Mike Tyson‘return’:Eccentric image or black people stereotyping,again?

25Jun 2020
Michael Eneza
The Guardian
Mike Tyson‘return’:Eccentric image or black people stereotyping,again?

​​​​​​​HEATED discussion is going on in professional boxing circles in post-lockdown United States, around the supposed return of Mike Tyson, a legend in the heavyweight category, and in his days, had a string of early knockouts of hapless challengers.

Mike Tyson

That was the case for his first ten years in professional boxing, from his 1986 maiden thrashing of Trevor Berbick to much less impressive fights in the mid-1990s where he went to the extent of biting the ear of Evander Holyfield. Fighting the ugly way was a signal that the energy is draining out of him; is it likely that he now has energy to fight much better 23 years later, or he puts Black America to shame?

This supposed return of Iron Mike is being worked upon and is likely to bring in fatter paychecks than would a 53 year old anyone competing against whatever boxer of the past or the present would ordinarily expect to fetch. The reason is the magic around Iron Mike, but his legacy isn’t just centred on the ropes and canvass; there is more besides and that is what brings about his wish to return to the ring. This brings up implications for his image and for other stakeholders well beyond Madison Square Garden in New York. There are issues for black people generally.

Images of the legendary boxer appearing online show that he means every word of what is being said, with US pundits saying he has been at work in the gym, losing ten stone to get back into shape, which is stunning by any standards. A stone is an English-US weight measurement equivalent to 6.5 kilos, implying that the former heavyweight champion lost anything up to 65 kilos of his usual weight. He very much looks like his old boxing self, and going by the rival wrestling game, his age would be considered normal in that game, as it would also do for golf.

Heavyweight is a different matter altogether as even those in the right age category often suffer intense bruises and near death experience isn’t rare in that game. It is even from such a situation that professional boxing rounds were trimmed from 15 in the past to 12 later, after a boxer who was still heavy and on his feet in the 12th round started losing balance and fell by knockout later. Apparently he was brain damaged and medication failed, and so he did not regain consciousness.

It is on the basis of such apprehensions that one pundit declared that if Iron Mike will die if he was to face any of the current contenders for the world heavyweight championship, say of the World Boxing Council (WBC) often said to be the likely host of his ‘comeback’ fight. That may be to go too far but the question is, why ought the legendary boxer come back to the ring in a competitive fight? Chances are that he hasn’t found another occupation, or isn’t settled enough.

A number of those who have discussed the now likely appearance in the ring of the former ‘Baddest Man on Earth’ have been discussing merely technical issues, for instance who is Tyson likely to fight and what is the track record, etc. Not much attention has been given to the other aspects, for instance the sort of life outside the ring that Tyson has led, and how this led to his financial ruin, and in that case why he wishes to climb into the ring to boost his finances, to wit.

For anyone who would have earned a trifle of the legendary heavyweight boxer’s pick in each of his sell out fights, not only would he be a multimillionaire from those earnings alone, but would make a name for himself in an array of investments. As plenty of other black athletes and artistes have done just that, failure on the part of Iron Mike can be counted as tied to an eccentric attitude rather than a blemish that characterizes black people or African American people specifically. Yet there are broader societal comparisons, for instance how black people dominate sports and the arts, but are virtually invisible on the stock exchange, on the basis of regular commentaries.

There is hence a negative aspect collectively in relation to the ‘return’ of Mike Tyson, that any eventual humiliation on his part in the ring – as losing weight isn’t the same as making oneself much younger – shall reinforce the stereotype image. Questions will be asked as to the wisdom of a 53 year old man fighting boxers in their mid-30s for instance, as there is just one noticeable challenger who is 41, billed as likely to be picked to take on Iron Mike. Dying by a blow in the ring is definitely out of the cards in such a fight, but it will be a hard climb for Tyson to prove he is a boxer worth sliding into the ring and not just because he needs some cash and very badly too.

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