'Slum-dog' Tyson says boxing has become tougher today

Mike Tyson, one of the most dazzling boxers on the ring, is in Mumbai to launch the Mixed Martial Arts Kumite 1 league.

Former world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson is in Mumbai to launch the Mixed Martial Arts Kumite 1 league.   -  Vivek Bendre

In his heyday, Mike Tyson would test the patience of his opponents in the ring. And on Friday, the boxing legend took a test of patience of the scribes on his first visit to India.

The former world heavyweight boxing champion — who is in Mumbai to launch the Mixed Martial Arts Kumite 1 league — arrived at the media conference at a plush city hotel, almost two and a half hours behind the scheduled time. And just when the scribes and the shutterbugs were planning a walkout, the 52-year-old, dressed in a white printed shirt and a denim, walked in.

However, it was worth the wait as Tyson, who was possibly one of the most dazzling boxers on the ring, dazzled the fans and the scribes alike during the interaction, which followed.

Even though he looked jet-lagged after a long journey from the US, via China, and initially was at searching for words, Tyson spoke candidly toSportstar for a few minutes after the mandatory media conference for the Kumite 1 League.

Excerpts…

You have got a ringside view of game. Has boxing evolved over the years?

The guys are bigger now and they are even stronger. But… (chuckles) it is evolving pretty slow, it is kind of going backwards. I feel things should try and go forward now.

Do you think that today, with facilities and technology available, the sport has become a lot easier than what it used to be?

No, I think with technology things have got even tougher for a boxer. Yes, it is tough.

With so many leagues coming up, are they blurring the lines between amateur and professional boxing?

Both (formats) have become pretty (similar) now. There is no firewall.

Why do you think this has happened?

I don’t know. (May be) different time, technology (have roles to play).

In an intense sport like boxing, what do you need to succeed, the skill or the heart? What is more important, because when you are battered, does your head allow you to dig in to your skills?

First thing is (that you have to focus on) training department. That is important. You need to get adapted to that and train your mind on how to fight. You need to understand that you are in a fight and you could be hurt if the contact is not right. Most of the fighters now are in their subconscious when in the ring.

 

These days, a lot of boxers who have passed their prime are keen on joining mixed martial arts (MMA). Do you think that is a viable option?

I have no idea. I think some boxers who have retired go to the league. Probably, that’s the way (it is for them).

Had the concept of MMA come a bit early, would you have thought of exploring it?

(Laughs) I don’t know. They don’t pay a lot of money in MMA... I want to go with the money.

But as a boxing legend, do you really follow MMA?

Yes, I am a big fan. I go to UFC ((Ultimate Fighting Championship) in Las Vegas all the time.

Do you have any idea about Asian boxers?

I don’t follow them much.

In your career, who was the most difficult opponent?

There were quite a few of them. Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, Buster Douglas. They were very good fighters.

There were reports that you have been invited by Bollywood celebrities for some parties…

I will go to the slums and not attend parties. (Tyson has apparently told the organisers that he wants to visit Dharavi, the biggest slum of Asia, in this trip).

Why such a decision?

I grew up in a slum. I am a slum-dog. I had the ambition to get out of the slums and that’s why I am here. If someone works hard they can get out of the slums. I still go back to see my friends in my old neighbourhood. They still call it a slum. I think the poorer you are the better boxer you are.

The most successful fighters have come from slums. All the fighters who come from the slums are successful.

Among the current heavyweight boxers, who is your favourite?

I think it’s (Anthony) Joshua right now. It’s going to be an interesting fight between Joshua and (Deontay) Wilder.

HBO, boxing’s most visible television home, has announced that it is getting out of the business of boxing. How do you see this?

HBO won’t show live boxing anymore? Oh! I have no idea. I don’t know, that’s a tricky question.

In India, cricket is the most popular sport. Do you know about cricket?

I know cricket. I don’t follow it. I know you hit the ball with a stick. It’s a bit like baseball, in a way.

 

The Kumite 1 League will be live on Sony Six and Sony Six HD on Saturday at 7 pm.