November 1985, in an interview in Sport magazine, a 19-year-old Tyson on his way to the championship explains his forbidding demeanour:
"I don't react to a tragic happening any more. I took so many bad things as a kid and some people think I
don't care about anything. It's just too hard for me to get emotional. I don't cry."
January 1986, and after a one-round win over Dave Jaco he tells an Albany Times Union reporter why the public is increasingly fascinated with him:
"When you see me smash somebody's skull, you enjoy it."
January 1986, and a bleak world-view is already finding expression, here in an interview with Wallace Mathews in Newsday:
"People love you when you're successful, but if you're not, who really cares about you?"
. . . And in the same interview:
"Having no hope is the worst thing that could happen to anybody. I've been through that.
I've come too far to turn back now."
January 1986, and in a comment to the Philadelphia Daily News he equates the thrill of boxing with a different kind of ecstasy:
"I love it. I love the excitement of competition. I get goose pimples. It's like seeing a girl and getting excited."
February 1986, and perhaps his most-quoted quote, to reporters after his sixth-round win over Jesse Ferguson:
"I try to catch them right on the tip of his nose because I try to punch the bone into the brain." (He was later to say the remark was a "bad-taste joke".)
May 1986, and the determination of a young Tyson is unequivocally expressed after his one-sided points win over Mitch "Blood" Green:
"I refuse to be beaten in there. I refuse to let anybody get in my way."
November 1986, and Tyson exults in becoming the youngest-ever heavyweight champion after destroying Trevor Berbick in two rounds:
"I was out for his blood. I wouldn't leave the ring alive without the belt."
May 1987, and his ferocious comments chill reporters after the sixth-round battering of Pinklon Thomas:
"Every shot was thrown with bad intentions. I was hoping he would get up so I could hit him again and keep him down."
August 1987, and he has a message for forthcoming opponent Tyrell Biggs, a former amateur opponent whose manner and pre-fight remarks he has found irritating:
"People talk with the greatest disrespect lately, knowing they're going to have to pay with their health."
. . . As the Biggs fight draws closer, Tyson's antipathy deepens:
"If I don't kill him, it doesn't count."
October 1987, and Tyson reacts with glee to the pain he inflicted on Biggs in a seven-rounds slaughter:
"When I hit him in the body he was making these noises. . . . Something like a woman screaming."
. . . And:
"I could have knocked him out in the third round but I wanted to do it slowly, so he would remember this night for a long time."
January 1988, and after crushing Larry Holmes in four rounds Tyson proclaims himself invincible:
"I can't be beat, I refuse to be beat, I refuse to lose."
March 1988, and some weird stuff as he relates his innermost thoughts to Sports Illustrated:
"Real freedom is having nothing. I was freer when I didn't have a cent. Do you know what I do sometimes? Put on a ski mask and dress in old clothes, go out on the streets and beg for quarters."
. . . And:
"I love to hit people. I love to, Most celebrities are afraid someone's going to attack them. I want someone to attack me. No weapons. Just me and him. I like to beat men and beat them bad."
. . . And does this sound familiar, from the same feature article:
"When I fight someone, I want to break his will. I want to take his manhood. I want to rip out his heart and show it to him."
June 1988, and a strange confession to The Washington Post's William Gildea:
"Every time I dream about my fights, I lose. When I lose, it's usually a dramatic way of losing.
It's very realistic. It's frightening."
June 1988, and he expresses his contempt for the media during a chat with reporters while in training to meet Michael Spinks at Atlantic City:
"I'm just a sucker even talking to you guys. I should be ready to rip your heads off your necks. But
it's just not the right thing to do."
June 1988, and rumours are circulating that he has physically abused his actress wife, Robin Givens. He tells The
Mirror's Jack Steggles why the rumours are ridiculous:
"Anyone with a grain of sense would know that if I punched my wife I would rip her head off.
It's all lies. I have never laid a finger on her."
June 1988, after wiping out Michael Spinks in the first round:
"I just have this thing inside me that wants to eat and conquer. Maybe it's egotistical, but I have it in me. I
don't want to be a tycoon. I just want to conquer people and their souls."
February, 1989, and a classic Tyson quote after TKO5 Frank Bruno:
"How dare they challenge me with their primitive skills?"
February 1990, in contemplative mood after defeat by Buster Douglas:
"I look forward to coming back again. I've lost more than I've won in life, so, believe me,
I'm pretty much understanding of the situation and I can deal with it. I can deal with adversity."
May 1990, and Tyson, talking to Michael Marley of the New York Post, reflects on his parting from Robin Givens.
"Divorce is the worst. If it happens, my heart goes out to you even if you're my worst enemy."
. . . And in the same interview, Tyson talks of confronting fear:
"I'm scared every time I go into the ring, but it's how you handle it. What you have to do is plant your feet, bite down on your mouthpiece and say,
December 1990, and a comment designed to strike fear into Alex Stewart (who went out in one round):
"It's nothing personal, but I'm going to kill this guy."
