Mike Tyson on the road to recovery from drug abuse
I was watching Friday Night Fights on ESPN last week, and having tuned in late, I missed something that happened earlier in the evening. However, my ears perked up when broadcaster Joe Tessitore mentioned in the closing moments of the telecast that earlier Mike Tyson had asked his former trainer and long-time enemy Teddy Atlas for forgiveness.
Tyson was making his debut as a boxing promoter and the head of Iron Mike Productions at Turning Stone Resort in Verona, New York. In a pre-fight press conference, Tyson said he planned to make amends with Atlas, an ESPN analyst working the broadcast. Tyson said he is attending Alcoholics Anonymous, and asking for forgiveness is a part of his 10-step program to being clean and sober.
“I’m a bad guy sometimes,” Tyson told reporters. “I did a lot of bad things, and I want to be forgiven. So in order for me to be forgiven, I hope they can forgive me. I wanna change my life; I wanna live a different life now. I wanna live my sober life. I don’t wanna die. I’m on the verge of dying, because I’m a vicious alcoholic.”
The 47-year old former boxing champ admitted to being a continual substance abuser as well, but said he’s finally serious about changing all that.
Atlas had helped train Tyson, along with their common mentor, Cus D’Amato, in upstate New York in the early 1980s. Tyson and Atlas had a falling out following an incident in which Tyson allegedly approached a young girl, related to Atlas’ wife, in a crude manner.
In his biography, Atlas wrote that on this particular night in 1982, he borrowed a gun from a friend, tracked down Tyson, told him to wise up and then he fired a shot at Tyson, but missed – deliberately.
During the broadcast, Tyson spoke with ESPN’s Todd Grisham and explained why he needed to make peace with Atlas.
“Life is short, man; I made amends with everybody,” Tyson told Grisham. “I never talked to Teddy or made any kind of amends with him or said, ‘sorry’ and I just owe that to my sobriety to make amends. And that’s just what I want to do with my life. I’m a vicious addict and I’m recovering.
“And I’m going to die if I don’t follow my steps, I’m useless. If I don’t do what the book tells me to do I’m going to die and that’s just what is going to happen.”
Tyson admitted that Atlas was extremely important to him back then, and that he was sorry for betraying his trust.
“I was wrong,” Tyson said. “I have a lot of pain, and I just want to heal it, and that was part of it, right there.”
Atlas accepted Tyson’s apology but it wasn’t clear if he forgave him.
“He behaved like a man, what can I say,” Atlas told Tessitore. “He came over, extended his hand and asked me if I’d shake it and said, ‘You’re not still mad at me, are you? I wish you wouldn’t be.’ I give him credit for showing a gentleman’s side.”
In regard to Tyson’s role as a promoter in his first event, by all accounts he put together a very entertaining fight card. In the main event, which I was watching, Argenis Mendez retained his International Boxing Federation junior lightweight world title with a majority draw against Arash Usmanee. I, as did the broadcasters, thought Mendez was a clear winner in what was truthfully a close bout, but there’s no way Usmanee could have been considered the winner on any intelligent judge’s scorecard.
Nonetheless, Mendez retained his title, the evening ended in controversy and so did the start of Tyson’s newest career. Should that be any surprise?
[Jeff Brucculeri is the author of several books, including "Powerful People Are Inspired by Powerful Athletes," available at www.tunedintosuccess.com. Contact; firstname.lastname@example.org.]