BAD INTENTIONS: The Mike Tyson Saga


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In the mid-1980s, Mike Tyson was considered the heavyweight messiah. And, for a little while, at least, he was almost worth worshiping…from the comfort of your living room. Honed to destructive perfection by the Freudian Mad Hatter of the Catskill Mountains, Cus D’Amato, Tyson, the youngest heavyweight champion in history—and the first undisputed kingpin since Leon Spinks—tore through most of his fatso opposition with easeful savagery. Ditto the American psyche. Although his flashroll eventually reached hundreds of millions of dollars, money is no levee for madness. With enough hang-ups to fill a new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Tyson put his special brand of violent celebrity pathology on the front page day for night and night for day. Yes, Mike Tyson was a tabloid fever dream. Between lawsuits, street fights, car crashes, sex scandals, failed suicides, hotel trashings, and a silent scream Barbara Walters interview, Tyson made sure his extracurricular activities were not for the squeamish. But for five years “Kid Dynamite” sauntered to the ring with no socks, his head shaved à la Jack Dempsey, wearing a ratty towel-poncho combo he might have swiped from the Sunshine Hotel on the Bowery. It was Battling Nelson, Ad Wolgast, and “The Manassa Mauler” all over again, embodied in the hulking 5’10 physique of a sociopath who believed in hell on earth played out under lights. Tyson bounced his chubby peers around the ring like so many fifty-cent Spaldings. And then, in the blink of a bloodshot eye, it was over, like Molly Ringwald or the Sugar Hill Gang. The “Bed-Stuy, Do or Die” juvenile delinquent with a neck like a howitzer shell imploded during the final days of the “Me Decade” while training for a heavyweight journeyman named Buster Douglas. The end of the world as boxing knew it during the 1980s was here.

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