Monday, June 15, 2015 | 2 a.m.
Mike Tyson walked into Piero’s, the iconic Italian restaurant in the heart of Las Vegas where a who’s who of locals dine, and instantly felt at home.
Facts and figures
48 years old
Residence: Lives in the Anthem area of Henderson with wife, Kiki. Tyson has eight children.
Record: 50-6 with 44 wins via knockout
Retired: Tyson went just 1-3 in his last four fights and retired in 2005 after consecutive defeats to Danny Williams and Kevin McBride, two no-name fighters.
Career earnings: Estimated $300 million
Nicknames: Iron Mike, Kid Dynamite
An exclusive group headed to the hall of fame
Mike Tyson isn’t entering the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame by himself.
This year’s class includes NASCAR champion and Durango High school graduate Kurt Busch; UNLV rodeo coach Ric Griffith; Southern Nevada Junior Golf Association founder Joe Kelly; and former UNLV and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Glenn Carano.
The hall of fame, inside Findlay Toyota in the Valley Automall, has inducted an average of five new members annually since launching in 1997. Members include the 1990 UNLV basketball team, the UFC’s Dana White, Steven Jackson, Greg Maddux and Randall Cunningham.
For more information, visit sportshalloffame.net.
Tyson, the boxing knockout artist whom fans were so interested in watching they bought pay-per-views knowing his fights would last only minutes, still was a few years away from becoming the sport’s most interesting man. It was the mid-1980s, and 18-year-old Tyson had never been to Las Vegas, let alone packed one of our resorts for a heavyweight fight.
“I was so overwhelmed, so impressed,” Tyson recalled. “You walk in there to Piero’s, and Frank Sinatra is with his crew, his team, having dinner. Vegas was just so glamorous with all of the lights. I’ll never forget that night.”
The native New Yorker knew then, nearly three decades ago, that Las Vegas would be his home.
And Tyson has been good to Las Vegas, pumping millions into the economy with his can’t-miss fight nights and, later, his popular “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth” one-man show at MGM Grand.
On June 19, Tyson will receive what he calls the ultimate honor in defining his legacy here. He will headline this year’s class for the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame, joining an exclusive group of the area’s most notable sports figures, from tennis great Andre Agassi to championship UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian.
Tyson already is part of the International Boxing Hall of Fame and Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame, and has a long list of other achievements from a legendary career.
But for 48-year-old Tyson, who has spent most of his adult life living in Las Vegas, joining the local hall carries just as much significance, if not more.
“For the first time, I’ll feel like (a Las Vegan),” he said. “I’m accepted as someone who lives here.”
Tyson’s most notable Las Vegas fights
■ The Holyfield bite
Mike Tyson fought 16 times in Las Vegas, usually in front of standing-room-only crowds and providing powerful knockouts that sent fans to their feet.
However, in his second fight against Evander Holyfield, in July 1997 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Tyson delivered far more than a punch. It was a bite.
Referee Mills Lane stopped the fight after the third round because Tyson twice bit Holyfield’s ears. Tyson claimed it was in response to headbutts from Holyfield. The fight now is known as “the Bite Fight.”
“That was one of those nights that got out of hand,” Tyson said.
In their first meeting, Holyfield was a significant betting underdog but upset Tyson, which set the stage for the highly anticipated rematch. Their second bout grossed more than $14 million in live gate sales, ranking ninth all-time in state history (which is especially notable given that ticket prices weren’t nearly as high 20 years ago.)
“It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about how you handle your losses in life,” Tyson said.
Tyson and Holyfield have since made amends in retirement and now consider each other friends.
■ First fight back
Aug. 18, 1995
After four years of inactivity while serving prison time for a rape conviction in Indiana, Tyson returned to boxing, and Las Vegas, to face Peter McNeeley at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The fight ranks 10th all-time in Nevada history for live gate sales, with ticket revenue topping $13,965,600.
Tyson beat McNeeley in 89 seconds, dropping him to the canvas for the first time less than 10 seconds into the fight.
■ Announcing his presence
Nov. 22, 1986
Tyson, only 20, beat Trevor Berbick for the World Boxing Council title, becoming the youngest person to win the heavyweight title. A pair of knockdowns during the second round was all Berbick could take, handing Tyson the TKO win.
The Sunday chatted with Tyson recently. Here are highlights of what he said:
■ On his cartoon and Broadway show
From “Mike Tyson Mysteries” on Adult Swim to cameos in “The Hangover” movies to a six-night run on Broadway, Tyson has rebranded himself as more than just a boxer. And Tyson the entertainer has proven to be compelling. He has no problem making fun of himself, including what stands out most about his appearance: his facial tattoo.
“I never thought I would go in this direction in a million years,” Tyson said. “But I am an entertainer. That is what I do. I entertain people.”
■ On Mayweather-Pacquiao
Boxing fans were vocal in their displeasure last month when the welterweight championship match between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao didn’t live up to the prefight hype. Limited action stretched 12 rounds. Tyson didn’t have that problem. Rather, people complained because his fights didn’t last long enough.
He won his first fight in just 19 seconds, and 24 of his fights ended in the first round, including nine of 10 fights early in his career.
“Isn’t that something?” Tyson asked. “Now we are complaining because people don’t fight enough.”
■ On mixed martial arts and the UFC
Tyson has embraced mixed martial arts and often is spotted at local Ultimate Fighting Championship cards. And UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta and President Dana White, two members of the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame, are boxing fans — and Tyson fans. Fertitta watches old Tyson fights on TV and tweeted with Tyson during the Mayweather-Pacquiao bout.
“Those (UFC) fighters are exciting,” Tyson said. “They are out there fighting for their livelihood.”
If mixed martial arts were prominent during his prime, Tyson would have tried it, he said.
“I really think I would do well with that stuff,” Tyson said.
White will be Tyson’s presenter as he is inducted into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame.
■ On his children
For Tyson, boxing was the only career he knew and a way to survive. It paid extremely well, making him a multimillionaire before his 21st birthday.
But he wouldn’t endorse his children entering the sport.
“I would never want them to box,” Tyson said about his four sons. “I tell him, ‘I took all these punches for you, so you don’t have to.’”
■ On his health
Tyson said he has no lingering effects from the punches he took. He works out regularly at Las Vegas Athletic Club and says he’s in pretty good shape.
“I look decent with my clothes on,” he joked.
■ On UNLV basketball
Tyson was a courtside regular at UNLV basketball games during the program’s glory years during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Soon, he’ll join players from that era, such as Larry Johnson and Stacey Augmon, in the hall of fame.
“Oh man, the Runnin’ Rebels back when they had everyone, that was my team,” Tyson said.
■ On the greatest fighter of all time
During prefight interviews before the May 2 megafight, undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr. referred to himself as the greatest of all time. That didn’t sit well with Tyson, who said there’s no question who the greatest ever was.
“Ali is No. 1 — there’s no question,” Tyson said. “Then there’s Ray Robinson.”
Tyson, who was boxing’s first undisputed heavyweight champion after unifying the WBA, WBC and IBF titles, said he isn’t concerned about where he ranks on the list. He is happy just being acknowledged as one of its best entertainers.