Mike Tyson, elephant man

  • 29 March 2006
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Mike Tyson arrived in Dublin last week to much less controversy than normally surrounds him. A few half-hearted radio de...bates aside, the circus rolled in and out with the usual boxing crowd out in force to hear him speak at the Burlington. There were no protests, though a lone garda did keep sketch outside. Tyson was pictured in all the tabloids on the Sunday having missed his flight on Saturday, and handily enough missed the press conference scheduled.
It was an interesting week to examine sporting infamy.
For the first time in a few years, Vinnie Jones made the front pages of the Irish tabloids. Now Vinnie has some Irish property and has proven to be a big seller as a cover boy in his past – once being responsible for the biggest selling Four Four Two of the year, so it's likely the papers want him on their covers as often as possible. This time it was in connection with a dog he co-owns, called Boavista, which had apparently failed a drug-test at the richest coursing race in the world, and by extension in Clonmel. Jones may appear at the hearing into the case which should provide ample opportunity for flashbulbs and hardman antics and further front covers. Although as a Hollywood star, he could of course blow off the investigation, it'll no doubt depend on what his publicist wants.
Vinnie Jones was a terrible footballer who cultivated an image that endured, an anti-Beckham with much marketing potential which has been milked dry at this stage. The circus in Dublin around the former heavy-weight champion of the world makes you wonder a bit about the bad-boy icon. In 20 years time will the bite marks on Colm Gooch Cooper's arm after a game with Tyrone have passed into legend or have they already done so?
Tyson, for his part, was protected by one of the largest security operations I've ever witnessed at a hotel. It was 25 minutes before a path was agreed on that would take him from the room beside reception where he'd been posing dutifully for pictures with the dinner guests, who'd each paid €200, to the function where he'd be interviewed about whatever he was willing to talk about. There was chaos for an hour as ten people were ushered in and out for their shot with the champ, the security protecting the value of the tickets. The evening had been prompted by Joe Egan, a sparring partner of Tyson's before he won his titles. But the tour was part of a larger one around Europe organised by Tyson's management to gauge how much life was left in his brand.
At one point, through the squares in the glass door and between the burly suits, he was visible inside, not talking to either of the two ladies at his table, strumming his fingers in what looked like bored exasperation and looking straight out the door at what was outside. For  25 minutes the crowd outside grew slightly until there were about 30 people, maybe less, waiting to catch a glimpse. Eventually he took his part in the entourage and walked into a hail of flashbulbs. Then he was gone to earn. The dinner was followed by an auction and an interview where Tyson finally got to talk about some things he's comfortable with. Beforehand the perma-tanned manager with the officious ways had been insisting on guiding the event in a certain direction. It seems as if Iron Mike isn't so interested in talking about his boxing career anymore and when bored, despite earning to be there, will clam up a little. He didn't clam up this time and maybe he can be recast as an attraction beyond the carnivalesque, though it'd be a wise man who avoided investing in the operation.
As a former baddest man on the planet and a convicted rapist, Tyson is a character very much of our age. His celebrity accords him earning potential, and his notoriety guarantees people want to watch. And yet, when he was about to emerge from his chamber a rush went through the small gathering, the hotel staff were talking about nothing else and the media were out in force. A modern day elephant man.