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TYSON THE TIMID, TYSON THE TERRIBLE
Gary Smith
March 21, 1988
WHAT CONSUMES THE HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD, WHAT MAKES MIKE TYSON AS IMPOSING AS ANY FIGHTER IN BOXING HISTORY? HIS OWN FEAR, PERHAPS
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March 21, 1988

Tyson The Timid, Tyson The Terrible

WHAT CONSUMES THE HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD, WHAT MAKES MIKE TYSON AS IMPOSING AS ANY FIGHTER IN BOXING HISTORY? HIS OWN FEAR, PERHAPS

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He let go of the hawk because he felt sorry for it, says another.

I let go of the hawk because it was so powerful, says Tyson. I let go of it because I was scared.

Two days to go, please make it come soon; can't they schedule these fistfights any closer? His eyes catch the newspaper: What? I've lost the fight, I've lost! Look right there, on the back page of the New York Post, a large photograph of him dropping to the floor, Larry Holmes standing above him as he falls. I've lost, I've lost, I don't remember it, but I've heard that happens to fighters, I've lost!

It never happened, it's a photographer's trick, says Rooney. Tyson seizes the picture, rips it into tiny pieces.

Was it six years ago that he stepped outside the arena, just before the U.S. Junior Olympic finals, and broke into sobs—"If I lose, I'll lose all the people who like me, I'll lose everything I have...." Or was it just now; dear God, why does everything seem like just now? Dear, gruff Cus, on whose grave he poured a bottle of champagne when he won the title, and his dear dead mother, and all the grainy black-and-white gods and all the ghosts inside all the skulls of Brownsville—who's he fighting for? For them. Why? They're gone!

And now they say it's time to fight. He sits in his black trunks and black shoes, the past circling over him like the hawk; he can feel it there, smell it there, hear its wings beating the air—or could that be his heart? This world is sick, this world is evil, Robin, please pick up the phone. The hawk is circling, the noose is dropping, the pigeons are cooing, it's midnight in Brownsville, the holocaust's just a few minutes away by limo, Robin, please pick up the phone. This world is sick, this world is evil, they rip heads off birds, they put poison in aspirin, they murder little boys, they pin down girls in the woods, scrawl NIGGER on their bellies. Somebody's got to stop it, nobody will stop it, I will stop it, I will be justice, I will repay them all.

The bell rings. The people gape. Look, look at Holmes's face—why, he's scared!

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