until you accomplish your goal in life, even if your goal is just staying out of prison, or just having a job, or just having a family and not cheating on your wife and being responsible for your kids. It can be very minute to some people, but as long as you have that, we have a purpose in life.

RL: When did Mike Tyson become so philosophically smart?

MT: No, I think philosophically brilliant! I think I am very experienced. Experience is the best teacher. I just realized that everybody that you fight is not your enemy, and everybody that helps you is not your friend. We just have to have some kind of forgiveness. That is what I have to do, I just try to go through levels of forgiveness.

In Photos: Mike Tyson in Las Vegas

RL: Happiest moment of your life?

MT: Let me see, I got together with my wife, Kiki, and I had a commitment that was really good stuff. It’s not every day hunky-dory at home, but I know what I had before and what it could be like before, and it was really dark and nasty. I don’t want to go back there.

I’m just learning about life. All this is new to me, being with a woman, being committed to her and these children -- that is pretty interesting. Being 45 years old and being a committed husband and father, that is new. That is a new goal I am taking in with an open hand. It is hard stuff, dude.

RL: And the lowest point in your life where you thought it wasn’t worth living?

MT: Laying in bed in a hotel room -- I try never to be alone, even if it’s a prostitute, a dog. This is really dark. I am in my hotel suite, I’ve got seven women there, and I have a morphine drip, and I had my cocaine, and I had my Cialis, I had my marijuana, I had the Hennessy, and I am at my lowest point because I got paranoid and I thought these women were trying to rob me and set me up. I started beating them. I was in a dark place. There was a purpose, though, because I didn’t want to give them any more of my soul.

So this is my devil, this is where I am, I am locked up alone. There is nobody there telling me that I’m doing too much. That is the devil, he won. I kicked them all out. So that was my lowest point. Oh, man. I am just very grateful to be here -- my heart should have blown apart. I was sweating wide awake. No more cocaine. No more. Three years clean.

RL: And with Cialis and Viagra?

Leach Blog Photo

Mike Tyson and Lakiha Spicer at Angelo Giordano's Voices starring Lani Misalucha at the Las Vegas Hilton on Nov. 22, 2009.

MT: Well, that is my personal life! I’m not going to talk about Viagra and Cialis. I don’t need it, but sometimes you just need that extra boost. Anything for an extra boost. The extra boost will send you to another place.

RL: You can’t ignore the Evander Holyfield incidents in the play?

MT: I talk about it big time. I tell everyone how I felt about that stuff. After it happened, they sent me to a psychiatric facility. It was a bad thing. Really bad, really bad, really bad. They think I’m crazy because I bit this guy’s ear. I’m not crazy. It’s just that this guy was head butting me, and I was frustrated so I just bit. This sweet old lady who was also in there turns around, and I’m thinking she would be scared, like, “Oh God, this black monster.” She said, “You were in a fight.” I said, “Oh, wow, the first person that I talked to about it that really understood me.”

So, words were really simplistic, but it had a really powerful meaning to it. No one ever said that to me before, that I was in a fight. That is true, I was in a fight. I didn’t look at the situation, but I was happy that somebody just agreed with me. So I thank the lady, and I said nobody has ever told me that in that kind of perspective, and I was in a fight. The next thing I know, I turn around, there are two people drooling in the corner, so the guards had to come.

The lady that told me I was in a fight and made me think I was sane, she was being carried away, but she was fighting with security. They tried to put her in a jacket, a gown, and I’m saying, “Damn, we are all crazy in here. I’m in a f*cking insane asylum, an insane asylum! I hate these motherf*ckers, man, that was some real dirty sh*t. I'm accepting that this insane lady told me some poetic sh*t right there, an insane woman.

She is fighting with the guards, she is fighting hard. She understood why I did it. She was as crazy as a bed bug, crazy, man. You would never believe, you couldn’t write this sh*t, man. How could they send me to this place and not be around other people, people on this side, but they thought I was one of them because I bit his ear. We made up, though. We were on “Oprah,” a million people watching us make up and become friends. He’ll be here for the show.

