Michael Gerard “Mike” Tyson, former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, said in his documentary Tyson shown on April 16 in the Wang Center that he “never backs down from a fight.”
“I won’t start one, but I won’t walk away from one either,” Tyson said in the documentary. The 45-year-old holds the record as the youngest boxer to win the World Boxing Council, World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation heavyweight titles; he was 20 years old at the time.
The documentary started off with Tyson reminiscing about his early years. At the age of 12 he was arrested for the first time, and by the age of 13, he had been arrested nearly 38 times. Tyson was sent to Tryon School for Boys in Johnstown, New York. It was at this school that Tyson was introduced to the sport of boxing and was discovered by Bobby Stewart, a juvenile detention counselor and former boxer. Stewart trained Tyson for a few months before he introduced him to Constantine “Cus” D’Amato.
Tyson and Cus’s relationship was stronger than that of any other trainer and fighter. “Even though he is my manager and trainer, I forget that sometimes,” Tyson said in the documentary. In the winter of 1985, Cus passed away leaving Tyson, who was 19 at the time, heartbroken and lost. “I felt very naked to the world,” Tyson said. “He taught me to be furious inside and out.” In the year that followed Cus’s death, Tyson became the Heavy Weight Champion of the World. “I wore the belt around my waist for three weeks,” Tyson said, adding, “I even wore it to the store, I was so proud.”
His life took a turn for the worse when he was accused of raping an 18-year-old girl in July of 1991. On February 10, 1992, Tyson was convicted of rape and was sentenced to three years in prison. “It basically took the life out of me,” Tyson said. “It’s a hard pillow to sleep on.” After being released from prison, he went back to fighting and won the Heavy Weight title one last time in 1996. He is now retired with six kids, and he ended the documentary by saying, “What I did in my past is history and what I do in the future is a mystery.”
Following the documentary, a panel discussion was held, hosted by Jed Morey, publisher of the Long Island Press, to “discuss the role of drug and alcohol abuse, and the social construction of masculinity in spiking incidences of violence against women.” Other panelists included: Nicole Behrens, Vice President at Merrill Lynch, who endured an abusive relationship for over a decade, and is now a board member of The Retreat. Charles Robbins, DSW, LCSW, Vice President for Undergraduate Education and Dean of the Undergraduate Colleges here at Stony Brook. He is also a clinical consultant and member of the leadership council of Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (LICADD). Paul Hokemeyer, J.D., Ph.D., a licensed family therapist, and a part of the Dr. Oz Show Panel of Experts, and Robert Lenahan, the Police Chief for the University Police Department since 2008.
All panelists agreed that violence is about control. Robbins made a clear point that, “not all abusers look like Mike Tyson. It’s not a cookie cutter; people don’t look a certain type.”
Behrens indicated a few key signs that might reveal a domestic violence situation. For example, needing to know where you are and who you are with all the time, and making you believe everyone else in your life, like your family, isn’t looking out for your best interests, like they are. “Tyson never referred to women as an individual, more like an object,” Behrens said.
Robbins added, “We need to be careful to not look for the stereotypes.”
Behrens openly admitted that she was in an abusive relationship. “It’s a slow process; they chip away at your self-esteem and self worth.”
When asked if fighters are prone to be aggressive, Lenahan said “domestic violence crosses all borders.” Being a former Deputy Inspector for the New York City Police Department, he was responsible for implementing aggressive crime reduction strategies which assisted in overall crime reduction throughout NYC.
The panelists closed with remarks about educating others about domestic violence. Behrens made an important statement that, “educating young men and women to look for these sign is something that needs to be done.”
It was certainly an important evening at the Wang Center, which educated those who attended about the subject of domestic violence and what we all can do to help prevent it. Tyson was really hard-hitting, giving the audience a brutally honest look into the life of the notorious former World Heavy Weight Champion.