How Tyson met his Waterloo

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The Independent Online
As Mike Tyson comes out of prison into the so-called real world, there has been much speculation about what kind of a boxer he will now be.

There has been no speculation at all about what kind of novel he will write.

Yet one of the major changes that has taken place in his absence is that celebrities, especially sportspeople, have started writing novels. Or at least having novels written for them. So it is only to be expected that Mike Tyson too will try his hand at fiction.

I am in a position to confirm this. While everyone else has been rushing around trying to fix fights for him, I have been in touch with Mr Tyson, signing up his first novel.

It was difficult at first, as he did not know what a novel was, and I had to explain that it was a very long story with lots of action and some interesting people.

He asked me to tell him about one of the great novels, and so, never afraid to go in at the deep end, I sketched out the history of War and Peace.

He was much taken with the story, as I do not think he knew much about Imperial Russia. But what especially attracted him was the character of Napoleon. He had never heard of him and yet here was someone he could really identify with. Someone who (like himself) had ruled the world unchallenged and felt he could beat anyone. Someone who (like himself) had finally reached too far and taken on an opponent in the shape of Russia whom he was not equipped to beat. And someone who had finally ended up behind locked doors - in Napoleon's case, on Elba, in Tyson's case in prison.

Tyson was most excited to learn that Napoleon had come back from Elba and resumed his fighting career, much as he hoped to do himself.

"How did it work out?" he asked me. "How did Napoleon's next fight go?"

"Not well," I had to admit. "After Waterloo he never fought again."

"Who won at Waterloo?" he asked.

"The British," I said.

"The British don't frighten me," said Tyson. "They generally fall over when they're in the ring with me ... I'm amazed Napoleon got beat by a limey. Yeah, I'll do you a novel. I'll do this War and Peace."

In vain did I point out that he ought to do a new novel. Mr Tyson insisted that War and Peace was the novel he wanted to do. I didn't like to argue. Not a month later I received a manuscript through the post. It started like this:

War and Peace.

Chapter One.

"I'm going for the big one," said Napoleon to his manager. "I'm ready to take on Russia now."

"Are you sure?" said his manager. "You ain't ever fought anything as big as Russia before. This could be out of your league. Let's go for a safe pay day with Austria or somewhere."

"I beat Austria already," said Napoleon. "Who's going to pay to see me beat Austria again? I sure as hell wouldn't pay to see me do it again. People say Austria is punch-drunk. People would say it was a fix ... I want Russia."

"OK, OK, OK," said his manager, wearily. "Be it on your own head. You go for Russia. I'll work out a contract. But these away-from-home fights are always dodgy. Against Russia you could come a cropper. There's the home crowd rooting against you, there's the distance to travel, and this is one that might go the whole distance. You got the stamina for a big fight in Russia?"

"If I asked myself questions like this the whole time," said Napoleon, "I'd never win any fights. I ain't frightened of home crowds. A few bullets is all it takes to frighten a home crowd. Anyway, if I sit around waiting for Russia to challenge me on French territory, it ain't never gonna happen. I can take Russia. I just know I can!"

"Yeah, yeah," said his manager, "then Russia will want a rematch, and here we go again."

Nevertheless, the fight was arranged and Napoleon went into training, then he set off with his entourage across Germany and other places, signing autographs as he went and making loads of personal appearances, but keeping in good trim, because it is very important for a fighter to do his daily workout, and finally he got to Russia, where there was a big sign saying "Go Home, Napoleon!"

"How come they don't like me here?" said Napoleon.

"Baby, they don't like you anywhere," said his manager. "You're one helluva mean fighter, and that means winning, not getting liked."

After that the story departs from history somewhat and Napoleon scores a knockout victory over Russia and later has a walkover against the Duke of Wellington. It's about 12 pages long, and if anyone wants to publish it, they're welcome.