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Mike Tyson Interview: “I’m not looking to be a chairperson, I’m not looking to be ambassador”


Mike Tyson Interview: “I’m not looking to be a chairperson, I’m not looking to be ambassador”
By: Matthew N. Becher

Mike Tyson is the most recognizable face on the planet. He rose to boxing stardom in the early 80s, becoming the youngest heavyweight champion ever. His insane punching power, brashness and bravado made him a household name. It also made him public enemy number one and the Baddest Man on the Planet.

Mike Tyson

Tyson has since grown up, he is currently 50 years old and raising his family in the suburbs of Henderson, Nevada. He has very little involvement in the sport that made him a superstar and keeps busy with work and different ventures. He is currently starring on the Fox television program “Super Human”. His cartoon series “Mike Tyson Mysteries” is set to begin its 3rd season on The Cartoon Network. Mike also just released a new book “Iron Ambition: My life with Cus D’Amato”.

Mike can be seen every once and a while at a boxing match, but very rarely is he in the public eye as he once so heavily was. Yesterday afternoon I was able to speak with Mike one on one and ask him a few questions about his early life in the sport, what he thinks of things now, and what the future may hold for him.

Boxing Insider: What was the boxing scene like in the Hudson Valley and Catskills in your teenage years?

Mike Tyson: All excitement. It was very exciting and I always looked forward to it and it was a really great part of my life.

Boxing Insider: Since you are a boxing historian, do you have any idols that may not have gotten the recognition they deserved?

Mike Tyson: A lot of guys like Jack Dempsey, Rocky Marciano, Larry Holmes, guys like that.

Boxing Insider: In your career as a fighter, is there anything you would have liked to change?

Mike Tyson: Shit, wish I won them all.

Boxing Insider: Can todays state of boxing return to its glory days?

Mike Tyson: I think so. Well, we have a great heavyweight out now named Anthony Joshua. And I think he can change the whole thing around.

Boxing Insider: It’s been a year since the passing of the great Muhammad Ali. Ali used his celebrity to speak up on many social views. Do you see yourself ever stepping into the now empty spot that Ali has left?

Mike Tyson: Well that is not what I want to do in life. What I want to do in life is just be a respectful man and just take care of my children and guide my family in the right direction. I’m not looking to be a chairperson, I’m not looking to be ambassador or anything in that capacity.

Boxing Insider: Right now, who would you say is your favorite fighter to watch?

Mike Tyson: Wow, I got Errol Spence as one of them. I like the Charlo brothers, I like to see them fight. I like to watch Shawn Porter fight. I love watching Lomachenko, he is my favorite fighter so far.

Boxing Insider: Who do you have as an overrated fighter?

Mike Tyson: Overrated? I don’t know, they are all fighting real good now. They just need to fight each other, that’s all

Boxing Insider: The biggest fight that is happening right now is Canelo vs. GGG, but the biggest fight being talked about is Mayweather vs. McGregor. What do you think that fight does to Mayweather’s legacy?

Mike Tyson: I don’t know, its gonna make him a lot of money and that’s what he likes to do. So he’ll make a lot of money in that fight. That’s the best thing to happen for boxing.

Boxing Insider: Do you think boxing took more from you then you got in return?

Mike Tyson: No, it gave me everything that I took from it. It was all fair.

Boxing Insider: Anything going on with you in the boxing world?

Mike Tyson: No boxing stuff, just television and movies and TV.

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The Heavyweight Title Fight That Was Also The First Full Length Motion Picture


The Heavyweight Title Fight That Was Also The First Full Length Motion Picture
By: Sean Crose

James J Corbett ruled supreme after besting John L Sullivan in 1892 in order to win the heavyweight championship of the world. Indeed, Corbett did not come across as a run of the mill boxer. Or at least he didn’t WANT to come across that way. Here, after all, was a pro fighter who went by the name of “Gentleman Jim,” and who had a reputation for using slickness and smarts to defeat opponents. No doubt, some felt Corbett gave his profession some legitimacy, as he came across as a sportsman as opposed to a brawler. Image is far from everything, though, and Corbett was champion for a reason – namely, that he was a top level ring tactician.

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Footwork, timing, well placed jabs, defensive prowess, these were all things that led Corbett to rise above the pack when it came to boxing. And, unlike Sullivan, the man he had bested, Corbett didn’t seem intent on abusing himself by drinking all the way to the edge of the abyss. Here, in a sense, was a consummate professional. Yet Corbett was more than just temperate and skilled. The guy was tough as nails when the situation called for it. When Corbett had faced Peter Jackson, for instance, he had to become brutally aggressive in order to pull out a draw from the jaws of defeat.

