Who Is the 'New Mike Tyson'?


Sept. 13, 2006 -- -- Once one of the world's most popular athletes, Mike Tyson is once again the main event in a Las Vegas Hotel. Only this time, the event's in the lobby.

In the shadows of slot machines, black jack tables and the hotel's wedding chapel, Tyson works out for the amusement of the masses.

"I'm no 'Iron Mike' getting ready to conquer the world again," he says. "That's not who I am. It doesn't mean that much to me anymore."

Once upon a time, Tyson lived four lifetimes in one. He was the youngest heavyweight champion ever. He made -- and lost -- hundreds of millions of dollars. He was convicted of rape and imprisoned. And he was ordered by a judge to undergo psychiatric evaluation. Doctors said he was bipolar, that he couldn't control his anger and that he suffered from low self-esteem.

But all of that seems forever ago.

Today Tyson says all those years were a lie, that as you get older you realize that life is really about loss.

"You lose the people you love, your things, cars, tangible things and that's truly what I believe," Tyson reflects. "Everybody says, 'He who dies with the most toys wins,' but that's just truly not a great substance."

More than four years ago, Tyson fought for the world heavyweight championship against Lennox Lewis. After he was knocked out in the eighth round, Tyson thought he would fade away into oblivion.

But today -- despite being knocked out in three of his last four fights and announcing his retirement -- Tyson has not faded away, especially in the eyes of his fans who have gathered every day since August 30 to watch him train on the mezzanine level of the Aladdin Hotel.

His management team says the training isn't for a real fight but for a world exhibition tour. And perhaps it's not surprising that Tyson finds himself in these circumstances: broke and millions of dollars in debt.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, more than 700 people crammed into the narrow space Tyson uses. The attention makes him uncomfortable.

"I think these guys are looking to see somebody that no longer exists anymore," he says. "It's my attitude. If I was Mike Tyson ... had my facade on ... I'd be talking bad to some people, being tough. I'm just not that guy anymore."

He quickly adds, "At least, I'm trying to exit myself from that person."

The mystery of his enduring popularity is clearly one of the issues he himself grapples with every day. It's clear he's a conflicted man, struggling between who he was and who he wants to be.

Becoming the new Mike Tyson, though, is a challenge.

"It's not working out too well," he admits. "I get knocked down, but I keep getting back up, being Mike and dealing with who I was in the past ... it's just not working out too well."

Despite the difficulties, Tyson is trying to tame the raging Tyson who bit off Evander Holyfield's ear and threatened to devour Lennox Lewis' children.

In a departure from that persona, the new Mike Tyson engages his audience, acknowledging it after his workout. "Thank you, I am truly humbled."

"You find guys come here, 'Mike, you want to fight Holyfield again?'" Tyson shares. "I don't want to fight nobody. I'm just trying to make a buck without getting splashed, without hitting anybody. I'm just a simple man now."

"I'm just so happy I'm not fighting. Fighting turns me that way," Tyson says. "It's just so ironic. When people see me, they smile and then I think that's what they want. They want me to curse them out. People want me to grab my crotch. Be that tough guy. That's so ironic. I don't know."

"I want to change," he continues. "I want to run away from that guy, but they want to pull that guy back out of me."

Tyson says he'll never fight again, but when his training session is over -- as he walks out through the crowd that clamors for the old Mike Tyson -- it remains to be seen which Mike Tyson will emerge on his international exhibition tour scheduled to begin next month.

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