By Ken Hissner: On NBC Tuesday night, ABC presented former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson: The Knockout! A two-hour special minus commercials!
It started with Tyson doing road work with statements from various people pro and con alike. June 27, 1988, Atlantic City against Michael Spinks with Spinks walking in like he was going to the electric chair and Tyson with his entourage, no shirt and no robe and no socks. I met him when he was 15 in Catskill, thanks to Cus D’Amato. The future President, Donald J Trump, was there, having put up 11 million at his Trump Plaza Casino. Promoter Don King there, along with Jesse Jackson!
718 Amboy Street in Brownsville, where Tyson grew up was shown. Former heavyweight champ Shannon Briggs from the same area talking how bad it was, along with Rosie Perez giving her opinion. He was bullied and teased a lot. Having an interest in pigeons was an out for him! “They are like my brothers and sisters, my friends. They don’t ask for your money!” One of Tyson’s bullies comes in on the roof and grabs a pigeon choking it to death when Tyson goes crazy, beating up the much bigger kid to a pulp that may have created a turning point in his life!
“It was all so exciting outsmarting people knowing you are a crook!” He was arrested over 30 times per his own count. Sent to upstate New York, where Bobby Stewart was in charge of the facility’s gym. Stewart beat him up, embarrassing him. Tyson would not give up, and Steward brought him to Catskills, New York, to meet Cus D’Amato, who was then 72 years-old, having trained two world champions. He looked over 20 at age 12. Kevin Rooney gloved him up. At 16, Tyson said, “training is the easy part.” Cus said, “I wouldn’t say he was bad.” Added “fear is like fire. You have to control it, or it will control you!” Meeting Cus, I kept saying, “he’s a genius!”
Tyson was shown the “peek-a-boo” style by D’Amato and Atlas. After a few months having met D’Amato, Tyson moved into the house. Camile Ewald ran the house and was an adopted mother. I sat at the same table shown with all eating. I sat from 9 pm to 3 am with Cus and got a scolding the next day from Camile not to keep him up so late!
“Coming from Brooklyn, I never trusted anybody. It was like day and night living here (Catskill).” He built a treehouse for his birds. “He’s my boy; he’s living with me,” said D’Amato. “He’s like my father,” said Tyson. “I grew up without a mother. She died at a young age,” said D’Amato. He was shown next to his world champion Floyd Patterson.
Tyson was shown showing his films supplied by Jim Jacobs, his future manager. I was in that bedroom, and Dempsey stood out among all the fighters shown! While living in Catskill, Tyson got word his mother died. Cus and Camile became Tyson’s foster parents! Watching a young Tyson skipping rope D’Amato said, “your mind is not on your work. Something is distracting you!” “If he wasn’t here, I would probably not be alive!” Two of D’Amato’s quotes! March of 1983 was Tyson’s known amateur debut per www.boxrec.com.
“I was recently married when Mike grabbed my sister-in-law. I would track him down, telling him never to mess with any of my family and put a gun to his ear and was about to pull the trigger and pulled it back and shot it in the air,” said Atlas. This caused a break between Atlas and D’Amato.
The fight within Las Vegas, Nevada, against WBC champ Trevor Berbick was next with Kevin Rooney, now his trainer. November of 1986 was a film about the destruction of the last man to beat Ali! It was over at 2:35 of the second round. Tyson in the ring gave praise to D’Amato, looking down at him from heaven! It was his 28th fight! He was 20.
Per New York Commissioner Randy Gordon, Tyson was doing many endorsements! Jim Jacobs and Bill Cayton were his co-managers. They did what was best for Tyson, not what Tyson wanted. They made good investments for his future. Rudy Gonzalez was his driver and made many positive comments. Then along came actress Robin Givens along with her, which would lead to his eventual downfall. That and Don King coming into the picture as early as at Jacobs’s funeral in 1988! Then the Barbara Walters interview was embarrassing for Tyson. “It’s been pure hell,” said Givens. He told Gonzalez he felt paralyzed, not knowing what to say. Per Gonzalez, Tyson went from sadness to madness in a week’s time. He wrecked the insides of their mansion!
In 1987 shown was his knockout out of Olympic Gold Medalist Tyrell Biggs in 7 rounds in a title defense in Atlantic City. Then in 1988, the Spinks fight in Atlantic City! The first knockdown was with a body shot, and the second with a right on the chin in 90 seconds; it was all over! Spinks now 31-1 would never fight again! Tyson was then 35-0! He followed with knockouts over Frank Bruno and Carl “The Truth” Williams! In February of 1990, it all came apart in Tokyo against James “Buster” Douglas. Douglas’ mother had passed away during training. It motivated him! “Early in the fight, it surprised me how easy it was to hit him,” said Douglas. In the eighth round, Douglas was down while referee Octavio Meyran was giving the “long count!” In the tenth round, Tyson was knocked down, and it was all over.
What they didn’t show was four months later, he beat the man who beat him in the Olympic Trials, Henry Tillman, in 2:47! It took seven fights and a rematch with Bruno when Tyson would re-claim the WBC title. In November of 1996, as the WBA champion, he lost to Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield in the eleventh round, who claimed he had Tyson’s number in the amateurs. In the rematch, Tyson got cut and bit the ear of Holyfield off, getting DQ’d not right away by referee Mills Lane or the commissioner until a second bite. He would lose three of his final four bouts ending in June of 2005 with a 50-6 record, including 44 by stoppage at age 38.