By Kevin Wilson: PNT Managing Editor
Two conversations, 15 years apart, start the same way.
“What do you think about Tyson losing Saturday?”
Two different reactions ensued, and by all indications we have said an uncomfortable goodbye to boxer Mike Tyson, a man for whom the star label seemed less comfortable with each passing day.
The first time I asked the aforementioned question, it was as a whisper to my friend Doug in sixth-grade English class. Just two days before was Feb. 10, 1990. In front of a crowd in Tokyo, Tyson had suffered his first professional loss to James “Buster” Douglas, whom I only heard of after the upset.
Doug’s reaction to my whisper was to whip around and say at full volume, “Tyson LOST??” We were upbraided for not concentrating in class, but we had a half-hour class discussion on the bout after lunch. Was Tyson overconfident? Did Douglas get a slow count from the referee when he fell? Was Douglas in control of the match throughout?
We answered the same way each time, but each “yes” was a struggle. I mean, this was Mike Tyson, the era’s most dominant athlete — the Pistons were beating Michael Jordan and the Bulls every year and Shaquille O’Neal was a pretty good freshman for Louisiana State.
We’d watch weeks of buildup for a Tyson fight, with ad campaigns and press conferences, all for fights that would be over in the fifth round, if it even got that far. Boxers would become famous for losing to Mike Tyson. That’s how good he was.
His dominance wasn’t limited to the physical world, as he was the final challenge in the Nintendo classic, “Mike Tyson’s Punchout.” You’d have to fight through 10 other guys, and hope Tyson didn’t land anything when you faced him.
With dominance like this, you can imagine how disappointing it was to watch Tyson’s career and personal life become a rollercoaster ride. What followed were events that could only be explained by saying, “It’s Mike Tyson, what do you expect?”
There was the prison term, the ear-biting of Evander Holyfield, cameo appearances in rap songs, a facial tattoo, a number of crazy press conferences and countless “In Living Color” skits mocking him (easily the funniest things Keenan Ivory Wayans ever did).
And then there was the loss on Saturday to Kevin McBride, who was given about as much of a chance to win the fight as Martina McBride. Tyson was quoted afterward as saying, “I most likely won’t fight anymore. I’m not going to disrespect the sport by losing to this caliber of fighters.”
Some would say he disrespected the sport ever since that fateful night in Tokyo, but I won’t get into that.
For the sixth time in Tyson’s 56-fight career, he took a loss. For the second time in my life, I asked the question about his Saturday loss. This time the respondent was my dad, who replied with indifference.
Magic Johnson once said there would, “never, ever be another Larry Bird.” That’s how I feel about Mike Tyson, but that’s the only thing I’m sure about when it comes to Iron Mike.
Kevin Wilson is the managing editor of the Portales News-Tribune. He can be reached at 356-4481, ext. 33, or by e-mail: