By Jackie Kallen
On the eve of the Pacquiao/Marquez 4 fight, Mike Tyson thought it would be the perfect time for a charity event at the MGM Grand, home of the fight. He was right. The Tabu nightclub was jumping with excitement as the donors lined up to get in. At $550 a ticket, he got an impressive turn-out.
Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank
Las Vegas acts like comedian George Wallace and impressionist Frank Marino were on hand to support the champ in his quest to “give every kid a fighting chance.” They mingled with the crowd and talked to anyone who came up to them.
The silent auction was a boxing fan’s fantasy. Championship belts, signed gloves, LeRoy Nieman artwork, etc. It was obvious that Tyson does care since a lot of the items were from his own personal collection. His beautiful wife, Lakiha Spicer Tyson, was right by his side all night and it is apparent that she is the one mostly responsible for his current happiness and renewed success.
The champ could not have been nicer or more gracious as he greeted people, posed for photos, and repeatedly thanked everyone for coming. The bar was flowing, the food was sumptuous, and the attendees were having a ball.
Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns was there, sitting right next to his former nemesis Sugar Ray Leonard. They are currently like Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. Anywhere that they appear together prompts a mob scene. Their rivalry is legendary and they both still look terrific and are now the best of buddies.
Leon Spinks was on his hand with his wife, and although he has slowed down a bit, he is still as jovial and friendly as ever. I have known Leon for over 30 years and I can honestly say he hasn’t changed much in three decades. Always a fun-loving guy, his famous smile is still shining at 100 watts.
Singer Al B Sure was there and he seemed to be having a great time. HBO’s Jim Lampley and his new wife were on hand to show their support for Tyson.
Based on his own bad start in life, Tyson is determined to give back. His foundation was set up to create innovative centers that provide for the many needs of kids from broken homes. These needs may include healthcare assistance, shelter, school assistance, mentoring, job placement assistance and such other needs.
It is obvious that this man has come a long way from his early days in Brooklyn, where the 46 year old was an orphan at 16. Arrested 38 times by the time he was 13, he ended up spending three years in prison for rape in the early 90’s.
It is difficult to picture the old Tyson today. He is now soft-spoken, self-effacing and humble. None of those descriptions would have fit 20 years ago. As one who has been around since his pro debut, I could not be happier for him. He has found happiness, inner peace and structure. It is nice to see.
Jackie Kallen is a boxing manager who has been in the business for over three decades. Her life inspired the Meg Ryan film “Against the Ropes” and she was a part of the NBC series “The Contender.” www.JackieKallen.com, www.facebook.com/JackieKallen