Athletes & Celebrities

Undisputed Truth: Mike Tyson Is Still a Knockout

Boxing legend Mike Tyson talks about his workouts, diet and the meaning of his tattoos.

Big Hitter

How does it feel to relive your life every night onstage? Does it make you feel differently about anything?

Never, ever. I don’t think of myself as Mike Tyson up there. I think I’m an actor who’s portraying Mike Tyson and I know him better than anyone else. I’m very objective about it. It’s not personal at all. If it hurt I wouldn’t be able to do the show.

So you’ve made peace with your past?

Absolutely. I would be a monster to live with if I hadn’t. There’s no way I could live with my wife. I’m sure I have regrets but I try to believe that I don’t. I don’t think there’s a better life out there than the one I have now. Thinking regretfully means I don’t appreciate this life, and this is an awesome life. But I don’t know if I’d call it peace. Peace comes with death. I don’t have any drinking or drug issues anymore, but life on life’s terms is always a struggle. 

Don King famously cheated you out of a lot of money. Does boxing need an organization that protects fighters?

One hundred percent. But it won’t do that. Boxing comes from the underworld. It sees the people in it as subhuman. That’s the stereotype about fighters, that we’re savages. Black or white, that’s just the category we’re in. The fighters should organize unions and leave their egos at the door.

Is it true you had gonorrhea the night you fought Trevor Berbick and won the title for the first time?

Yeah. I asked my assistant, “What’s that stuff? It doesn’t look good.” I was only 20. He looked in my underwear and said, “You have gonorrhea.”

What was going through your mind that night when you won, becoming the youngest heavyweight champ ever?

I wished my mentor, Cus D’Amato, was there. He deserved to be there, and I deserved to have him there.

What do your tattoos mean?

When I was away in prison some people sent me books on Mao and Arthur Ashe, and I read them. I liked them, so I put the tattoos on my arms. Mao was a peasant who hated his father. He had a harsh life. He conquered the British and Japanese. He’s an interesting guy.

Ashe was very intelligent, insightful. He was a giant intellect. There wasn’t anything he didn’t know about. And I always loved Che Guevara, so I put him on my stomach. It took a long time to get, about six months, because it hurt so much.

Is there a presidential candidate you’re supporting? 


Have you ever played [the 1987 Nintendo game] Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out and fought yourself? You were almost impossible to beat.

I sucked! I wasn’t into that back then. Now I play Call of Duty every day by myself. My kids stay far away from me when I’m playing.

You turn 50 on June 30. What wisdom do you have to offer younger guys?

If they get to 50 they’re very fortunate