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Grudge Match—Tyson vs. King

The former heavyweight champion of the world and the world's most notorious boxing promoter are battling in court over millions of dollars.
Geoffrey Gray
From the Print Edition:
Tyson vs. King, Jan/Feb 04

(continued from page 4)


"Mike was always looking for an excuse; he needed to create those trapdoors so down the road he could escape. Don King offered those trapdoors," Atlas says. "Mike knows that when the time comes, when it's time to go into those rooms -- the rooms inside yourself where all real men must go -- he's not a gangster. He's holding a toy gun in those rooms. King just gave him the ammunition he needed to escape himself.

"Don't be fooled," Atlas says. "Don King wasn't the one that made Mike who he is. The writing was on the wall with Mike when we got him. Don King only speeded up the process. Don King only lifted up the top of the can. Don King let all the demons out."

Then Tyson signed with King, he didn't seem interested in spreadsheets and international rights, even if they were his own. But without knowing anything about it, Tyson claims he paid King's family members salaries and large consultancy fees for doing virtually nothing whatsoever. One alleged recipient of such payments was Carl King, a stepson of Don King's and also an exclusive boxing manager to King's fighters, an inherent conflict of interest. Carl King was never allowed to handle any of Tyson's affairs, but records show he received consultancy fees from Tyson in excess of $300,000 over the years, along with King's wife, Henrietta, whom Tyson inadvertently paid more than $1.5 million for allegedly decorating Tyson's homes. King's daughter, Debbie, also earned a dubious salary of $52,000 a year, plus expenses, for running the Mike Tyson Fan Club.

After three years under King, Tyson didn't even know he had a fan club. When the fighter found out, his longtime chauffeur and assistant, Rudy Gonzalez, says he and Tyson went to the Fan Club office within King's training facilities in Orwell, Ohio, to see what Tyson had been paying for. When they entered, they saw crates filled with thousands of unopened envelopes from fans, as well as photographs and underwear from women.

Sitting on the floor, opening some of the yellowed mail, Gonzalez, who will also likely be a key witness for Tyson, remembers the then heavyweight champ reading a letter from a woman in the Midwest. Her child had been dying of cancer. She wondered if Tyson could give the kid a call. Gonzalez remembers getting the number, dialing, and passing the phone off to Tyson who, after only a few minutes, hung up, cursed King and started to cry. The call was a year too late.

"Mike never really knew how important he was until then, that so many people had reached out to him," says Gonzalez, who authored the 1995 memoir The Inner Ring. "Mike never really knew he was somebody who had the power to change lives. He was an elephant in chains, the biggest freak act in Don King's circus, and when he didn't want to perform anymore, they tried to take him in the back and shoot him."

He says the case against King is the most important fight in Tyson's career. "This is Mike's chance to rectify his public image and show people the mental and psychical torture he went through," says Gonzalez. "It's a victory everyone wants to see."

But one King defense attorney, Peter Fleming Jr., says, "The only thing Mike is really interested in here is if he got what he signed for, and he did. The reason Mike doesn't have any money isn't because of Don. It's because Mike spent it all."

If Tyson had his way now, many say he would prefer to forget about his boxing future and his feud with King and simply tend to his more than 1,000 pigeons, many of which he buys online. He would rather read about historic gangsters (another passion) and come back to the streets and poverty of his youth, they say, come back to Brooklyn and talk shit with old friends, smoke pot and sign autographs for bums on brown paper bags.

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