When Mike Tyson sat down for his first interview with Oprah, the conversation made headlines. Oprah Show viewers had mixed responses—some questioned Oprah's decision to host a convicted rapist; others applauded Mike for his candor. "I don't think I've seen such raw honesty in an interview in a very long time," one viewer wrote. "My heart was wrenched. You could really see that [Mike] was truly ready to move on with his life and that he was sincere when he said he was tired of the old ways."
Mike says he did the interview primarily for his children. "They definitely deserve a better life than what I had," he says." "I want to make that possible. Not from a financial perspective, but from a human perspective. To be decent people."
Another viewer said seeing Mike talk about his struggle with drugs inspired him to face his own addiction. "We have a lot of the same issues—drugs, alcohol. I always had to be first in everything," the viewer wrote. "I just started a new fight against my alcoholism. When I listened to what Mike had to say, it made me realize that I'm in the 12th and final round of my fight. It's either I'm going to throw a haymaker and win or I'll probably end up dead. ... Mike's honesty may have saved my life."
Mike says he can relate to the viewer's battle. "I have an affinity to him. I understand that addiction because so many different agendas can set it off and trigger it. Like, I want to get high now because I'm afraid to death of fame because I know what fame can do to me," he says. "When I was this 'Iron Mike Tyson' guy or whoever he was, that guy haunts me. So I'm very apprehensive with fame."
Mike says accepting the positive feedback from his interview has been hard for him. "I've learned from my experiences in life that by allowing love to be so plentiful and me being so accepting of it, I allow myself to fall into a lot of pitfalls," he says. "There's a price to everything. There's even a price to love."
Mike says it's incredibly hard to keep himself from going to a dark place sometimes. "It's the right thing to say that my children stop me, but it's not. My love for my children is not stronger than my addiction. But I want a better life for myself," he says.
When he thinks about his earlier years, Mike says he definitely regrets his abusive behavior toward women. "I have nobody to blame but myself. But during that period of my life when I did that, I had no role models. I was a young little kid, and no one ever taught me," he says. "Where I came from, it was cool if some chick got in your way to give her a smack."
A time came when Mike had to shift his thinking, but it was hard, he says. "When everything you believed in, everything that made you successful in your life, you realize is a lie, then you have to start over. Sometimes you just don't know where to start."
These days, Mike says he follows the example of men he admires. "I just watch from a distance," he says. "I just watch people in life and I take this from him—the way he holds his cigarette, the way he talks to people—the assertiveness of that guy and I just take everything into my everyday life. I watch television and watch people in the street and I add that."
In his first interview with Oprah, Mike discussed the recent loss of his daughter. One viewer, Christopher, says Mike's words really hit home with him. "I, too, recently lost my 17-month-old daughter, and I was so devastated. She passed away from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome nine months ago. I found her face down, not breathing, and it destroyed me," he says. "My fiancée and I have been very depressed and have drowned ourselves in our work. The pain has been indescribable. Seeing Mike talk about the loss of his daughter made me think it's okay to cry and ask for help."
Mike says he's in the same boat as Christopher. "I'm fighting too, just as much as he is," Mike says. "If I was two years dumber, I would have killed some people. ... You hold it in for so long because you just don't know what to do, but my first response is violence. I know how to do that really well."
Learning a new way of responding to life's struggles is a new priority for Mike. "To set an example for the other children I have, I have to be strong," he says.
In 1997, Mike and Evander Holyfield met in a widely anticipated fight. At the end of the third round, Mike bit Evander twice, once in each ear. The incident went down as one of the most talked-about moments in boxing history.
When Mike first spoke with Oprah, he said that though he's officially apologized, he wasn't sincere at the time. "Everybody on my crew would get on my nerves. I said, 'Okay, I apologize.' Really I was more offended for apologizing because it was so insincere," he says. Now that time has passed, Mike wants an opportunity to meet Evander face-to-face. "I just always wanted to have a place to sit down and talk to him and shake his hand and just express myself to him."
After Oprah and Mike's first interview aired, Evander called to say he wanted to talk with Mike about the fight. They are meeting on the Oprah Show stage to talk about the infamous incident for the first time in more than 10 years.
Though Evander is still missing a small part of his ear, he says he has moved past his anger. "It was just shocking. It wasn't really as bad as they made it out to be. The most important thing is that things happen for a reason, but it's how you handle it," he says. "At that moment, I was very angry. But eventually, when it's all over, you realize that you gain more than you lost. ... The most important thing for me was to forgive, and I forgave him and I was ready to move on."
Mike has said that the few times they've run into each other, Evander has seemed leery of Mike. "He never says a word. The guy doesn't talk. When he looks at me, I feel like I'm having a face-off with him every time I meet the guy," Mike says. "I met him not too long ago at the ESPY awards and I just wanted to talk to him, but he was just so stoic he doesn't want to talk."
Evander says that's not the case and he hasn't avoided Mike. But now that they are face-to-face on Oprah's stage, Mike has the opportunity he's been waiting for. "This is a beautiful guy," Mike says. "Me and this guy both come from basically the sewage, and we watched each other grow to become established and esteemed fighters, you know what I mean? I just want you to know it's just been a pleasure passing through life being acquainted with you."
Evander says one of the main reasons he wanted to sit down with Mike was to be an example for children. "It's important for young people around the world to understand that, you know, you have conflicts in life," he says. "The most important thing that I wanted, with Tyson and I, it can be brought to the inner city and tell the kids that if we can come together, you can come together."
Mike says he's finally learned that lesson for himself and is happy to spread that message. "At one time, I believed there can't be peace without war. I was in that frame of mind—there must be war, there must be peace, somebody has to rule, superior has to rule," he says. "I was a Neanderthal in thinking from that capacity. But I realize that we need to love each other better and treat each other better."
Printed from Oprah.com on Wednesday, December 11, 2013