A Champion’s Tribute to His Master
A Former Heavyweight Champion’s Ode to His Mentor
Given his sociopathic behaviour and criminal record, it would be easy to cast Mike Tyson as nothing more than a low-life ruffian.
There is, however, an intellectual side to this former heavyweight champion. He is a boxing historian, having spent countless hours studying tapes of past masters like Floyd Patterson, Henry Armstrong and Jack Dempsey. Tyson is influenced by philosophers (Niccolo Machiavelli, Friedrich Nietzsche) and warriors (Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan) alike. This autobiography, written with Larry Sloman (the same team behind Tyson’s previous work, Undisputed Truth), showcases a well-read man of varied interests.
Whatever Tyson became—both inside and outside the ring—was made possible by his trainer, mentor and father figure, Cus D’Amato. The book is an ode to the man who built Tyson up—from a teenage thug to one of the most celebrated sportspersons of his generation.
Years before the Brooklyn native even had his first professional bout, D’Amato willed and cajoled Tyson into believing that he would, one day, become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Techniques like hypnosis, meditation and unrelenting positive reinforcement were used for this purpose. Most importantly, for the first time in his life, Tyson found someone who believed in him and loved him unconditionally.
Tyson recalls an incident when D’Amato hosted a group of white South African boxers, during the Apartheid era. “There’s a young black boy in this house and he’s our family member. You treat him with the same respect you treat us, you understand?,” the Italian-American ordered the guests. “That touched my heart. How could you not love the guy?” an emotional Tyson explains. The trainer also gave his ward an education on history’s great personalities. These stories gave Tyson vital life knowledge that this high-school dropout would have otherwise been deprived of.
Though a bulk of the book revolves around shaping mental skills, there are a few sections devoted to in-ring techniques. For example, there is fascinating detail on the ‘peek-a-boo’ style devised by D’Amato, and practised to such devastating effect by Tyson.
That D’Amato passed away only a year before his protégé captured the heavyweight belt means that there would be no happy ending. Tyson paints a picture about how the vultures circled around him after D’Amato’s death.
In the years that followed, his personal and professional life crumbled. What if good ol’ Cus was still around? That is a question Tyson wrestles with to this day. This one reads as an illuminating blueprint for the art of man-management.
Credit: The Hindu