Some promoters promise riches. Others guarantee high-level exposure.
While former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson may ultimately deliver both things to the fighters he signs in his latest line of work, his initial aim is to provide a cautionary tale for his clients.
In other words: His own chaotic life story.
“I'm gonna be concerned about them,” Tyson said. “There are pros and cons. They're gonna spend their money. They’re gonna be reckless. I'm gonna try to make them aware of what can happen and make them believe and understand that life can take turns that you don't expect."
Tyson is the familiar persona behind the newly formed Iron Mike Productions, a Florida-based promotional company that sprung from the recent partnership of Tyson and Garry Jonas, the CEO of the entity formerly known as Acquinity Sports.
It’s a less violent occupation for a man once beloved for his capacity for menace.
“Being ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson was a lot of work, a lot of f*cking work,” he said. “Do I enjoy being just Mike Tyson better? Hell yeah. ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson was crazy. I had to be ready to kill someone just for saying hi to me. This is a lot better life.”
Upon getting together with Jonas, they changed the company’s name, put the now-47-year-old Tyson out in front of a renewed marketing push and immediately began reaping the publicity dividends. Iron Mike’s inaugural card will be televised on ESPN's Friday Night Fights on Aug. 23 from the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, N.Y.
In the main event, IBF Junior Lightweight Champion Argenis Mendez will defend his title against No. 13 contender Arash Usmanee. Meanwhile, Tyson, who last fought in 2005 and last won two years before that, claims the new gig provides both a means of staying involved in the sport he loves while simultaneously continuing the unlikely renaissance he’s experienced since a self-described low point in 2009.
“My daughter was dead and there was nothing I could do about it,” he said, referring to the passing of his four-year-old girl, Exodus, after an accident at her home in Phoenix. “I was high on cocaine. And I remember telling myself I need to just stop and try to figure this all out. I said to myself, if I just get an opportunity to put this behind me, I'll take it.
“I never would have expected it in a million years. We’ve all got God making plans for us, and I’m just very grateful for the life I have now. I try to convey my appreciation every day.”
The Iron Mike client roster includes Mendez, a seven-year pro who won his first world title in March; Joan Guzman, who held the WBO’s 130-pound title from 2002 to 2007; and Claudio Marrero, who’s slotted second at featherweight in the WBA’s July rankings.
“I love being around fighters,” Tyson said. “I love the passion. That's my passion. Fighting is my passion. I admire them and appreciate them, even those who don't do it on a high level.”
As for the work involved in getting a new business off the ground, he labeled it “overwhelming.”
“This is time-consuming stuff,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s very stimulating and it gives me desire to work hard. I enjoy the attention and the offers we’ve been getting. We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from Europe from people who want to do business and have me bring my fighters there.”
Tyson’s scrapes with promoters during his ring career were noteworthy, including a lawsuit for $100 million against Don King filed in 1998 for allegedly siphoning funds from his boxing purses.
That suit was settled for $14 million in 2004, and Tyson—despite being the new guy in a modern-day promotional neighborhood as famous for its rivalries and feuds as its allegiances—claimed he’d be willing to work with any of his contemporaries in good faith.
“Golden Boy, Lou DiBella, there are a lot of people out there doing good work and doing it the right way,” he said. “I’ll be working with them. I’ll be working with everybody. I’m not here to ruffle anyone. This is fun for me. As long as things are being done well, I’ll work with anyone.”
All quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer.