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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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This world is sick, this world is evil. Mike is 19. Now he can stop fooling himself. He has always been happiest alone.

"He's ready to die," his assistant manager, Steve Lott, is saying. "That's what makes him the best fighter in the world. He's like a Roman gladiator: He's ready to die."

Roman gladiators were slaves. Seven decades before Christ, a gladiator named Spartacus rebelled. Seventy other gladiator slaves, as outraged by the world as he. followed his lead; together they brought their masters down. The insurrection swelled to an army of 70,000 that marched to the outskirts of Rome, that was poised to topple the empire, to bring all the old laws and institutions down, down, down....

Spartacus hesitated. Rebellion here wasn't personal. He found himself retreating to the place where his heart first cried out, back to what was purest in his life, to the land where it was easy and right to rebel, to fight, even to die.

Midnight in Brownsville. Through the shadows, past the rubble and skulls, walking wide and nonchalant moves Mike Tyson. He comes here after every fight, sometimes breaks training to come before. Beneath a streetlight, something gleams. Take off the $80,000 diamond-studded wristwatch when you go there, his friends have begged him. Take off the 30 grand worth of rings. Man, you're crazy, get yourself a bodyguard.

No. They don't understand.

"He'll just start staring at things when he's there, in a daze," says his friend Rory Holloway. "It's like he has to get something out of his system."

Or, perhaps, back into it.

Mess with me. Right here, in the rubble. Somebody. Anybody. Here it will be right to hit, here it will be pure.

An old woman, crazy with poverty, shambles up the sidewalk. He folds three $100 bills into a tight roll, tucks it so nimbly into her hand that she barely feels it. Can people understand? A chairman of an organized charity calls, he might agree to appear, he might mumble an excuse and hang up. When no one's watching he will slip hundreds inside palms and pocketbooks of poor people—reverse pickpocket them—or bolt out of a car to help someone old hobble across the street. This way it's right to give. This way it is pure.

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