USA

“I’m Surprised I’m Still Alive”: Mike Tyson Revisits His Interview Cover Story from 1990

At the height of his fame and the peak of his powers, the heavyweight champion of the world pulled no punches when he sat down with us in 1990 to reflect on his rapid rise to the top of the boxing world. Ahead of his highly anticipated return to the ring on November 28, the 54-year- old fighter, who also just launched a new apparel line, revisits and revises some of the stuff he said.

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“At that time, that’s what my life was about. Just fighting. Becoming a personality at such a quick rate, I was never prepared for that. I thought I was. I had no idea what I was involved with at that time in my life. It was just so overwhelming. I’m surprised I’m still alive.”

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“That’s who I still am. I can’t explain that. If I could explain who I am, then I’d be so limited in my thinking.”

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“When I was on drugs, I had this idea that I was under control. But this is what I found out about love: I absolutely know I’m not in control. Love is a more powerful narcotic than actual dope.”

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“I’m at a point in my life where I understand people more. I understand myself more. I understand that we, as people, are very wretched. We are capable of brilliant, kind, and warm things, but we’re also very wretched people. Sometimes we’re a real bad lot. But we have to take the good with the bad. Sometimes we could do things that are just mind-boggling as far as love and consideration and respect and admiration are concerned. But, like I said, we’re yin and we’re yang.”

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“Today, the younger generation doesn’t look at me as, ‘Mike Tyson, the World’s Baddest Man.’ They look at me as the guy from The Hangover.”

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“God put me on this earth just to learn how to love everyone. To contribute to this world. That’s what we’re all here for, to contribute. To leave something that wasn’t here when we got here. That’s what this is all about: giving. I believe this spirit that I’m in, the spirit that you’re in, we were in at the beginning of time, and those spirits travel through our genes. I just believe that this world is bigger than what it appears to be, some round planet. I believe it’s all good magnetic energy from the divine.”

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“Now my main objective is improving myself as a human being in society. I want to set a good example for my kids. I want to set an example for myself. I forgave myself for all the things I did. I appreciate the forgiveness that I gave to myself. In order to achieve any kind of encounter with love, you have to learn to forgive yourself and to start applying love to yourself and to the whole mantle of your existence.”

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“A 24-year-old with a disastrous marriage, what else did you expect me to say?”

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“That’s really not an objective to achieve, man. My objective in life is to reach my highest potential. My highest potential is when I no longer exist and when everyone else can see what my potential is. It’s all about me setting up the platform for everybody else to jump off and see if they survive or not.”

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“I still have a lot of stuff from my boxing career, because when I was younger, I never had stuff. It’s stuff I don’t even use. And now that I have it, I don’t want it. Does that make any sense?

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“At 24, my whole life had been wrecked by health. My mother had bad health. My father had bad health. My sister died of bad health. My whole life has been a battle with obesity. That’s why when I gain a lot of weight, it bothers me, so I go on a strict diet. I actually starve myself to lose weight because I’m haunted by obesity. It has really wrecked my life. It’s killed many of the people I love.”

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“I believe they give me the respect that I’m due. Maybe they give me too much respect now. My mentor, Cus [D’Amato, Tyson’s trainer], told me, ‘Be careful what you ask for because you might get it.’ Its cool when I’m saying that stuff about myself, but when other people are saying it, it’s getting too far out of hand. Me saying, ‘I’m the baddest man on the planet,’ that’s for my ego alone. Other people saying it, that’s embarrassing.”

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“I’m still perceptive of racism in my life. But then, I also understand that some people might be racist and not even know it. Some people might be offending somebody, they don’t even know it. And so I look at it from that perspective. There are people out there that we consider more sophisticated than they are. They’re actually crude and Neanderthal-ish.”

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“I wasn’t as mature as I thought I was. That statement pretty much backs that up. I think I wanted to be more than I actually was. Maturity comes with time. Do you know what Achilles means? Achilles means pain. No one gets out of here free. If we don’t experience any of that pain, we can’t mature and grow. Adversity makes the strong stronger and the weak weaker. Which side do you choose? Which side are you going to feed and give the most power to? The weak side or the strong side? Without struggle, there’s no progress. We must continue to struggle until the end of our life, until we can’t struggle anymore. Until the last breath has left our body, we must struggle.”

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“I’m one of god’s creatures just learning in life. There’s no such thing as a mistake. It’s just that we learn. And sometimes when we learn, we get punished or reprimanded, or we get rewarded. It’s just a variety of actions and feelings that coexist.”

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“No way. I probably got drunk that day. But this is the most sober I’ve ever been. No cocaine, either.”

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Interviewed by Richard Regen in 1990.

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