Ebony Interview with Mike Tyson

By Johnson, Robert E. | Ebony, September 1995 | Go to article overview

Ebony Interview with Mike Tyson


Johnson, Robert E., Ebony


Robert E. Johnson, who interviewed Mike Tyson several times in the Indiana prison, was the only journalist invited to accompany the former champion on his much-ballyhooed return to Harlem. After a tumultuous press conference and a bitter controversy over whether Tyson had been redeemed, Johnson interviewed Tyson once again in the Grand Royal Suite on the 49th floor of the Rihga Royal Hotel in downtown Manhattan. During the press conference and afterwards, Tyson, who converted to Islam in the Indiana prison, refused to answer questions about the redemption controversy, but his co-manager, John Horne, told the press conference: "Mike Tyson is not going to sit up here and answer silly questions. I'm not going to let him sit here and be disrespected." It was against this background that Johnson, the associate publisher of Jet magazine, conducted this EBONY/JET interview. Here are the highlights: EBONY/JET: Champ, when I saw you yesterday, you never looked better. I saw in you the same spirit, the same composure I saw the last time we were together in the Indiana Youth Center prison. One of the things you said then was, "Trust put me in this jail, and when I get out, Mike is going to be his own man and is going to make his own decisions." TYSON: You have to make your own decisions, you have to trust in your decisions. I heard Dan Quayle say something once. I'm not a Dan Quayle fan, but I listen to everybody in power, even though they got a bad reputation. Quayle said the worst thing that happened to him was that he never trusted his own judgment. That was a powerful statement, and I said from now on I am going to make my own mistakes and go with my own judgment. That's how come I learned to be bumble, so that I don't talk about nobody, I don't get arrogant about nobody. I have the same malice in my heart as far as the fight game is concerned, but outside the ring, I won't say anything a dignified man won't say. EBONY/JET. You didn't react at the press conference when some reporters called you a felon and suggested that it was wrong for the people of Harlem to honor you. TYSON: I just want to be humble at all times. I know why they don't like me, because they want the money I have, you know what I mean? They want to have the money and not kick somebody's a-- and be their own person. And I'm just happy that I'm not a phony. Whatever I do, man, it's not phony. EBONY/JET: You seem to have given a lot of thought to your future and your career. Have you established priorities? Have you said that these things are important to me and that this or that is on my wish list? TYSON: The only thing I do is just pray - pray for inspiration, for a way of thinking, because I don't have any particular goal in sight. I intend to fight and I want to win. But my priorities are basically to be a good Brother and a strong one, and to try to be a good father one day. I wish I did live with my child, you know? ... I don't consider it right that I don't live with them. So I have a war between my own mind and that situation. But I don't have any basic priorities. I just want to do what I do best - and that's fight. I love it. EBONY/JET: You told me once that your three-year-old daughter was a major factor in your refusing to back down in prison. TYSON: Listen, I understand these people. They want to crush me, they want me to cry, to beg on my knees. And evidently it is not in my nature to do that. And that is what people respect most. Not the fact that I'm knocking out everybody, not the fact that I contributed money. That's what people respect, the fact that I wasn't a chump that laid on his back and gave up. That gives people more strength than somebody saying I have done this and I have done that. EBONY/JET: When you got out of prison, was there a particular food or a particular thing that you wanted? TYSON: I didn't want anything. I wanted a bath. I scrubbed myself so hard it was like my skin was coming off my face. I was trying to wash the dirt off. I have scars on my face where I scrubbed so hard. …

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