Photo: Tom Casino / SHOWTIME
For former fighters, life races by in three-minute intervals.
Consider that it’s been 17 years since Mike Tyson was heavyweight champion, and nine years since he lost to Kevin McBride in his final fight.
Tyson is 47, and like Elvis, Bill Clinton, and Madonna, The Ultimate Survivor has come to realize that as a superstar ages in our celebrity-driven world, the secret to remaining relevant is reinvention. In recent years, we’ve seen Tyson the Actor, Tyson the Broadway Star, Tyson the Reality TV Star, and Tyson the Autobiographer.
And now, Tyson the Promoter.
Last year, Tyson joined forces with a fledgling promotional firm, Acquinity Sports, to create Iron Mike Productions. The firm has already built a strong stable of fighters, from a world titlist like Argenis Mendez to a sizzling prospect like Erickson Lubin.
Three of Tyson’s prized fighters will appear on a Friday April 18 ShoBox card in Monroeville, Pennsylvania (15 miles outside of Pittsburgh). In the headliner, Cuban lightweight Alexei Collado faces Rod Salka. Hugely popular welterweight Sammy Vazquez tackles Juan Rodriguez Jr. And Dominican welterweight Felix Diaz, who won a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics, is matched against Emmanuel Lartey.
Collado (18-0), Vazquez (13-0), and Diaz (14-0) are all undefeated.
Here’s Tyson’s take on the trio:
- Alexei Collado: “He’s a slick counterpuncher with good moves. He doesn’t look for the kayo; he wears guys down.
“I’m for quick action, but it’s not everybody’s personality to go for the kill right away. Collado sets up guys and does it real well. We’re working on making him slightly more aggressive.”
- Sammy Vazquez: “This kid is very exciting. Before his last fight, the guys from the other corner were saying that we’ll want to sign their fighter after he knocks Sammy out. And Sammy got dropped early in the fight.“The opponent [Berlin Abreu] was a strong, muscular guy, but Sammy came back and stopped him.
“Sammy has a huge following. The first time I saw him, I said, ‘This is an American hero type.’ I’m proud to have him associated with my organization.” (Vazquez is a veteran of the U.S. Army who served two tours of duty in Iraq.)
- Felix Diaz: “Diaz is a very smart boxer who can punch. He’s very exciting; he just needs activity.
“Winning a gold medal is pretty special, but this is a very different stage now. Felix should be a 10-round fighter by now. [The Diaz-Lartey fight is scheduled for eight rounds.] I fought 15 times in one year [actually, 16, in 1985]. These guys haven’t experienced one-tenth of that. I want them to fight once a month, whether on TV or off TV.“If Felix gets active, everything will come.”
I asked Tyson how he thinks he’ll feel if one of his fighters goes on to win a world title.
“It’ll be an amazing feeling. I try not to be too emotional because this is a business. Hopefully, it’ll be an exciting champion who takes on all comers.”
It seems to me that while Collado, Vazquez, and Diaz will undoubtedly want to impress the ShoBox audience, they’ll need to impress the boss.