This article appears in our “The Big Idea Issue,” which is on stands now!
Personalities don’t get much Bigger than Iron Mike Tyson! The one time wrecking ball of a boxer dominated his opponents with brute force and intimidation. In recent years Iron Mike has become a much more affable and humorous personality.
He has morphed into such an amusing figure of late that he is now literally a cartoon character. Mike Tyson Mysteries airs on Adult Swim and the animated comedy plays with the Tyson image we all know. 15-20 years ago it would have been unfathomable to imagine the legendary athlete having a cartoon based on his public image.
I spoke with Tyson about his former career as a boxer, the dominance of female athlete Ronda Rousey, and his love for the stage.
What do you think about the current state of the sport of boxing?
There are a lot of talented boxers out there that aren’t being properly matched. You match properly to show their true potential. Match making is an art. You can’t put a guy in there who is a runner and a thinker with a guy who likes to fight and is used to a guy coming at him. You have to get guys together that will make it an exciting fight for the people.
If you were still boxing today—how do you think you would do against this current crop of boxers?
I think I would do pretty well.
Do you miss boxing?
No. It was sensational but it was pretty dark for me.
What was your mindset like before a big fight?
It was such a long time ago. I knew the preparation I did in the gym would be enough. I am a decent puncher and if I hit a guy on the top of the head, ribs or stomach…I could hurt him. When I hurt him my intentions were to take him out.
What did you think of the Pacquiao – Mayweather fight?
We all want to blame Floyd (Mayweather) because he rubs people the wrong way. It (the fight) was all his style of fighting and Manny (Pacquiao) had to take it away from him. That’s what it came down to.
Are there any boxers from the past, or present, that you wish you could have fought in your prime?
I did all my fighting. I fought everyone I had to fight. I’m happy with what I did.
Who is the greatest boxer of all-time?
Why Muhammad Ali?
He is a fighter. Muhammad Ali is a fighter. He is going to use so many didactical strategies. He will box you. He will keep you at a distance. He will hold you. He will do whatever to win. He knows how to win. When you fight Ali—you aren’t knocking him out. You are going 15 rounds with Ali. You better be prepared to go 15 fucking rounds with Ali.
Have you spent much time with Ali over the years?
I’ve spent a great deal of time with him. I’m grateful that I have been able to do that. Nobody is better.
What do you think about Ronda Rousey? Are you impressed by her current dominance?
You can’t question her ability as an athlete. She has great tenacity and she’s smart. It all comes in time. She’s just a baby. She will get better as long as she’s dedicated and consistent. She will get better and smarter.
The fighting game is not a tough guys’ sport. People think it’s a tough man’s sport but it’s a smart man’s sport. A tough guy is a bouncer or a security guard. In the fighting game a tough guy is going to get hurt and talk funny at the end of the day. Only the smartest win. You can’t be a tough guy and do too good in this sport.
How would Ronda Rousey do in a fight against Floyd Mayweather?
I don’t think that would be a good idea.
You have done so many notable things away from the boxing ring since your retirement. What accomplishment away from boxing stands out the most to you?
I was happy to be on Law & Order. I always wanted to do that.
Do you think that appearing in 2009’s The Hangover helped to change the course of your career/life?
That was the moment. That is when the ball started rolling down the hill—snowball.
There has been quite a bit of discussion recently about Jamie Foxx portraying you in a film about your life. Is that project still moving forward?
We are having meetings. We have the green light to do it.
Why do you think Jamie Foxx is a good choice to play you on screen?
It’s more than just an impersonation. He knows me. He used to work for me. I used to have a company in California. Jaime has been around me for a long period of time. When he was a young comedian I never thought he would be who he is now. God has really blessed him spectacularly.
What does it feel like to have your own cartoon?
I’m honored. To have a cartoon on a major network—I am very grateful. It’s fun. I love doing it.
What do you want to do next?
I would like to direct. I am working on a Rick James story for the stage with Wayne Brady.
You had a one-man show on stage. What is it about the stage that attracts you?
Stage is my life. I want to die on there. The stage! It’s all I think about. The movies is the money—but the stage I can’t explain it. It gives me new life.
Does being on stage remind you of the boxing ring?
100%. It’s more than that though. It’s incredible. I’m so in tune with the audience on stage. I’m never alone when I’m on stage.
You have lived a very special life and have overcome so much in your life/career. What kind of advice would you have for a young person that is trying to find their way in life?
Whatever field of profession you wish to endeavor—become a specialist in the knowledge of it. Be a master in the art of it—be a master of the art. Know everything about it as an art. Never give up. The reality of it is—master the art of it. When you master it—it can be used. It has to be mastered first.
When did you learn that “mastering the art” is the key to life?
I knew it for years but I never applied it.
You can watch the Mike Tyson Mysteries now on Adult Swim and Mike Tyson is currently in China filming IP Man 3.