JERSEY CITY, N.J. - Mike Tyson walked through the door at Mario Costa’s bar-restaurant-boxing gym-rooftop pigeon refuge in Jersey City, New Jersey on Monday afternoon.
Dressed in black from head to toe, including a long black leather coat, Tyson popped into Costa’s spot for a brief respite from the madness of his world.
Tyson had done a round of interviews in New York City and made his way across the Hudson River to cool his heels at Costa’s funky spot, aptly named Ringside, before heading back for the inaugural taping of the new “Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.’’
It was a little before 3 p.m. and there were just a few people in the place – a handful of guys playing billiards, a small group having drinks, a couple with a small child having lunch. But the regulars barely turned their heads when Tyson walked through the door. To them it was like a family member coming home, walking through the front door and entering the living room.
Tyson was just as comfortable. He obliged those seeking pictures with him before finally making his way to the end of the bar, where Costa keeps a stool open for him whenever Tyson calls to tell him he’s in town and he’s coming over.
There are pictures of Tyson, and other boxers Costa has befriended over the years, dotting the walls of the restaurant and behind the bar. Costa dismantled Tyson’s pigeon coup from Brooklyn and moved it to the top of his restaurant where the birds roost and their owner checks on them regularly.
The 47-year-old former heavyweight champion is a very busy man these days. He’s a celebrity author with a recently published book and a stage performer in a one-man show. Now he has added boxing promoter to his plate.
Tyson a boxing promoter? The man who walked away from the sport in 2005 saying he hated it and the blood suckers who preyed on boxers?
Yep. You got it. Mike Tyson is a boxing promoter, the man behind Iron Mike Productions. He's been at it for seven months now, scouting boxers, signing boxers, dealing with TV networks and negotiating with other promoters to stage shows.
“Man, this is really hard,’’ Tyson said as he leaned on the bar. “It’s hard signing fighters and getting other promoters to let you use their fighters and making deals for fights. Nobody wants to work together and nobody wants to help you.’’
Tyson has already promoted three boxing cards. His debut card was an ESPN show at Verona, New York – not too far from the Catskills where Tyson honed the skills under the tutelage of Cus D’amato and became the youngest heavyweight champion in boxing history.
He just signed a deal for a monthly fight card at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He has a show there on Saturday night.
“I doubt they would be dealing with me if my name was just Mike and I was just some guy,’’ Tyson said.
He isn’t just another guy. And he doesn’t want to be just another boxing promoter.
“I really want to look out for my boxers,’’ Tyson said. “Boxers are always getting taken advantage of. I want to make sure they don’t get used.’’
Tyson has already been party to in-the-ring controversy while looking out for the best interest of one of his boxers. Last month Argenis Mendez, the IBF featherweight champion, was knocked out by Rances Barthelemy after referee Peter Podgorski was slow breaking the fighters to end the 2nd round.
Barthelemy had dropped Mendez to the canvas with a few seconds remaining in the round. Mendez beat the count and got to his feet right before the bell sounded to end the round. Rances landed two telling shots after the bell rang, knocking out Mendez.
Tyson screamed foul at ringside and later appealed the verdict to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, which oversees boxing in the state. It overturned the decision. Mendez’s world championship was returned and the IBF has ordered a rematch.
“People were saying that I bullied them into changing the decision,’’ Tyson said. “But you could see he hit my guy after the bell. I’m always going to stick up for my guy.’’
Tyson currently has 14 boxers under contract and is looking to sign more. He admits that his celebrity will help with that. But he doesn’t want just any boxers. His boxers must fit his motto, a credo that he entered the ring subscribing to until the end.
“You either knock the guy out or he knocks you out,’’ Tyson said. “I want guys who are going to fight.’’
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