June 1991, and very strange stuff indeed as he calls Razor Ruddock a transvestite before their Las Vegas rematch:
"I can't wait for you to kiss me with those big lips of yours."
May 1995, and Tyson seems to be trying to turn over a new leaf as he prepares to return to the ring after his conviction for rape and subsequent prison term:
"I am trying to be humble. There was a period when I was brash and arrogant, and I had reason to be. It is a very difficult transition socially."
August 1995, and he tries to close the book when questioned by reporters about his three years of incarceration:
"I dealt with it, it's dead. It's none of you guys' concern. I'm surviving. It was just another life in another world."
March 1996, putting his foot in it when comparing his new-born daughter, Rayna, to her mother,
Tyson's then-girlfriend Monica Turner:
"Her mother is beautiful, but she [Rayna] is so gorgeous she makes her mother look like a junkyard dog."
March 1996, complaining about his $30 million purse for stopping Frank Bruno in their rematch:
"No one gives a fuck about me. No one cares if my children starve, if they're on welfare. I have to support my children. I need more money."
September 1996, comments while training to meet Bruce Seldon:
"I have a temper. Once it's over, it's over. But it's an extreme temper."
"In 30 years of life, I've never been truly happy."
November 1996, and a "new", mellow Tyson talks to the press before his first fight with Evander
"I've had a couple of crappy deals in my life. Sometimes I fall off the mark, and
that's no secret. But now I'm trying to do the right thing, I'm a totally different individual to how I was at one particular time."
. . . And he makes an oddly prophetic statement, bearing in mind what happened to him against Holyfield when they fought, not long after the press conference:
"Champions don't quit. The only way you quit is when you're face down on the floor. Not taking a beating like a man is unethical."
June 1997, and Tyson lapses into self-pity before Holyfield II:
"Basically I've been taken advantage of my whole life. I've been abused, I've been
dehumanised, I've been humiliated and I've been betrayed. That's happened all my life, and
I'm kind of bitter and kind of angry at certain people about it."
. . . But he makes a plea for the boxer that might strike an uncomfortable chord with people within the sport:
"Everyone in boxing probably makes out well except for the fighter. He's the only one
that's on Skid Row most of the time, he's the only one that everybody just leaves when he loses his mind . . . He sometimes goes insane, he sometimes goes on the bottle, because
it's a highly intensive pressure sport that allows people to just lose it [their self-control]."
January 1998, in an interview with James Lawton in The Express, trying to explain why he bit
Holyfield's ears in their rematch:
"I felt Holyfield was using his head illegally. I told the referee I
wasn't getting any help, so I went back to the streets. I cannot defend it, but it happened."
September 1998, Tyson appears before the Nevada commission seeking reinstatement of his boxing licence and explains that his bouts of rage (in particular the alleged assault on two middle-aged motorists in Maryland) are not his fault at all:
"I'm belligerent sometimes when I'm provoked. I'm tired of people trying to take advantage of me, trying to bully me around and antagonise me.
It's been pervasive for so many years that I'm a bad seed."
. . . And at the same hearing:
"Trust me, this won't happen any more. I've learned, man. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry."
October 1998. In a Playboy interview, he sees himself as a person under a perpetual dark cloud:
"I know I'm going to blow one day. . . . My life is doomed the way it is. I have no future. I feel bad about my outlook, how I feel about people and society, and that
I'll never be part of society the way I should."
. . . And in the same interview, he reveals that the problem with too many women is that they are out of their depth when confronted with a red-blooded male such as himself:
"A lot of young women don't know what they're getting themselves into. A lot of them think
it's fun, a game. . . . But they truly don't know what they're into when they lock themselves into a room and engage in sex with a man who knows how to handle a woman."
October 1998, seeking the understanding of the Nevada commission at a second hearing into his licence reinstatement request:
"You gentlemen have no idea what it's like to be myself, no idea what it's like.
I'm not interested in being humiliated anymore."
. . . And at the same hearing, explaining his thoughts during the alleged road-rage incident in Maryland:
"I was irate, crazy, mad - I said some bad things I shouldn't have said. They [the two motorists involved] were probably afraid of a big black guy using street vernacular."
November 1998, and some ugly words concerning his forthcoming fight with Francois Botha:
"I think I'll take a bath in his blood."
December 1998, and another comment of casual brutality concerning the Botha fight:
"I'm not much for talking. You know what I do. I put guys in body bags when
December 1998, expressing sympathy for Monica Turner, now his wife:
"I've been a real jerk. I don't know how my wife has been able to stay married to me."
December 1998, in an interview with USA Today close, he lapses into self-loathing:
"I don't know what the hell's wrong with me. I get depressed. I feel I've been brutalised and abused. I feel no one cares. . . . I
don't like myself most of the time. Trust me, I don't."
December 1998, telling reporter Nick Charles of CNN why he stands apart from the majority of the male population:
"The one thing I know, everyone respects the true person and everyone's not true with themselves. All of these people who are heroes, these guys who have been lily white and clean all their lives, if they went through what I went through, they would commit suicide. They
don't have the heart that I have. I've lived places they can't defecate in."