Mike Tyson vs. Robin Givens: The Champ's Biggest Fight
MIKE TYSON VS. ROBIN GIVENS
NOT even in Las Vegas, where so much is hype and make-believe, would anybody have put together a fight card as outrageous as the one at the top of this page. They would have said it was a terrible mismatch, and that even if the two squared off they wouldn't go the distance. The bout would end in a knockout.
And so it did. Eight months after Mike Tyson and Robin Givens were married on Feb. 7, 1988 -- eight months of public squabbling and, Robin claims, private beatings -- she filed for divorce and Tyson countersued to have the marriage annulled. Each accused the other of vile things. She said he had made her life "pure hell" and that she was now afraid to be in his presence. He said that she (along with her mother, Ruth Roper) had tried to manipulate him, had "falsely" claimed that she was pregnnant with his child in order to pressure him into marriage, had tried to alienate him from his old friends and from Black people in general, and had tried in various ways to get a hefty slice of his estimated $55 million fortune.
The undertones and overtones of Tyson vs. Givens (he's now 22, she's 24) will undoubtedly continue long after the legal sparring ends. But fight fans--and gossips--will for years talk about what has been at least a 10-round, no-holds-barred battle royal.
After dating various wealthy, high-profile young men (actor Eddie Murphy and Chicago Bulls basketball star Michael Jordan among them), Robin meets Heavyweight Champion of the World Mike Tyson. After a whirlwind courtship accompanied by public displays of great affection for each other, they marry in Chicago on Feb. 7, 1988, following the NBA All-Star Game and later repeat their vows in New York City.
A month later, Tyson's close confidante and co-manager Jim Jacobs dies. Reportedly, while Tyson is at his old friend's funeral, Robin goes to her new husband's bank and demands "Where's my money!?" She and her mother then begin closely checking the details of Tyson's business affairs. There's a confrontation with surviving co-manager Bill Cayton. Demands are made for an accounting of Tyson's earnings and a renegotation of the management contract. Result: Cayton's percentage is cut from one-third to 20 percent of Tyson's earnings.
Tyson begins acting erratically, crashing his $180,000 Bentley into a parked car in New York City while supposedly having an in-car fight with Robin. He tries to give away the car to two policemen investigating the crash. Then, shortly before his fight in June 1988 with Michael Spinks, Robin's sister, Stephanie Givens, tells the press that Tyson physically abuses Robin during arguments.
Tyson has a street fight in Harlem with a recent ring foe, Mitch (Blood) Green. Tyson ends up with an injured hand, Green with a battered face and swollen eye. Green threatens a lawsuit. Tyson pleads that Green "jumped" him and he merely defended himself.
Tyson rams Robin's $72,000 BMW into a tree at his training camp in Catskill, N.Y. A New York newspaper headlines that Tyson has tried to commit suicide. There are unsubstantiated reports that Tyson has a serious mental problem, that he is manic depressive, that his mood swings range from childlike docility to uncontrolled rage.
Tyson and Robin agree to be interviewed on network TV by Barbara Walters. Robin repeats the "manic depressive" charge, with Tyson listening intently and gently stroking the back of his wife's neck. Robin's detailed dexcription of the "life of horror" she is having with Tyson creates a furor, with Tyson supporters surmising that she is publicly laying the groundwork for a divorce suit. In a telephone poll conducted by Chicago's WBBM-TV (CBS), 97.4 percent of those offering an opinion state that Robin "should not be given one dime,c if she succeeds in getting a divorce.
Shortly after the Barbara Walters interview on ABC's 20/20, Tyson reportedly goes into a rage in his $4.5 million mansion in Bernardsville, N.J. Robin says she is terrified. She packs her bags and flees to her Los Angeles home. She hires famed "palimony" lawyer Marvin Mitchelson to file divorce papers, alleging that Tyson had attacked her after the TV show, and that it was "the latest in a continuous horror story for me." She claims that "Michael has repeatedly hit me, thrown things at me, threatened to kill me" and also "threatened to kill my mother, Ruth Roper, and my sister, Stephanie Givens, and an employe." She continues: "My husband, Michael Tyson, has throughout our marriage been violent and physically abusive, and prone to unprovoked rages of violence and destruction." She asks for an equitable share of money, properties and other assets. A few days later she and Mitchelson split and she hires another lawyer, Raoul Felder of New York.
Tyson gets busy. He consults friends, including billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump and fight promoter Don King. He takes steps to protect his fortune by blocking bank accounts (Robin is said to have been enraged when she tries to cash a $651,000 check and is told the account has been closed), shifting jointly held funds into his personal accounts, and taking other measures that seem inspired by his attorney, Howard Weitzman, and his adviser, sharp-minded fight promoter Don King, to whose farm in Ohio Tyson moves to forget his marital problems and to train for his upcoming fight with Frank Bruno of England. Tyson counterfiles, alleging that Robin had no intention of making their marriage successful, and that she had married him for his money and fame. In his suit, filed in the New Jersey State Supreme Court, the young boxer claims that he has been "the hapless victim of intentional fraud,c saying that he has been subjected to "extreme cruelty," and that Robin has abandoned their New Jersey home. He alleges that Robin has waged a "campaign to publicly humiliate [me], strip [me] of [my] manhood and ... dignity and to destroy [my] credibility as a public figure." He seeks to pull a legal coup by having his marriage annulled, thus frustrating any plans Robin may have to share his considerable wealth.
Tyson and Robin continue living on different sides of the country while lawyers on both sides plot strategy. There are reported offers by Robin's lawyers for an out-of-court settlement, and word that Robin is "willing to give Michael another chance." Tyson counters by telling Chicago Sun-Times reporter Lacy J. Banks that living with Robin and her mother has been like "living with the Ku Klux Klan." He says that "they don't like Black people...they use them. But they don't like or respect Black people. They want to be White so bad. The way they talk about Black people you'd think you were living with the Ku Klux Klan." He says that his new family has been "trying to take me away from the people I grew up with and throw me into their kind of high-class world... Not only did she [Robin] want to take my money, but she wanted to ruin me, embarrass me, take away my manhood and humiliate me on television so that no woman would ever want me again. And that's evil." He concludes with: "She had her chance and she blew it. She blew the opportunity of a lifetime. Nobody is ever going to want her. She just missed out on the train." He says there is no chance that he and Robin will patch up things and live together again.
Meanwhile, Robin is interviewed again by Barbara Walters and tearfully insists that she and her family had merely "tried to help Michael." As far as money goes, she says, "It's something I'm not thinking about. I'm thinking about my own happiness. My lawyers will handle the money issue."
This one hasn't been fought yet. It will be one in which Tyson and Robin either get back together or slug it out in divorce court. It could be a long, punishing, bloody round. Will both of their careers suffer, their public images going down the drain -- his as a wife-beater, her's as a conniving gold digger? Whatever the outcome -- whether there's a rematch or whether one of the contestants fails to answer the bell for the next round, there will be those who will say that Tyson vs. Givens was a mismatch from the start, and that Mike and Robin never should have entered the ring.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Mike Tyson vs. Robin Givens: The Champ's Biggest Fight. Contributors: Not available. Magazine title: Ebony. Volume: 44. Issue: 3 Publication date: January 1989. Page number: 116+. © 1999 Johnson Publishing Co. COPYRIGHT 1989 Gale Group.
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