Iron Mike and the Asian Diaspora: A Heartfelt Piece on Mike Tyson That You Won’t Read

I watched Mike Tyson’s interview with Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons on the Grantland Network. The interview shows a softer, sensitive side of Iron Mike, revealing a thoughtful, humble and honest man. This is how it made me feel.

His story begins in a poor single parent home, not dissimilar to mine. His family was poor and disreputable in his neighborhood, the notoriously tough Bedford-Stuyvesant (Bed-Stuy, Do or Die). For a number of reasons, including his high-pitched voice, his lisp and his mother’s involvement in the “sex industry”, he and his family were despised and bullied.

All this to say that Mike grew up with a great deal of shame and self-loathing. I think for those of us whose cultural narratives are that of diaspora, this could resonate deeply. As a first-generation Asian-American (1st generation born in US) I’ve learned to love where I come from, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t hate where I come from too. I embrace my culture but it doesn’t mean I’m not also ashamed of it.

Mike hated this person that he was, so he wanted became someone else. It was Cus D’Amato that taught him how. D’Amato, a legendary trainer, saw the potential in a young shy kid and built a relationship with Mike that would shape the course of their lives. D’Amato plucked Mike from obscurity in his youth and instilled in him a confidence that helped him become “the baddest man on the planet.”

The tattoo on Mike’s face might remind you of his eccentricities, but I am reminded of a man who wears a mask. Mike is a guy who wants to be someone else. He didn’t like the weak, poor kid so he became Iron Mike. Then he got wrapped up in the persona, and the drugs and the women, so he changed it all again.

Mike is a man who has struggled for a long time with who and what he is. In this interview I see a man who is at peace and who has come to terms with the ups and downs of his life. It gives me hope that I can do the same.

3 Pearls of Wisdom From the Interview
1. Intimidation Is An Art Form
Mike Tyson has made a living on being the scariest heavyweight in the world. He talks about the Bad-Boy Pistons, Roberto Duran and the art of intimidation. Apparently, Tyson reads Machiavelli.
Pearl: Words can be more powerful than fists.

2. Don’t Ever Let A Coward Get Brave
Mike Tyson learned the art of putting the fear of God in a man, the way only Mike Tyson’s fists can do. The only concern, as explained by Tyson is that you can scare a man into kicking your ass.
Pearl: If you’re gonna corner a dog, make sure he isn’t the kind with big teeth

3. Champions Are The Smartest Guys In The Room
Bill Simmons calls Tyson one of the most underrated technical fighters in history. “Even to this day. even the experts, because there’s such an overwhelming belief that this is a tough man’s sport (boxing)… This is not a tough man’s sport. The tough man’s gonna be talking funny at the end of the day in this business.” – Mike Tyson 9:40
Pearl: Be Smart, Keep Your Teeth

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