WITH raw punching power that sent dazed opponents crumbling to the canvas, the self-declared “baddest man on the planet” was the youngest heavyweight champion of the world.
Now 14 years since hanging up his gloves, Mike Tyson, 54, is stepping back into the ring — but is not allowed to knock his challenger out.
Tonight, Tyson will make what is the most sensational and controversial comeback in boxing history.
In what is supposed to be an “exhibition match” rather than a competitive bout, Iron Mike will trade blows with Roy Jones Jr.
Jones, 51, has been a world champion in four weight classes from middle to heavyweight and only quit the ring two years ago.
But due to their ages, the authorities in the US insist the fight can only go ahead with restrictions.
Both men will have to wear bigger gloves to cushion the impact of punches and there will be a maximum of eight rounds, each lasting two minutes, rather than the normal three.
But no one thinks that the now softly-spoken Tyson will play nicely once the bell rings.
Frank Bruno, who felt the full ferocity of Iron Mike’s blows in a title fight in 1989 and then again in 1996, tells The Sun: “I have never heard of an exhibition fight.
“The way Mike Tyson’s body is and mind is set, if someone tries to hit him, he will hit you harder.
“He has a hard punch and he has venom, he was nasty.”
Frank, who lost to Tyson both times, jokes the only person who hit him as hard as Tyson “was the taxman”.
‘IT MAKES MOCKERY OF THE SPORT’
Tyson is certainly talking about the rumble like a real boxer should.
In the run-up to the bout at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles, there was all the usual trash talk about hurting his opponent.
He said: “Listen, I don’t know what you’re talking about that it’s not a real fight. It’s Mike Tyson and Roy Jones and I’m coming to fight and I hope he’s coming to fight.
“That’s all you need to know.”
Tyson insisted his intention was to “disable my opponent” and that the bout would be “brutal”.
He has been training hard to get close to the shape of his peak when he first won the world title in 1986 at the age of 20.
In the other corner Jones claimed: “I love boxing. So if I die in boxing, I die a happy man.”
Both men have a lot on the line in the fight. If they do not go at each other hard, they face ridicule from disappointed fans. But any injury could lead to permanent damage.
The Sun’s legendary boxing correspondent Colin Hart says: “I am dead against this fight. To me it makes a mockery of the sport.
“It is also highly dangerous, two men of 50-odd years of age to be throwing punches at each other.
“Particularly Tyson, who even at 54 years of age, can still punch hard. It would never have been sanctioned by the British Board of Control.”
So why would the white-bearded Tyson, who by all accounts has calmed down in recent years, want to fight again?
Frank Bruno, 59, says: “Maybe he wants to get some more money, or it could be an ego thing.” Tyson says proceeds from the fight — on BT Sport Box Office and covered live on radio by talkSPORT and talkRADIO — will be going to charity. That is generous for a man who blew his £300million fortune to end up bankrupt in 2003.
The publicity from his comeback is sure to swell the coffers of his numerous business interests though.
On his Instagram page Tyson has been advertising his own line of T-shirts to his 13.5million followers.
He is also promoting the idea of the Mike Tyson Legends Only League, where the “greatest athletes” will compete. This fight is intended to be a springboard for veterans from all kinds of sports to make a comeback.
Alongside those interests, Tyson grows and sells his own brand of legal cannabis, has an animated TV show called Mike Tyson Mysteries and has appeared in films.
Business acumen, however, has not always been his strength.
He used to pay a trainer £80,000 a year to look after his two Bengal tigers, splashed out £1.75million on a solid gold bathtub for his first wife, actress Robin Givens, and spent £635,000 on a watch.
Money aside, it is also possible that Tyson has a point to prove tonight.
When he was beaten by no-hoper Buster Douglas in 1990 — his first ever loss — it was one of the biggest upsets in sporting history. And he never really recovered.
In 1992 he was jailed for raping 18-year-old Desiree Washington in a hotel room in July 1991.
After his release in 1995 he returned to the ring, beating Bruno in 1996 but losing twice to Evander Holyfield and once to Brit champion Lennox Lewis.
Sun expert Colin, who interviewed Tyson many times, believes the unpredictable fighter has calmed down over the past few years.
Biggest single fight purse: £22million v Evander Holyfield (1997)
Career fight earnings: £300million
No Contests: 2
Likely weight: 15st 2lb
Height: 5ft 10in
Reach: 71in (180cm)
‘I’VE LIVED A WILD AND STRANGE LIFE’
He says: “At long last he seems to have mellowed with age. I think he is far more stable now than he’s ever been in life.
“In the olds days you could go to him in the morning and he’d be charming, he was one of the most articulate fighters I have met in my life. Then you’d go see him that afternoon and he’d want to kill you.”
Tyson has admitted to allowing his life to spiral dangerously out of control. He once commented: “I’ve lived a wild and a strange life.
“I’ve used drugs, I’ve had physical altercations with dangerous people.
“I’ve slept with guys’ wives and they wanted to kill me. I’m just happy to be here. It’s a miracle.’”
Much of the credit for Tyson’s change of fortunes has to go third wife Lakiha Spicer, who he married in 2009.
Both she and Tyson know what it is like to hit rock bottom.
Lakiha, 43, was sent to prison in 2008 for defrauding a company owned by her father out of £60,000.
She was pregnant with their first daughter, Milan, at the time.
Tyson turned to drugs while she served six months in jail, but on her release she helped him quit.
Tyson confessed: “I’m very happy me and my wife got together because I don’t know how I would have survived out there.”
In the past, Tyson’s form for maintaining a relationship has not been good.
His first marriage to Robin, 55, lasted a year from 1988 to 1989. His second to Monica Turner lasted from 1997 to 2003.
And he has fathered seven children from several partners.
Tragically, his four-year-old daughter, Exodus, died in 2009 in a tragic treadmill accident.
Despite all his setbacks, Tyson is a man who does not stay down.
And as far as Bruno is concerned, there is nothing wrong with fighters lacing up their gloves again in their fifties.
Biggest single fight purse: £10million v John Ruiz (2003)
Career fight earnings: £40million
Titles: Middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight plus Olympic silver medal
No contest: 0
Likely weight: 15st
Height: 5ft 11in
Reach: 74in (188cm)
After all, Bernard Hopkins became the oldest world champion at 48 when he won the IBF light heavyweight crown in 2013. And Bruno, who retired after suffering a severe eye injury during his second bout with Tyson, does not rule out a return himself.
He says: “I’m a boxer and I always will be a boxer, but I’m happy with how my life is going.
“Age is just a number. It’s how you feel. It’s what’s in your heart, in your spirit. I turn 60 next year but I feel 25.”
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