Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson faces off against a koala at Stamford Plaza in Brisbane's CBD. Photo: Harrison Saragossi
He’s claimed to have sparred with his two pet Bengal tigers, but former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson met his match when he came face to face with a koala in Brisbane on Thursday.
‘‘I don’t want to be attacked by it,’’ he told reporters as he was offered the cuddly marsupial to hold.
‘‘Good animals go bad sometimes.’’
Mike Tyson v Koala
Mike Tyson visits Brisbane and meets his match - a koala. Photo: Harrison Saragossi
’Iron Mike’, the once-fearsome brawler, infamous for biting opponent Evander Holyfield’s ear, has come to Australia for the first time to reveal his softer side.
He today launched a five-city tour of the country called Mike Tyson’s Day Of The Champions, sub-headed "Unleash The Spirit Of The Champion Within You".
The photo opportunity, staged by Tyson’s tour promoter Max Markson outside the luxury Stamford Hotel on the Brisbane River, went awry when the champion boxer-cum-motivational speaker turned to the koala named Trace and gasped: "Hey Trace, look at those nasty claws you have."
No amount of encouragement from reporters could entice Tyson to pat, or even touch, the small, furry animal.
Tyson, who’s largely candid about his criminal convictions, sexually transmitted diseases, and $100,000 frolics with prostitutes, insisted he was not a new man, just an older one.
‘‘I just grew up a little bit ... I’m still the same guy, but times have changed. We have to re-evaluate yourself in life,’’ he said.
Boxing gave Tyson the platform, he said, to grow into the ‘‘baddest man on the planet’’.
By his own admission he was a savage.
His boxing career has long washed up, but Tyson has retained the showmanship he tuned during years in the ring.
He’s had a successful cameo in Hollywood comedy The Hangover and a one-man show on Broadway.
‘‘I was that guy, I was that guy real good. I was a savage and that’s what was necessary to be that guy but now I’m this guy and I’m the happy guy, I’m a gentleman, I’m going to entertain you all,’’ he said with a grin.
Tyson’s tour itinerary originally called for a stop in New Zealand, but he was denied a visa to enter the country due to his 1992 rape conviction.
His visit to Australia has sparked outcry among some women’s groups and community leaders, with Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu calling upon the Prime Minister to overturn Tyson’s visa.
But he drew a crowd today, with onlookers scaling raised garden beds to catch a glimpse of the man over the gathered media pack.
Tyson’s life post boxing has amounted somewhat to a prolonged confessional, and he empathised today with the recent financial plight of the man whose ear he made bleed in Las Vegas in 1997, Evander Holyfield.
‘‘I like Evander. We all fall upon hard times,’’ he said.
‘‘I had my turn. I went through that bankrupt stuff – that humiliation having all this money and now you’re the big schmuck with your money, now you know you gotta go through that stuff.
“But it’s all about embracing yourself and looking for happiness within.’’
It appears Tyson feels enlightened and that it’s that enlightenment he wishes to share with the masses – for a profitable return.
‘‘You can’t go in there with ideas [that] it’s over, I’ma die, nobody loves me, and feeling sorry for yourself. You gotta pull yourself up,’’ he said.
‘‘No matter what’s wrong in life, no matter what adversity hits you in life – I don’t care what it is, you’re gay, you have AIDS, you’re sick, I don’t care what it is, your cancer, your mother dies, your children die, don’t matter whatever it is, you been in prison for most your life, and want to give up - don’t give up.’’
When asked what exactly he will treat his Australian audiences to – a song, or dance, or both – Tyson remained coy.
‘‘I don’t know yet, come and find out ... I’m here, that’s pretty awesome right?’’ he said.
‘‘It’s been very successful and I’m just looking forward to starting here.’’
He’s hung up the gloves, but if there’s one message Tyson preached today, it’s to keep fighting.
‘‘As long as we continue to fight, there’s always a possibility we can win,’’ he said.
‘‘We only lose when we totally give up.’’
Tyson will speak in Brisbane on Friday night, Sydney on Saturday, Melbourne on Sunday, Adelaide on Tuesday and Perth on Wednesday.
- Friday, November 16
- Venue: Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, South Bank
- Saturday, November 17
- Venue: Bayside Auditorium, Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre
- Sunday, November 18
- Venue: Festival Hall
- Tuesday, November 20
- Venue: The Goyder Pavilion, Adelaide Showground
- Wednesday, November 21
- Venue: Perth Arena