How the mighty have fallen….

Young "Iron" Mike and Cus D'Amato

 Back in the mid 80’s I loved boxing.  I don’t mean getting in the ring and slugging it out with someone, I mean as a spectator.  I knew the welterweight, middleweight and heavyweight divisions as well as anyone could, to a point.  I mean I loved it.  I knew the players the contenders, the washed up, and the up and coming.  I remember going to the Cumberland County Collesium in Fayetteville NC and watching the fights on the big screen being broadcast live from Vegas.  Man it was like being there.  The crowd and hollaring, damn that was fun!  I remember watching Mke Tyson’s first few fights and starting to think that he was the most dominating fighter pound for pound that I have ever seen.  He was built and trained for destruction, and that is exactly what he did!  Mike came off the mean streets of New York and in no time found himself in a boys home in upstate New York.  Read the first Sport’s Illustrated article about Mike, it reads like a bomb about to go off.  The problem with Mike was he never had a parental figure in his life and went astray early.  At the boys home he started to get into boxing and word soon got around that we was the real deal.  Old time boxing trainer Cus D’Amato went to see the boy and quickly got him out of the home and into his custody.  Cus treated him like a son and Mike grew to love him for what he had done and giving him a second chance.  Cus saw greatness and would mold Mike with the help of trainer/handler Kevin Rooney and financial advisor Mark Cayton.  These were the only three people that Mike needed to make it to the top, and stay there.  Mike came into the pro’s at age 19 and like a bull in a china shop demolished anything that got in his way, and did it quickly.  Some of his opponents were halfway to the canvas at the sound of the bell.  He was scary good.  He was never even really challenged.  And as I say went to the top without so much as even a brief pause.  In 1985 shortly after getting there Cus passed away.  The man who treated him as a son was gone.  Boxing promoter Don King was ready to pounce and as championship fight night was upon us, as soon as Mike had his hands on the title belt Don was by his side.  I remember thinking this was the start of the fall of Mike Tyson.  Don was all about money and getting Tyson’s was his goal, no matter how.  Next was Mark Cayton being stricken with cancer and after a brief fight was gone as well.  The only person left was Kevin Rooney and he would be no match for King and in a short period of time he was also out of the picture.  The rest is history.  With the only three people who ever really cared about him now gone, Tyson quickly went downhill as a fighter, and is now broke.  Lifetime earnings of $350 million gone, probably into Kings bank account.  Mike Tyson would have been the most devastating fighter in the history of boxing had the three men who cared most for him never left his side.  Without their support Mike was a child once again and easily conned.   

This past weekend’s golf tournament at Torre Pines in San Diego CA was Tiger Woods tournament.  He owned that tournament, finishing in 1st place the last six times he played there.  That course was built for him and his game and he took full advantage every time he played.  Tiger finished as an also ran 10 strokes off the lead causing some to think he mailed it in.  I don’t think Tiger will ever be the player he once was, where he had no equal, or even second.  When the Tiger Wood’s scandal broke I never saw the comparison to Mike Tyson until recently.  Earl Woods, Tiger’s father, molded Tiger into the greatest player at anything on the planet.  Earl kept him grounded, kept him hungry, but most importantly kept him on the straight and narrow.  Early died almost two years ago and while it took a bit to catch up with Tiger, it still did.  The man who kept him focused was gone and Tiger spread his wings and now he is paying dearly.  Tiger then parted ways with Butch Harmon his golf coach.  Butch was with him from the beginning of his pro career and now all of a sudden he is out of the picture.  The only thing left is Steve Williams his caddie and he will be no match for Tiger’s wants or needs.  We all know the story of the initial downfall so there’s no need to rehash it.  I don’t think Tiger will ever be revalent again because what brought him down is what will keep him down.  If you have gotten in the mess he has and fresh out of a divorce and you buy a $50 million dollar apartment in New York City your days on the golf circuit are numbered.  If your addicted to gambling you don’t move to Vegas to get over it.  Earl Woods was Tiger’s Cus D’Amato, women, for a lack of a better term, is Tiger’s Don King.  I’m not saying Tiger will never be great again, he once was and does have to tools to be great again, but his chosen surroundings will be his greatest nemisis.   

I find the tale of these two sports stars, however far apart on the spectrum of sports they come from to be mirrors images of one another. Tiger’s tale here on out will prove me right or wrong.

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