Mike Tyson exclusive: "My mind is a torture chamber. I am constantly preparing for war"
Iron Mike speaks to Steve Bunce ahead of his unmissable comeback - exclusively live on BT Sport Box Office HD on Saturday 28 November - that he reveals has been years in the making.
Few figures in sporting history have captured the imagination in the same way as Mike Tyson.
The brick-fisted Brooklynite has spent more than half his life in the public eye, often subject to the intense scrutiny that comes with superstardom in contemporary society – but he remains a puzzlingly complex enigma.
Both frightening and captivating, a man renowned for acts of ruthless violence and humble benevolence in equal measure, Tyson has inspired and sometimes disgusted those who have followed his complicated story.
Now 54, the original 'Baddest Man on the Planet' recognises these conflicts within himself, acknowledging his shortfalls in typically philosophic manner.
“I’m addicted to perfection,” Tyson once famously said.
“The problem with my life is I was always also addicted to chaos. Perfect chaos.”
To his fans and those aware of the Tyson legend, the man of today may at times appear unrecognisable to the wrecking ball of rage that clobbered his way to a heavyweight world title at just 20 years old – a record that still stands today.
But speaking exclusively to BT Sport's Steve Bunce ahead of his eagerly-anticipated return on Saturday 28 November, Tyson revealed the stark reality bubbling under the surface of his tranquil manner.
“An individual like me, my mind is a torture chamber,” the former undisputed heavyweight king said.
“My mind constantly is preparing me for war. Every tenth of a second. Quicker than your eye can blink, it’s war.
“I’m discussing warriors in my mind, warriors of the past and the plans that they used before they fought. It’s just the way my mind thinks.
“It starts to think about men who are great fighters. I’m talking about Achilles, Alexander the Great, Hannibal, all these who are military geniuses.”
More so than the fights, I watch my old training sessions
- Mike Tyson
Are these figures new sources of inspiration to Tyson on the cusp of his first taste of combat in more than 15 years?
“They always inspired me,” he replied.
“They inspired me when I was fighting. I just think they called on me again to do this and this is what they want me to do.
“I would say it’s like my calling.”
They say Father Time waits for no man and there is no place where that is more evident than inside the squared circle of a boxing ring.
It was why Tyson decided to retire in the first place, hanging up the gloves after being beaten by journeyman Kevin McBride in 2005, almost a year after losing to a similar calibre opponent in Britain’s Danny Williams.
"I do not have the guts to be in this sport anymore," a world-weary Tyson conceded in the ring after defeat to McBride.
"I don't want to disrespect the sport that I love. My heart is not into this anymore.”
On that basis, few – including the man himself - could have ever expected to see him return, particularly after such a lengthy absence.
But on November 28, Tyson will step through the ropes once more against a man he believes to be “the greatest fighter who ever came on this planet” in Roy Jones Jr.
So how did it all come about?
“I’ve been training pretty much for three years, not for a fight but just to stay healthy,” the former lineal champion continued.
“My brother-in-law told me that someone had offered to fight me, but I was thinking ‘I don’t wanna fight anyone else’.
“But then this little lightbulb in me said ‘hey, would he fight me under the Marquess of Queensbury [rules]?’ because I believe it was an MMA fighter [that had been offered] and he said yeah.
“But we went from fighting Bob Sapp, to Shannon Briggs, to Tyson Fury - now we’re fighting Roy Jones so this is where I’m at.”
He knows his best chance is to win early so he’s going to come and give it all he’s got
- Roy Jones Jr
Tyson’s comeback soon took on a life of its own, as videos of his workouts began to generate huge buzz online.
“I never thought about fighting, I was thinking about looking good and looking impressive when I walk down the street,” he added.
“And then I said to myself ‘if you want to have a body like this, why don’t you do something with it?’ So I said I might as well do this – especially from a charity exponent too and help a lot of people. If I can do that before I die, that’s just beautiful.”
Over the 50 wins that came from his 58 fights, Tyson stopped 44 men inside the distance with the average duration of a Tyson fight lasting just over three rounds – a testament to his supernatural power and his ‘kill or be killed’ mentality inside the ropes.
In seeking to reawaken the competitor within himself, has Tyson revisited fights from the past in search of inspiration?
“I watch my old training videos that I have on tape, just to see how I was training back then and I put that together against the calibre of my training now. More so than the fights, I watch my old training sessions,” he said.
“I watch them a lot.”
The fight against Jones Jr has been sanctioned by the California State Athletic Commission on the grounds that it will be an exhibition contest, the rules are intended to prevent either man from inflicting significant damage on the other.
Jones, however, believes it would be fanciful to expect either man to do anything less than they have been trained to do throughout their incredible careers.
“He knows his best chance is to win early so he’s going to come and give it all he’s got to try and take me out,” the former four-weight world champion predicted earlier this month.
“But what I’ve got planned, it doesn’t really matter.”
So what does Tyson have planned when the first bell sounds as the Staples Centre?
“I’m right on top of him,” he said.
“That’s all I have in my mind. First round, ding. I’m right on top of him.”
Watch Mike Tyson vs Roy Jones Jr exclusively live on BT Sport Box Office HD on Saturday 28 November.