Tyson: I've lied about being sober

Tyson: I've lied about being sober

Published Aug. 24, 2013 1:00 a.m. ET

Mike Tyson said he’s been lying about being sober and is on the verge of death because of alcoholism.

During a startling news conference at the Turning Stone Resort in New York, Tyson said he hasn’t had any alcohol or drugs for six days, which for him is “a miracle,” and he seemed to plea for forgiveness for being “a bad guy.”

Tyson has lived an alternately crushing and soaring life. By the age of 16, his mother was dead and his father was locked up. Boxing trainer Cus D’Amato took him in and Tyson became “Iron” Mike, the most feared boxer in the world.

That all imploded when he was convicted of rape in 1992. When he got out of prison, he recovered as a boxer to the point he fought Evander Holyfield twice, in two of the biggest fights of all time. Holyfield won the first fight by TKO, and the second one was the night a desperate Tyson took a bite of Holyfield’s ear, establishing him as one of the craziest guys in sports.


Tyson’s boxing career slowly and sadly eroded, and he began stacking pounds on top of pounds of fat. He weighed 380 pounds at one point. He’s 5-foot-10. All that boxing money was going out as soon as it was coming in, and Tyson soon found himself broke, disgraced and addicted.

And then, miraculously, Tyson became one of the most beloved characters in pop culture. He started getting acting roles, and he did well in them. His turn as himself in “The Hangover” was wonderful. He did a one-man Broadway show, turned into a film by Spike Lee that will air on HBO. Tyson appeared on FOX Sports Live during its first week and next month will be seen on FOX Sports 1 in the documentary series “Being: Mike Tyson”.

All in all, it has looked like the manifestation of a full comeback. Not as Iron Mike, but as our charmingly screwed-up cousin.

Tyson’s candor and self-awareness have served him well in his post-boxing life, but every now and then it seems like Tyson wants to remind everybody that he’s still a deeply hurt, deeply troubled person. On top of his aforementioned troubles, he's endured two broken marriages and the death of a 4-year-old daughter, and has been diagnosed as bi-polar.

“I’m a bad guy sometimes,” he said. “I did a lot of bad things, and I want to be forgiven. So in order for me to be forgiven, I hope they can forgive me. I wanna change my life, I wanna live a different life now. I wanna live my sober life. I don’t wanna die. I’m on the verge of dying, because I’m a vicious alcoholic."

It is not surprising to see Tyson unload all that weight during a news conference that I’m sure was expected to be sort of silly and whimsical. This was at a casino. But Tyson always has had a tendency to drop his baggage in the middle of the lobby. His many confessions have tended to come straight out of nowhere, which is probably a big part of the reason people like him now. He does not appear to be orchestrating some kind of thing in the media.

Some people have grandparents like this, who without any context will blurt out some old secret and then just move on like nothing happened. There’s a lot of that in Tyson’s public appearances over the years.

It has endeared him to a public that once considered him a lowlife, but it sounds like Tyson is having a hard time trusting that.

Tyson described a recent conflict and how he resolved it. He was vague about the conflict, but not how he felt about it.

”I hate myself,” he said. “I’m trying to kill myself. I hate myself a lot. But I made myself proud of myself, and I don’t do that much.”