Leach Blog Photo

Mike Tyson with his children at the Cannes Film Festival.

RL: This may be the biggest knockout of your life.

MT: I’m just happy to be, you know what I am, Robin, I’m just happy to be a part of. It’s a community. I was just always alone. Friends, I have my wife, I have my kids. I’m just trying to rebuild the relationship I had with my older kids. It’s coming along. At least they like me now, it appears to be.

I still have all these obstacles, but I’m looking forward to taking them on. I want this to be the first time something starts from Las Vegas and goes to Broadway, so we are going to make history here. That is my prediction anyway. People are coming in thinking one thing, and they are going to get blown away.

(Producer Adam Steck interjected, “The main question I get is, ‘Hey, we love Mike, what is he going to do?’ Everybody asks that question. Maybe is it a Charlie Sheen thing because it’s a train wreck? Is it a comedy? Is he going to do the funny or die skit? Is he just going to talk up there like a lecture? People don't know. What they are going to get is Mike doing theater -- it’s like acting, it’s mind-blowing emotions.

He’s not just speaking the words; he’s feeling them. There are going to be some tears in that audience. It is going to take people on an emotional rollercoaster. Mike’s going to explain what he went through and what his experience was, not what everyone thought it was, but what his exact experience was. It is mind-blowing.)

Leach Blog Photo

Mike Tyson in Las Vegas as photographed by Tom Donoghue.

RL: What’s the lesson that comes out of this for everybody, Mike, and are you still finding the lesson?

MT: I am still finding the lesson, but I know what I learned in life. It’s that you can change your mind whenever you want. You can change your life whenever you want. You want to change this second, you say, I wish I could change my life, you can. I never thought I could. With my wife, I could. By myself I couldn’t, I would be distracted.

I would be on the right path, and somebody would distract me. Some slut would distract me, or some dope dealer would distract me. But with my wife, she keeps me focused, and I won’t get distracted. The sky is the limit with us. Once we are focused and we are living clean, and giving praise to God, and we are living a good life, there is nothing that can stop a person that’s time has come.

RL: Do you know why the demons and the devils came so early in your life?

MT: In order to wear the crown, you have to have a miserable life, and that is the one that inherits the crown. I don’t know you have to go from the worst to reach the best. I’m just that extreme type of person. That is who I am, the guy that has no limits.

RL: It is still a miracle, isn’t it, the guy who got out of the bad side of Brooklyn? Your parents were sex workers, both of them? You couldn't win from the beginning.

MT: No, no. Cus D’Amato put it in my head that there is no way I can fail. While I’m doing my time there, I’m learning the arts. I’m learning everything. I can’t even read, and I’m learning. I’m learning the art of war, the art of archery, Huckleberry Finn, just everything, man. I was reading these books, and he was just teaching me the arts of life. He taught me how to write in script. I didn’t even know how to write in print, they think I’m an idiot.

I would learn long words like “precarious,” but I didn’t know what “difficult” means. I couldn’t pronounce “difficult.” I didn’t know how to pronounce words, but I could read by memory. I knew how to read by memory. He would read something to me, and I would read it back the way he read it to me. I didn’t learn how to spell them, I learned them by what they looked like. So, if I saw something that I knew but couldn’t pronounce it, I knew what it meant.

RL: So the lesson is to never give up.

MT: Never, ever. Cus told me -- this is when the moment came that I knew I was going to make it in life -- he told me confidence breeds success and success breeds confidence. He said confidence applied properly will surpass a genius. He said it is all about confidence. Confidence will surpass a genius if used properly. I never forgot those words.

Even if I didn’t believe it, I always acted like I had confidence, and I was ready to dive if anybody pulled my card, even though I was scared. He would say life is like poker, it’s who gives in their hand first. I didn’t just take that message into the ring with me every time -- I took it into life with me.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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