Tuesday, March 29, 2011

To Hell and Back: The Wisdom of Mike Tyson

When I went to Mike Tyson's Las Vegas home in February to interview the former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world for Time magazine, I was surprised to encounter an intensely shy, soft-spoken man who craved the embrace of his wife, Kiki. She repeatedly came over between questions to wipe the rapidly accumulating sweat from Tyson's head. (You can watch the edited video of my interview after the jump, or read more of what he said here.)

I was even more taken aback by some of the things Tyson had to say. Alternately eloquent and almost incomprehensible, there was a soulful wisdom to Tyson's self-reflections. At times he even sounded like Oprah talking about The Secret. But I got the sense that the man seated before me, once dubbed "The Baddest Man on the Planet," has seriously contemplated his life, and is now deliberately being a good person. And yet, at any moment he might fall back to the other side.

Mike Tyson: "So, what I've learned [is] the most powerful is love and forgiveness, because I'm one of those guys who want to get revenge, get them back. I'm not going to let you embarrass me. But when it really comes down to it, so what? Just stay healthy and stay alive. If you stay positive and you go through life with a positive mindset, and you love life and respect life, things will happen for you. It's not necessarily you want to be the richest man in the world, but you can be a happy guy and a good guy. I've known quite a few great people, I mean great, great accomplishments. But I haven't met too manby good people. Not all these great people that I'm talking about are good people. If you're going to be a celebrity and entertain, you're going to be that for a small increment of our lives. But you're going to be a human being for the rest of our lives after is over. So you have to work and cultivate ourselves and try to become better human beings."

Daphne Merkin's New York Times Magazine profile, The Suburbanization of Mike Tyson, captured him perfectly.


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