In other words, there was more to Corbett than just the glistening image he presented to the world. No doubt, however, that Bob Fitzimmons was aware of the real threat Corbett presented in the ring. Like Corbett and Sullivan before him, Fitzimmons – himself a product of England and New Zealand – was of Irish stock. According to the International Boxing Hall of Fame, Fitzimmons also worked as a blacksmith and carriage painter. The man made his name, however, as a boxer.

After making his presence felt in Australia, Fitzimmons came to the States, where he eventually won the middleweight championship. He defended his middleweight crown a single time before setting his sights on the biggest prize of all – the heavyweight championship, currently in the possession of Gentleman Jim. A date was settled for the two men to meet in the ring: March 17th, 1897, Saint Patrick’s Day. The bout would be held outdoors, in Carson City, Nevada. The referee would be none other than the legendary Western gunfighter Bat Masterson. And if that weren’t enough, the bout would be recorded as a motion picture.

Movies were a new phenomenon at the time, to be sure. In fact, feature length motion pictures as we know them today had yet to make their entrance into popular culture. That, however, was all about to change, for the complete film recording of Corbett-Fitzimmons would later be shown throughout the nation to fans and the curious alike. For the first time in history, people who weren’t at a sporting event live and in person could see that event as it had happened – albeit in crude black and white. What’s more, the public would find itself being presented with moving pictures that ran on for more than a brief amount of time. A new age was about to dawn.

In spite of all the big name and high tech accompaniment, however Fitzimmon’s bold dash at glory may have come across like a fool’s dream in the lead up to the bout. Fitzimmons was over thirty when he stepped into the ring with Corbett.

What’s more, he weighed over fifteen pounds less than the champion – who himself was a very small heavyweight. No matter. The lean man with the red hair and a thunderous punch was nothing if not determined. According to Robert H Davis, Fitzimmons trained hard, extremely hard – in camp, focusing particularly on roadwork. His endurance would not be an issue.

As for Corbett, the man arguably still knew the value of holding a mental edge over his opponent. Shortly before the fight, both he and Fitzimmons, along with their respective camps, met on a road near Fitzimmons’ training facility. As Davis tells it, both men went to shake hands, only for Corbett to pull his hand away. It was a small matter, true, but fights can be settled on such small matters. Corbett had now lodged himself inside Fitzimmons’ head thanks to perhaps a slight bit of mastery that ultimately shouldn’t have mattered in the least.

Once the two men met in the ring for the fight, however, it was Fitzimmons who refused to shake hands with Corbett.

Mental chess, it seemed, could be played by two. Besides, who knew whether or not Corbett would snatch his hand away again?

Soon, however, all petty matters vanished into the Nevada air as the two men engaged each other in the bout. Corbett, as always, was incredibly slick and extremely hard to hit. Fitzimmons, however, was in phenomenal shape. What’s more, Davis claims Fitzimmons came around to feeling Corbett couldn’t hurt him.

Still, he couldn’t land hard on the lauded Gentleman Jim, either. Corbett, it appeared, was simply too advanced a fighter for the scrappy challenger. Late in the thirteenth round, however, Fitzimmons was said to have landed effectively to Corbett’s body. What’s more, Corbett looked to be genuinely impacted by the punishment.

It wasn’t until the fourteenth round, however, that Corbett learned just exactly how hard the determined Fitzimmons could wallop. The recorded footage of the battle says it all.

Corbett appears to attempt to angle to Fitzimmons’ left. Fitzimmons then goes to Corbett’s body. And Corbett goes down. The champion stumbles a bit, then gamely tries to get up, but the body shot is too damaging. Masterson counts…then the fight is stopped. Fitzimmons, that most unlikely of candidates, is the new heavyweight champion of the world.

Corbett desperately wanted a rematch with Fitzimmons, but the fight never happened.

Corbett would, however, get another chance at glory down the road. As for the Fitzimmons fight, the remaining footage says it all (fortunately, the ending of the bout is still available), and has said it all in the hundred plus years since the fight actually occurred.

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“Hands Of Stone” Director Jonathan Jakubowicz: “It’s The Beauty Of working With Geniuses.”


