Details: And that's when you realized you were a fighter?
Mike Tyson: That's when I realized I was a ham. Everybody was, like, hollering, clapping. It felt good to win, to get more shots in, but it felt really good that everybody was clapping for me. And I lived with that applause all those years, and now I can't take it no more. All I usually feel is just that bad energy of theirs. I just know it's not good for me and that I don't want to live that way again. I want to transcend.
Details: Transcend to what?
Mike Tyson: I don't know. I only know I'm not supposed to be here. I'm supposed to be in prison for murder. I'm supposed to be dead by now, have AIDS or something.
Details: Never thought you'd make it to 40?
Mike Tyson: I never thought I'd make it to 25, man. People just gotta love each other, treat each other better. I don't know about the Zen stuff to transcend to. I still got that fire in my heart, and it just burns, man. I don't want to have any misconceptions here. I'm not a pacifist and never will be. I still get angry, and I still scream. I can talk about humility, but I'm not humble. I mean, if you say, "I'm humble," you've just contradicted yourself. But I'm trying to be, man, I'm trying so hard.
Details: And that struggle has been especially public. You once said it made you feel naked.
Mike Tyson: No doubt whatsoever. My life is like a tornado, a fucking hurricane. It's like I'm a naked tornado that comes through a city and there's just so much wreckage. There's so much destruction, and when it's finally over, it's like the morning after and you're sober and...what the fuck happened here?
Details: "Been there, done what?"
Mike Tyson: [Laughs] Boy, I know that feeling. Exactly.
Details: Have you ever considered medication?
Mike Tyson: I've been that route. I think I was the most medicated boxer in the history of the sport. If I was going to medicate, I'd just smoke a joint. Nah, it's trauma I'm dealing with. And it's this fucking ego of mine.
Details: Your opponents always seemed to weaken before the opening bell. Proud fighters in peak condition—Trevor Berbick, Michael Spinks, Donovan "Razor" Ruddock, Frank Bruno, even Larry Holmes—just seemed to get smaller the moment they made eye contact with you. It was like witchcraft.
Mike Tyson: No doubt about it. Intimidation is crucial to the art of warfare, and it's totally legit. It's allowed to be used. It must be used.
Details: But how did you do it? All these guys had spent lifetimes thriving on that same intimidation.
Mike Tyson: I just had to believe it. And if I didn't, I just had to make myself believe it.
Details: Believe what?
Mike Tyson: That I had to kill this man. And you can't fake it, not even one tenth of one hundredth percent. You have to believe it so strongly that you can impose that belief, that will, on him. And that's another realm altogether.
Details: Because every fighter has to have that same will, that same need, that same drive . . . to impose their will on another man.
Mike Tyson: Every fighter in the history of fighting. But none like me. And, believe me, I'm not being immodest. None like me. I studied every fighter in history, at my manager's house up in Catskill, 'cause he had all the greatest fights on film, he had every last one of them, and I watched them all, every night. They were all so vicious, man. Jake LaMotta, Henry Armstrong, Carmen Basilio. Sugar Ray—God, he was vicious. But Jack Dempsey more than anyone. All these guys let you know they wanted to murder you, and they'd take shots from you, over and over and over, get beat senseless, just so they could get theirs in. Sugar Ray maybe most of all. But Jack Dempsey? He wanted to maim you. He didn't want you dead. He wanted you to suffer. He wanted to shatter your eye socket, destroy your cheeks, your chinbone. That's what I learned from Mr. Dempsey, and I believe I learned it well.