"I want to eat your children. Praise be to Allah"

Mike Tyson is happy to be your sociopath.

By Anthony York

Published June 28, 2000 7:00PM (EDT)

The British Boxing Board of Control says it will meet this week to discuss possible sanctions against Mike Tyson for his actions in his fight in Scotland Saturday -- hitting his opponent, Lou Savarese, after the fight was stopped and knocking down referee John Coyle in the process.

The Mike Tyson sideshow continues.

Now, after the destruction of his second consecutive no-name, no-talent opponent, Tyson says he's ready for his title shot. Cultivating the cannibalistic tendency he developed in the ring against Evander Holyfield in 1997, Tyson addressed Lennox Lewis in a post-fight interview and said he would rip his heart out and "eat your children."

"He's a train wreck ready to happen," Lewis said Tuesday. "If he's mentally and physically right I'd fight him tomorrow."

Of course, Tyson will never be mentally right. The convicted rapist has made no effort to reform his ways since returning to the ring, and professional boxing only seems to reward him with second chances and increased paydays. Meanwhile, Tyson faces new charges for allegedly hitting a woman in a club in Las Vegas, and there were reports last week that he'd beaten up the fight's promoter, Frank Warren.

True, there may be a certain schizophrenia among so-called boxing fans. On the one hand, you have the true aficionados of the sweet science, and on the other, a bunch of beer-guzzling thugs looking for a pay-per-view version of "Jerry Springer." America has always had its love affair with freaks and carnage, not to mention a love of window seats to human destruction -- especially self-destruction. If there were a Torture Channel on cable, it would surely get ratings, and to that end, Mike Tyson is a gift from central casting. Since being knocked out and humiliated by Buster Douglas in 1990, Tyson has been all too eager to be your sociopath.

Once upon a time, I wanted to believe that this was just an act ` la Muhammad Ali. Ali used his mouth and the appearance of mental instability as a weapon. He staged outbursts at his weigh-ins to mask his own fear and psych out his opponents. Before his first title fight with Sonny Liston, Ali taunted the champion, calling him a "big, ugly bear" and saying he was "too ugly" to be champion. He even chased Liston's car from the airport, and Liston "believed he was crazy," David Remnick wrote in his 1998 Ali biography, "King of the World." But amid those taunts were moments of self-awareness from Ali: "I am a great performer! I am a great performer!"

When asked by his cornerman why he taunted Liston, Ali reportedly said: "Because Liston thinks I'm a nut. He is scared of no man, but he is scared of a nut. Now he doesn't know what I'm going to do."

But there is no way to give Tyson that much credit. No use of four-syllable words will lead anyone to confuse Tyson with Ali. "When I'm ready I'm going to rip out his heart and feed it to him," Tyson said of Lewis after the fight Saturday. "My style is impetuous, my defense is impregnable and I'm just ferocious. I want your heart. I want to eat your children. Praise be to Allah."

Expressing your desire to eat someone's children in the form of a prayer is indeed a touching sentiment, though I'm not familiar with that cannibalistic sect of Islam. It doesn't really make sense, and it doesn't have to. It's just the rantings of Mike Tyson, boxing's boy who cried psychotic.

Tyson should have stuck with what he said in the locker room after he went van Gogh on Holyfield. "My career is over," Tyson said then. "It's over. I know that."

Anthony York

Anthony York is Salon's Washington correspondent.

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