Exclusive: Mike Tyson is fighting to stay on top

The infamous anti-hero explains why, as he introduces fitness academies around the world, he is starting in Dubai
By Tamim Hakim
Mon 15 May 2017 08:19 AM

Revelling between calmness and excitement, Mike Tyson tells his own story of having been the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, often referred to as the “The Baddest Man on the Planet”, to becoming an entertainer and a businessman. Yet, in his perspective, both careers are essentially the same thing.

“In business — as in boxing — you have to know how to market yourself. You have to know what’s going to allow people to fill up the seats,” Tyson says.

Tyson recently organised a gala dinner in Dubai to announce the launch of the Mike Tyson Academy (MTA), a global business venture of boxing and fitness. The academy venue in Dubai will be one of eight to open around the world by the end of the 2017. The headquarters of MTA will be in Las Vegas, but other gyms will open in France, Australia, New Zealand and across countries in North Africa.

“My academy is just to get people what it’s like working out in the best possible shape, and have fun doing it,” Tyson tells Arabian Business in an exclusive interview to talk about his latest venture.

When asked why he chose Dubai for his global launch, Tyson says: “Why not? It’s the best place. I mean look at it, it’s beautiful. It’s the future.”

Tyson has no qualms believing MTA can produce a world champion. “Absolutely. It depends on how bad the individual wants to be a fighter,” he says.

Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in history when he defeated Trevor Berbick for the World Boxing Council heavyweight championship on November 22, 1986.

“Anything in life depends on determination and desire. It manifests into the sports.”

Nevertheless, Tyson admits that some people might not have the desire of a young man who thought it very likely that he would be dead before the age of 20. “That’s true. But not everybody wants to be the champion of the world. People just want to box and stay in shape; some people just like to work out,” he says.

“The academy covers so many different fields, just more so than actual fighting.”

In MTA, it is proposed that there will be four gym structures, which include the premier gyms, full-service gyms, standard gyms and express gyms.

Tyson says “it won’t be at a high price”, in reference to the registration fees. “It will basically be what people could afford. The gym is going to be effective, that’s the main reason it’s going to be successful. Everybody is going to be satisfied with their workouts”.

Tyson is seen as one of the best boxers in history.

Tyson says that the hardest lesson he learnt from boxing was to trust himself. He says that “even though I was confident, I didn’t trust myself completely.

“You know, sometimes I would slack off my training. I wouldn’t push to box sometimes. Basically, I’m just fortunate I had a great trainer, a really great trainer.”

Tyson is referring to the late Cus D’Amato, his boxing manager, trainer and the only father figure in his life. He says that absolute dedication and discipline were the biggest things he learned from D’Amato.

Tyson has been writing a book about his life with D’Amato, and it is to be published at the end of the month under the title ‘Iron Ambition’.  The book will be the second published by Tyson, and the first to touch on the impact of D’Amato, who died a little more than a year before Tyson became the youngest world heavyweight titleholder in history in 1986.

When asked if he thinks he will need D’Amato to guide him through the business world, Tyson says: “Hey listen, we are going to work this out. It is the same way. In having a mentor, having someone that means that much in your life, it comes at a time when you have to separate. And you have to see all the teachings and how they are going to work.”

Tyson’s bout with Holyfield in 1997 earned $100m.

Ever the businessman, Tyson is asked if money is his main motivation for his academy. He says the motivation is life itself.

“If my main motivation was this whole thing, the club, Mike Tyson and the training gym, if all this stuff was about money, it wouldn’t be successful. I would just get a little bit of money, and it will be wrong because I wouldn’t care about it,” he says.

“This is why I’m putting my heart, sweat and soul in the [MTA] gym. I am really involving myself with this. So if this thing were to fall, I will fall. So if I was just doing this for money ... I wouldn’t care. It’ll just be an investment.

“It is something that I’m really personally involved with, and I really want to put as much [attention] as possible and be as hands-on as possible. That’s why I’m willing to go to all those different countries to promote the club,” he says.

“I got great confident people that work with me, and I just feel really good about the whole situation, about everything that I am doing in my life, completely. I’m really feeling good these days.”

Tyson’s fight with Lennox Lewis in June 2002 generated 1.97 million pay per view buys.

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