Steve Bunce: Mike Tyson was 'in a bad place' on his 2005 UK tour – a first-night riot, no boxing questions and all he wanted to talk about was pigeons

 

Before The Hangover I and II, before Spike Lee weaved his magic off Broadway in New York and before Mike Tyson was a nice guy, it was my onerous duty to take the big lad up on stage to perform for his fans.

The scene was set for the debut show of Tyson's first talking tour at a hotel in Derby in 2005. I had seen Tyson fight a dozen or more times, talked to him at conferences, seen his rage and stupefied moods, and in part glimpsed his elusive tender side; I had never, however, seen anything to convince me that he cared enough to perform for 20 grand at a hotel in the East Midlands.

Tyson's man in Derby was called Tom Patti, an actor and former fighter who had known Mike since they were kids living with Cus D'Amato at a boxing retreat for damaged souls in Catskill, New York. Tom told me that he had done "Virginia Woolf" and had a lot of other projects out in Hollywood – he did say that, honest – but that he was now looking out for Mike.

Patti took my list of perfectly reasonable questions and rejected all of them. "Steve," he told me, "no questions about boxing, no questions about money, no personal questions, no questions about the convictions. You good with that? Mike is not in a good place right now." Join the club, I thought.

I knew that Patti's last comment was open to debate because Tyson was upstairs in the hotel's penthouse suite entertaining the two latest additions to his swollen entourage. "Tom," I ventured. "What can I ask?" I wish that I had kept my mouth shut. "OK, you can ask him if he likes Daiby, you can ask Mike about pigeons and also about Rayne Rooney." I managed just under 10 minutes in Derby and even that stretched Tyson's attention span to the limit; there was polite applause when he left for London and then a riot took place, which made the front pages.

It was not ideal but I probed away with the same three questions as we went from Derby, to London, to Birmingham, to Manchester and to a spectacular finale in Doncaster. Tyson picked up, we now know from his book, dealers and girlfriends and other more sinister con artists as we toured; it's a tremendous pity that none of the people he welcomed into his party had any acting experience.

It has to be said, and I was reminded often enough, that the first tour was truly dreadful, and I seemed to be the one getting most of the hate from the understandably upset punters. I can confirm that 1,100 men and women in the guts of Old Trafford's subterranean banqueting suite have no interest in the difference between a Birmingham tumbler and a Birmingham roller, both exotic pigeons by the way – and Tyson loves to talk about them. Patti was not joking when he told me: "Mike loves his birds." It was the only joke I used and by Doncaster nobody was laughing.

Tyson returned the next year and I was unavailable but I signed up again for a tour a few years later, having heard that his medication had improved and that the people in charge of him were more professional. They also, I admit, were paying good money. It was only partly true; the drugs, women and attached lunatics remained the same but he did put in one blockbuster performance in front of about 800 people at an agricultural exhibition hall on the outskirts of Peterborough. Tyson was on fire, nothing was sacred and he opened up his heart as gasps and screams filled the bovine box. Tyson that night was quite brilliant, raw and so honest that it made me feel slightly uneasy listening to his sins.

I did another tour when Tyson arrived with a spiritual adviser and each morning I would see him after he had left the gym. He was calmer, good but not brilliant on stage and I was convinced that he had left the cocaine, hookers, pimps and scum behind. I was wrong. It turns out that Tyson is still battling the old enemies, still under siege from his addictions and as far now from peace as he has been since he made the first of his $300m nearly 30 years ago.

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
News
i100
Sport
footballLatest scores and Twitter updates
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad