Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Tyson says wild past is behind him

By Chris Duncan
The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - A humble and reflective Mike Tyson said Tuesday he's done with the chaos that enveloped his life and is serious about one last boxing comeback.

"I may have a checkered past, but I've grown since then," said Tyson, dressed in a gray suit with a pink shirt at a crowded news conference. "I think I deserve another chance to prove my checkered past can be swept away."

Mike Tyson enjoys a laugh during a news conference Tuesday in Louisville to announce his upcoming fight against Danny Williams.
(AP photo)
Tyson, who turns 38 on Wednesday, was in Louisville to promote his July 30 bout with British journeyman Danny Williams.

Tyson hasn't fought since stopping Clifford Etienne in 49 seconds on Feb. 22, 2003. He's been living in a modest house in suburban Phoenix, away from the lavish lifestyle and wasteful spending that landed him deep in debt.

"I've learned I could be happier with a lot less," said Tyson, who was soft-spoken and polite with reporters.

Tyson disputed a story in a London tabloid that quoted him saying he was homeless and taking handouts from "unsavory characters." But he admitted his move to a simpler, quieter life hasn't been easy.

"I was addicted to chaos and that's why I've had a very difficult time settling into the person I am now," he said. "I never allowed chaos to stop being in my presence. Chaos was a really big influence on me."

The fight against Williams is one of Tyson's first steps toward digging out of bankruptcy. The convicted rapist squandered more than $300 million in purses after becoming the youngest heavyweight champion in history at age 20. Records show Tyson still owes more than $38 million to various creditors.

Tyson's attorneys recently unveiled a plan in federal bankruptcy court under which Tyson will fight seven times over the next three years. He's also close to settling a $100 million lawsuit against promoter Don King for $14 million and selling two houses in Las Vegas.

Tyson said his biggest regret during his years of wild living was how much he trusted the wrong people with his money.

"The only reason people took advantage of me is because I allowed it," he said. "I'm a foolish man. I'm the most foolish person in the history of this sport."

Tyson said he's relieved he's pawned off most of his material possessions. He's revisited a childhood hobby of raising pigeons and said his main focus now is caring for his two children, Rayna and Amir.

"I slept with the devil for a long period of my life," he said. "That didn't kill me, so I guess I'm here to do something positive."

Tyson said he still has the hunger to become a champion, but conceded that his motivation for fighting again is mostly financial.

"I really love what I do, but I would also like to pay all my bills," he said. "When I'm no longer around, I don't want to be looked at as a dishonest person."

Tyson (50-4, 44 KOs) has fought only twice in the last three years with just over eight rounds of action. He has three losses and two "no contests" in his last 10 ring appearances.

Tyson said he's mentally ready to return to prominence.

"I have a strong internal fortitude when I'm really interested in doing something," he said. "Like when I have my mind made up to make a fool of myself, I'm very successful at doing that. If I have my mind made up to make a success of myself, I'm very able to do that as well."

Former heavyweight champion Greg Page, a Louisville native now confined to a wheelchair because of a brain injury suffered in the ring, sat in the front row at Tyson's news conference. Page's wife, Patricia, presented Tyson with a birthday cake.

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