“Hands Of Stone” Director Jonathan Jakubowicz: “It’s The Beauty Of working With Geniuses.”
By: Sean Crose

Sometimes we don’t know how well we have it. While living in a world of Twitter trends and the latest celebrity gossip, it’s often hard to appreciate the suffering that comes from growing up in dire poverty, or the fear that comes when one’s life might well be threatened. Such things, we might well feel, are only the stuff of movies, right?

Wrong.

Édgar Ramírez and Robert De Niro star in HANDS OF STONE

While the upcoming film “Hands of Stone” deals with the relationship between Panamanian boxing legend Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran – played by Argentinian actor Edgar Ramirez – and American trainer Ray Arcel – played by Robert DeNiro – it’s worth keeping in mind that the film is based on a true story. For the real Duran grew up in grinding poverty in his home country, while Arcel had legitimate reason for fearing the mafia would kill him. It’s actual life the movie deals with…though the story itself is custom made for Hollywood.

Director Jonathan Jakubowicz, took time to speak over the phone on Monday and claimed he wanted to create the “story of a positive Latino figure.” He ultimately settled on the 103-16 boxing legend. “Why not,” he asked, “focus on somebody who actually achieved greatness?” Sure enough, Duran’s life is fertile ground for a biopic. “He was a legend,” Venezuela’s Jakubowicz told me, “to all of us.”

“I was fascinated by him,” the director stated about his subject, “by his style, by everything he represented.” Yet Jakubowicz, who burst onto the scene with 2005’s “Secuestro Express” made it clear Duran “wasn’t a saint.” Sure enough, Duran was apt to make things as difficult for the “Hands of Stone” team as it was for his trainers during his prime.

For instance, just before Duran was to give the film his blessing, the feisty 65-year-old instead decided to give the production team a jolt. “He called us at five in the morning,” Jakubowicz said, “and sent us to hell saying he’s not going to sign anything.” Fortunately for the director, it was all bluster. “He’s a mind gamer,” claimed the director, adding that “he comes from rage.”

Sure enough, the dire poverty of Duran’s youth helped shape the man. Jakubowicz explained how, as the extremely poor Panamanian son of an American Marine who abandoned his paternal obligations, Duran felt the sting of American influence, as well as an individual American’s neglect. Still, the director made it clear that America also provided with fighter with incredible opportunity, especially through the person of Ray Arcel, who’s played by Robert DeNiro in the film.

“That dichotomy I found extremely fascinating,” the director said.

What may be extremely fascinating to film and boxing fans is the film’s cast. Besides Ramirez, who was brilliant in 2010s “Carlos,” Robert DeNiro, famous for, among other things, the fight classic “Raging Bull,” proved to be extremely helpful. As Arcel, he plays an aging trainer who comes back to the fight game after being run out of boxing years earlier by the mafia.

“He said I needed to work on the script,” Jakubowicz said of DeNiro, “to find Ray Arcel’s voice.” After helping Jakubowicz strengthen the screenplay, the legendary actor was then ready to act in the film. “DeNiro, he transformed,” Jakubowicz claimed, mentioning that the actor “shaved his head and dyed his hair white.”

Yet DeNiro wasn’t the only big name to come aboard. Someone was needed to play Duran’s arch nemesis, the popular and masterful “Sugar” Ray Leonard. Needless to say, Leonard the character was as difficult to cast as Leonard the fighter was difficult to defeat. Jakubowicz was bewildered. “I met with Freddie Roach,” the filmmaker said. “He goes, ‘listen, for Sugar Ray, you should get a dancer.’” That may have seemed crazy, but Jakubowicz took the iconic trainer’s advice. The role went none other than pop icon Usher – who’s listed in the film as Usher Raymond IV.

Much to Jakubowicz’ delight the song and dance maestro “trained for like a year for Leonard.” Sure enough, the great fighter himself helped prepare Usher for the role. “You nail the smile,” Leonard said of Usher, “everything else I’ll teach him.”

“It’s the beauty,” Jakubowicz said of the “Hands of Stone” experience, “of working with geniuses.”

With the script and cast lined up, it was time to film. “I focused on the psychological aspect of the sport,” Jakubowicz claimed, explaining that the first fight between Duran and Leonard contains a lot of “quick cuts,” due to the up close and personal nature of that battle. The rematch in New Orleans, however, was filmed with “wide lenses,” in order to effectively capture the movement and tempo of the notorious rematch. And the first fight in the film, where Arcel initially catches Duran in action live and in person? Jakubowicz made sure that viewers are “seeing it through the eyes of Ray Arcel.”

