Mike Tyson’s teary confession: ‘I miss being an annihilator’
MIKE Tyson was 13 years old, locked up in juvenile detention, when he watched Sugar Ray Leonard win the world welterweight championship in 1979.
Leonard was the betting favourite after racing to a 25-0 record in three years as a professional, but his opponent, Wilfred Benitez, was the youngest world champion in boxing history and a defensive master.
He made Leonard miss more than anyone had before, until the 15th and final round when the 1976 Olympic gold medallist caught him with a left uppercut that helped secure a TKO win.
Tyson recalled his memories of the fight in a recent episode of his podcast and became highly emotional as he told Leonard how much he had impacted his life.
"I'm 13 years old, I was locked up in juvenile (detention)," Tyson said.
"You're fighting a master that was champion of the world at 17 - not amateur, professional.
"Now he's 21, fighting you. I can't even talk … you inspired me so f***ing much.
"Then I saw you fight (Roberto) Duran. It changed my life, I thought 'this is what I'm going to be' … you don't understand. You're immortal to me."
But it got even more raw as Tyson attempted to explain why fighting - and fighters such as Leonard - were so personal to him.
"I'm a f***ing student of war," he said.
"I know all the warriors. From Charlemagne to Achilles - the number one warrior of all warriors - and then Alexander and Napoleon.
"I know them all. I read about them all. I studied them all. I know the art of fighting, I know the art of war, that's all I ever studied.
"That's why I'm so feared, that's why they feared me when I was in the ring. I was an annihilator. It's all I was born for.
"Now those days are gone it's empty, I'm nothing. I'm working on the art of humbleness … that's the reason I'm crying because I'm not that person no more, and I miss him.
"Because sometimes I feel like a bitch, because I don't want that person to come out because if he comes out, hell is coming with him.
"And it's not funny at all. I sound cool, like I'm a tough guy (but) I hate that guy. I'm scared of him."
Leonard went on to win lineal championships in three weight divisions before handing over the mantle as the biggest name in the sport to Tyson in the late 1980s.
You can watch their full 80-minute conversation here.