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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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None of these fistfights for money ever brings Tyson happiness. They only bring him relief. Now it's morning and the wealthy white people in the East Side Manhattan apartment building where he has recently rented are approaching him, one after the next, to shake his hand for breaking Holmes. "I'm going crazy," he says under his breath.

He gazes at the young woman on his arm, a beautiful TV actress named Robin Givens, who has grown up in private schools and upper-middle-class suburbs. She wears a short black-and-white pinstriped skirt with matching vest, her hair falling in perfect curls across her shoulders. He wears unlaced sneakers, a sweat suit and a wool hat tugged low over his round, rough head. "You want to go to my old neighborhood?" he asks her. He cocks his head and grins. "You afraid?"

They choose the silver Lincoln stretch limousine over the black Mercedes-Benz stretch limousine waiting for them outside. In just a few minutes, they are riding through the holocaust. He stares out through the black-tinted window at empty lots full of broken glass and rubble, rusting cars, washing machines toppled on their sides, windowless and doorless houses, burned out, staring through black sockets—skulls. Brownsville, in Brooklyn. "My neighborhood," he says. His face is shining. "I grew up here. It's mine!"

He presses a button, the window slides down. "Rockaway Avenue...all up and down this road, I robbed people. Who? Anybody who was a victim. And right here, by the train station, women would get on the bus; we'd reach in the windows, rip off their necklaces."

"Oh, Mike," says Robin.

"If a kid knew his mom was going out with money and didn't want to steal it himself, he'd tell me where she was going, what time. I'd wait for her and rob her, then we'd split it."

"Mike...."

"And we'd rub drunks' fingers in the snow so we could pull off their rings. There's the grocery store. See those women coming out? We'd wait outside and offer to help them carry their bags to their cars, then, while we were handing them back their bags, we'd reach into their pocketbooks and steal their wallets."

"Mike, I can't picture you doing that. Look at all the barbed wire. This place is freaking me out."

"Can you see Robin walking these streets? Look at these people, look at their faces. Tough faces. These are my people. These are the people I represent when I fight. Slow down here. See the building with the boards over the windows? That's where we lived." Gleefully he says it: "Condemned!"

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