It was obvious just talking to the director that he was a true fan of the sport of boxing. “It’s a labor of love,” he said of the film, adding that “the golden era of boxing” that Duran and Leonard ruled, deserved top notch treatment. After all, these were men who went for broke – repeatedly. And frankly, it’s a story that’s needed to be told on film.

“We really need everybody to go,” Jakubowicz said.

Undoubtedly many fight fans will heed the call.
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“Hands Of Stone” opens nationwide on August 26th.

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Manos de Piedra: The Life of Roberto Duran


Manos de Piedra: The Life of Roberto Duran
By: Matthew N. Becher

​From the small country of Panama came one of the greatest boxers the world has ever known. Roberto Duran was born in El Chorrillo in 1951 and would grow up to be a four division world champion and boxing hall of famer. He would forever leave an impact on the sport and put his country on the map.

​Duran turned pro in February of 1968, at the age of 16. He would win that fight, and go on to win his next 31 fights, most of which took place in his native Panama. He fought at Lightweight and in that time would make a stop, at the age of 21, to fight Ken Buchanan for the WBA lightweight title at the most famous Arena in the world, Madison Square Garden. During this fight, Duran would formally introduce himself to the world, by winning his first of many titles and showing off his incredibly punching power. The same year Duran would lose his first title and fight to Esteban De Jesus, which he would avenge two years later in a rematch.

​For the next ten years Duran would stay atop the division, Unifying titles, until he decided to move up and challenge for the WBC welterweight belt, in 1980, against the undefeated American, Sugar Ray Leonard. This would be Duran’s most famous and impressive victory, as he beat Sugar Ray up from bell to bell. Duran showed the world that his brute force and fighting style was superior to the beloved Leonard’s speed and flashiness. He would become the best fighter in the world.

​5 months later, in the rematch, Duran would be part of another famous fight, the “no mas” fight. Duran quit in the middle of the eighth round, in a fight he was losing to Leonard, by telling the ref “no mas” (no more). Many stories have been told about why Duran stopped the fight. From stomach cramps to exhaustion to just being frustrated with the style and show that Leonard was displaying that particular evening. It would haunt Duran for the rest of his life.

​Duran would win and lose some more in the 1980s, winning a title in a third division by knocking out Davey Moore for the WBA super middleweight title. In his very next fight that year (1983) Duran would lose a hard fought decision against one of the greatest Middleweights of all time, Marvelous Marvin Hagler. His next fight after that would be another loss, back down in weight against Thomas Hearn’s.

​Even in defeat, Duran was still attempting to fight the greatest fighters of the era, regardless of weight class. He cemented himself as one of the “Four Kings” of boxing, a group of fighters consisting of himself, Leonard, Hearn’s & Hagler. They were the best of the best, strewn across weight classes, all meeting in the ring to prove who the best was. Duran was the lightest, which never even entered his mind. He took each one on, and established himself as one of the best ever.

​Duran would eventually become the middleweight champion of the world by defeating the extremely talented Iran Barkley in 1989. It was Ring Magazines “Fight of the Year” and it made Duran only the 3rd fighter to ever win titles in four weight classes.

​Roberto Duran would keep fighting into the 90s, taking on fighters like Vinny Pazienza, Hector “Macho” Camacho and William Joppy. His last fight took place in 2001 against the Hall of Famer Camacho. It would be Duran’s 119th fight. A career that spanned five decades. He fought his first fight in 1968 and his last in 2001….33 years.
​The man known as “Manos de Piedra” (Hands of Stone) would compile a records of 103 wins, 16 losses and 70 of his wins coming by way of knockout. He rose from extreme poverty in his native Panama to become the first man to ever beat Sugar Ray Leonard. His legacy will always be cemented as one of the greatest fighters ever. In 1999, the Associated Press rated him as the greatest lightweight and the seventh greatest fighter of the century. Ring Magazine would later name him also as the greatest lightweight ever and the 5th best fighter of the past 80 years. Duran would be inducted into the International boxing hall of fame exactly 5 years after his retirement in 2007.

Édgar Ramírez and Robert De Niro star in HANDS OF STONE

​On August 26th, a biographical film will be released about the life of the great Roberto Duran called, fittingly enough “Hands of Stone”, Edgar Ramirez will depict the great champion, as well as Robert DeNiro as Ray Arcel and Usher Raymond as Ray Leonard. It is a film that will need to fit a lot of information into a small time frame. Fifty years of fighting and historical boxing moments. One thing is for sure, they couldn’t have picked a better figure in the sport to make a movie about.

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