Details: And what did you learn from Mr. Ali?
Mike Tyson: Believe it or not, with all that poetry and the butterflies, what I learned from Ali was meanness. He was the meanest fighter of all time. He'd be in there with Foreman, hardest puncher of all time, he'd be in there with Frazier, another hardest puncher, and he'd be taking it, boom, getting pounded, and then he'd turn, when it was his time, and you'd look at that face, and he's screaming. [Does an Ali impression] "I'm not [Throws a punch] scared [Throws a punch] of you, you fucking faggot. [Throws two punches] You fucking punk. I'm fucking God, and worship me. I'm the greatest. [Throws two punches] You're a little fucking boy, cocksucker." Nobody at ringside reported it, but nobody shit-talked like Ali.
Details: Can you take all the lessons you learned from boxing—tenacity, intimidation, high pain thresholds—and apply them to the next stage of your life?
Mike Tyson: Definitely, but it takes rationality. And it takes balance. I can't live in the world like I lived in the ring, always at some extreme, always looking for that edge that'll tip the balance. If I were to say something to you now that would offend you, I could tell myself, I penetrated his defenses—I put a dent in him. So what? So I have another feather in my cap?
Details: So if boxing is the art of taking rage and terror and disciplining them into assets, then...
Mike Tyson: There's no rage and terror in boxing. If there is, they're counting to 10 over you.
Details: But if...
Mike Tyson: No buts. Eight, nine, 10.
Details: So what is discipline?
Mike Tyson: Discipline is doing what you hate to do, but nonetheless doing it like you love it.
Details: And how do you that?
Mike Tyson: [Smiles] With discipline.
Details: And can Mike Tyson apply that discipline to his life outside the ring?
Mike Tyson: I try, so hard, but it's also...so hard. I still live in the extremes.
Details: You learned discipline...
Mike Tyson: From Cus D'Amato.
Details: Is there someone like Cus in your life now?
Mike Tyson: I'm not a guru follower. I have to be my own Cus. I have to be the man who takes the boy under his wing, protects him, knows him better than himself. I'm still that little boy; I just have to learn how to protect him a little better.
Details: You have to learn to love him?
Mike Tyson: He has to learn to love himself.
Details: Why do you think you lost your first bout, to James "Buster" Douglas in 1990?
Mike Tyson: I just stopped caring. I just stopped feeling Cus inside me. All those headlines. I didn't care about boxing. And when Douglas got up after I knocked him down and came back at me—I didn't have it in me. I didn't have it in me when I knocked him down, either. It's just...more power to him, he got up. Nobody else had.
Details: And what about the infamous Holyfield fight?
Mike Tyson: Man, I didn't care about boxing anymore. I was wrong to do that—all wrong—all crazy to do that. But that wasn't about boxing. I just wanted to fucking maim him. I had no business being in that ring. A year out of prison, 16 months out of prison, already with two belts to defend? I had no business with those belts. I was already done. They put you, a writer, in prison, for three years, hands tied behind your back. Then they put you up against some hack, and you outwrite him, and they give you two awards. And then I put you up against a Nobel Prize winner? Absurd.
Details: So what were you thinking when you bit him?
Mike Tyson: I wasn't thinking. I wasn't training for that fight. I was on fucking drugs, thinking I was a god. I should've been home with my family, man. My kids.