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Mike Tyson Interview

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Mike Tyson calls ShortList from Vegas to talk jail, tiger ownership and fake genitalia

You’ve just published your memoir – what stands out as the greatest moment of your career?

Winning my first world championship against Trevor Berbick in 1986.

Berbick was the last man to fight Muhammad Ali. Would you have fancied your chances against Ali in your respective heydays?

Nah, Ali’s the greatest. He wouldn’t be too fast for me, it’s more than that – he’s the greatest fighter out there, there’s no one like that around any more.

Does boxing miss a character like you these days?

Boxing does need more excitement. Boxing is like the US, it thrives on flair and entertainment. Most guys at the top are good fighters but they lack personality. Too many are introverts. It’s about being more than a great fighter; you have to be a great entertainer as well.

Have any British boxers caught your eye?

Carl Froch is good to watch. He has a really weird style and he’s exciting.

What was the hardest part of your life to revisit for your recent memoir?

My childhood. There were some horrific things there that I did not enjoy. Jail was a lot easier.

Is it true that you had so much sex in prison that you were too tired to work out?

Yeah, I had a female counsellor and we’d do it for a long time. I had some good days in there.

And you apparently used a fake penis to dupe drug testers. How did you get it?

From a friend. He told me I could fool the probation officers when I was smoking weed and all that stuff.

Did you ask for a certain length?

Excuse me?

Were you sized up for the fake penis?

No, there was no special-effects guy, they were just on sale. I didn’t modify it. It was fine as it was.

You were friends with Tupac Shakur. Did you ever smoke weed together?

I never smoked with him. He wanted me to, but I didn’t want to get in trouble at that time, or for him to look at me in a certain way. It wasn’t a good night when he died.

What are your vices now?

I was a vegan for five years, but I watched documentaries and realised that eating red meat is bad, but being too strict and denying yourself chicken is a little too crazy. I like my Indian food. I also play a lot of Call Of Duty. I’m good, I’ve completed Black Ops and I’m on Ghosts. I like to shoot the zombies, too.

How close was your performance in The Hangover to your real-life persona?

Not that far away, because my craziest real-life Vegas experience is too wild to tell you about [laughs]. I had such a fun time doing [that film]. Those guys are all great. Zach Galifianakis is a pretty smooth guy in real life, not as nerdy as you’d expect. Yeah, he’s cool.

And you still own a tiger in real life. What’s the upkeep on an animal like that?

A lot. You have to pay to feed them, for the veterinarians, and then there’s the time you put in – they always have to be with you so they’re comfortable around you. My cats stay with me regularly for at least two years from when they’re born.

Are you still into pigeon fancying?

Yes, and you need some good staff when you have as many pigeons as I have. I have a couple of thousand in New York, alone. There are some here in Vegas, too.

Would you like to act more?

I would. I’m coming to the West End soon for my one-man show, so maybe when I fly to the UK they’ll give me a part on Downtown [sic] Abbey [laughs]. I like that show. I’m sure they could give me a part.

Will you be watching Downton Abbey’s Christmas special?

You never know. I watch Benny Hill, and if you watch Benny Hill, you’ll watch anything. We don’t practise the Christmas holiday at my house, but the kids want gifts and trees, so I might have to bend my rules. What am I gonna do, say, “No Christmas”? Come on, be real. So long as the children are happy then I’m happy.

Would you want a part in the planned Rocky spin-off?

I’m a big-time fan of the Rocky films. They’re awesome, even the ones no-one likes. Sly’s a great guy and, sure, I’d love to feature in one.

Have you heard of the Liverpool striker Luis Suarez?

He bit somebody, recently, right? I heard about that.

Any words of advice for him, given your ear-biting past?

I’m not sure he’ll ever deal with it to the extreme that I dealt with it. But he shouldn’t be a prisoner of his past. He needs to continue to live in the present. Public perception will change – my fans ask me to bite their ears for photos now.

How do you feel about The Simpsons loosely basing Drederick Tatum on you?

I wasn’t aware of him until somebody told me. I didn’t pay it much attention, but I’m used to people making cartoon characters of me so I’ve never seen it as offensive. I’m not some superhero, I’m just an entertainer.

Finally, in your book you mention that a ‘stoned’ Brad Pitt was terrified you were going to punch him when you spotted him with your estranged wife. Have you since cleared the air?

No, but then I never did anything to him. I never tried to scare him, and he didn’t seem that afraid of me – it must have been his first time method acting [laughs].

Undisputed Truth is out now (HarperSport), £20

Mike Tyson Undisputed Truth UK Tour - 21/22 Hammersmith Apollo London, 25th Glasgow Clyde Auditorium, 26th March Manchester O2 Apollo, info from www.livenation.co.uk

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