VERONA, N.Y. — When Mike Tyson returns to boxing tonight, he’ll be on the outside of the ring looking in.
More than two decades after a social worker introduced him to trainer Cus D’Amato, Tyson will return to his roots in this sport, but this time as a promoter. The former heavyweight champion has a new enterprise, Iron Mike Productions, and he will present his first fight card at Turning Stone Resort.
The main event features an IBF super bantamweight title fight between champion Argenis Mendez and challenger Arash Usmanee.
Tyson says he’s ecstatic to be back in the sport. He says his fighters won’t be subjected to what he went through in his heyday.
“When I first got involved, I just didn’t know,” Tyson said. “Never in a thousand years did I plan on doing it. I’m just happy to be back involved in boxing. It’s a dream come true. I’m a little nervous.”
The man who once sued promoter Don King for $100 million for taking his money also has reinvented himself as an entertainer. Last month, Tyson announced he’s going back to pay television, where his fights were some of the biggest moneymakers in boxing history. He’s teaming with director Spike Lee to bring Tyson’s one-man stage show to HBO later this year. The program was filmed on Broadway, where “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth” ran last summer.
Tyson’s wife, Kiki, wrote the script for the stage show, which toured the country earlier this year. Tyson said it reflects his life’s journey from Brooklyn street tough guy to happily married father, and credits his wife for his foray into promoting.
Not bad for a man who only five years ago was a desperate drug addict contemplating suicide. His depression reached a low on May 26, 2009, when his 4-year-old daughter, Exodus, was tragically killed when she was strangled by a cord while playing on a treadmill.
It hit Tyson hard, but the death — and his marriage to Kiki soon after — helped rescue him from the abyss.
“I didn’t think I’d be here much longer,” Tyson said. “I was planning on killing myself. I was overdosing every night. I couldn’t believe it — that I was waking up. Living life is different for me.
“I had to change my life. It’s been hell, but I’m happy to be alive.”
And ecstatic to be back in the sport, where he earned and lost over $300 million.
Tyson, 47, who was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in nearby Canastota, N.Y., two years ago, hopes to provide his fighters with a structured environment for success — in and out of the ring.
“You’re never going to hear them say ‘Mike Tyson stole from me.’ Hopefully, they’ll never end up like me,” he said. “I’m not a magician. The only thing I can do is suggest — go in the right direction. We have to look for happiness within. I can’t stop somebody from hurting themself.”
Still, he knows it won’t be the same.
“I can’t be like Cus. These guys (today) would lose their minds with the discipline,” Tyson said. “Forty percent of fighters — they can’t even make their own weight. Fighters need to be self-motivated. They should be the first one in the gym and the last one out. I’m never going to be wealthy again, but I can still give back. Boxing gave me so much. This should be fun.
“This should really be fun.”