I’ve known for years that I’ve something in common with the former world heavyweight champion, Mike Tyson and also the Queen.
- The fact is we are all racing pigeon enthusiasts, and although my days of actually racing pigeons ended years ago, the Queen, who is patron of the Royal Pigeon Association, is still competing from her pigeon loft in the beautiful grounds at Sandringham, while Tyson’s pigeon coop is in Brownsville, New York, in the ghetto where he was brought up. As for myself I got involved with the ‘birds’, the feathered kind may I say, at ten years of age, the same age as Tyson became infatuated with pigeons. I believe that Tyson has what I have - a genuine passion for his birds. In fact throughout my schooldays my nickname was ‘Pidge’.
I’m sure that Mike’s love and obsession with his racing pigeons and the feeling of the adrenalin flowing when he’s waiting for them to come home in a race, has helped him since he retired from the fight game. It was his pigeons in fact which caused Tyson to engage in his first fist fights. Brought up by his mother, they had just moved to Brownsville and Mike was ten years of age. It was a district where the strongest survived and the weakest were walked on. “I was always getting set on”, Mike has stated. “You’d be walking along a street when a couple of big guys would stop you and steal anything you had – your sneakers, your clothes, your money. They’d take anything and then give you a whipping just for laughs. I was into raising pigeons. Still am. I love those birds. I’m really at peace when I’m with them. Anyways this particular day an older boy tried to steal one of my birds. No, to tell you the truth he ripped its head off. I was 11 at the time and had never given any thought of using violence. But I just blew it. I threw everything at the guy, fists, feet, head. I became an animal and beat the living crap out of him. And do you know something? I found I loved it. Every second of it. I had found a way of letting all my frustrations out”.
In later years Mike Tyson would have a meteoric rise to superstardom in professional boxing, becoming the youngest man at the age of 20 years and four months to have won the world heavyweight championship and at one time the highest paid performer in sporting history. However he has had many highs and lows in his lifetime inside and outside the ring. Some boxing fans believe the Tyson is the dirtiest fighter that ever lived after embarrassing the boxing world, when, in his second fight with Evander Holyfield, he bit half of his opponents ear off and when the referee allowed the fight to continue, he bit Holyfield’s other ear. In another fight he tried to break Frans Botha’s arm during a clinch, then in another context he dropped Orlin Norris after the bell had rung, ending the 1st round. Outside of boxing he was travelling down the high road to hell at a very fast rate, which brings me to Iron Mike’s enshrinement into this year’s International Boxing Hall of Fame. Was he a worthy inductee? Not to my mind he wasn’t. A Hall of Famer must be judged, not by the amount of belts they held, which these days are ten-a-penny, but by their achievements in the ring. Tyson may have looked dynamic against all the second rate heavyweight fighters he pulverised, but judging him on his biggest fights against elite opposition such as Holyfield and Lewis, he was a flawed fighter and was stopped. He was also laid out on the canvas by the likes of Buster Douglas, Danny Williams and Kevin McBride, and not once did he get up to win.
If Tyson’s ring achievements are worthy enough to get him into the IBHF then why isn’t Naseem Hamed an inductee, for he beat the best in his weight division and was accepted as the undisputed world champion for a very long time. His ring record speaks for itself. He had 37 fights, and stopped 31 of his opponents and 16 of his contests were world title fights which is impressive by anyone’s standard. He lost only one fight and that was to the great Marco Antonio Barrera. If he’s not an inductee next year I’ll go mad and may fly over to New York and sit with Mike Tyson to calm down in his pigeon loft.
By George Reed