Mike Tyson emerged from a youth detention centre in a frost-ridden corner of Indiana this weekend. By way of a skull-cap, or kufi, on his bull-like head and a visit to a nearby mosque, the former world heavyweight boxing champion declared he has turned, like his fellow boxing legend Mohammad Ali before him, to Islam.
Indeed, Ali was among those who greeted Tyson as he emerged to confront several hundred fans and reporters. Among the entourage was his promoter and former Svengali, Don King. No one has much doubt that Tyson's commercial future remains with boxing.
Professional followers of the sport were left no nearer knowing whether the old, arrogant, swaggering Tyson, whose actions outside the ring led to a rape conviction in 1992, has really changed. He has four years of probation to negotiate even though he is now free to fight.
"Is Mike Tyson a changed man?", asked Ian O'Connor, boxing columnist with the New York Daily News, yesterday. "The first step in rehabilitation is admission, and Tyson still maintains he didn't rape Desiree Washington in the early hours of 19 July 1991. Three years of hard time did not soften that stance. It is something a kufi cannot hide."
Women's groups regrettedthe celebration caused by the release. "Everybody is getting all excited about Mike Tyson fighting again and making all kinds of money," Myra Terry, of the National Organisation for Women, said. "And the woman he raped will never forget the way she was tortured. That is the problem with a society that lionises such figures."
Mr Tyson has not formally declared his new religious affiliation. His only statement on Saturday spoke blandly of his happiness to be free. One British tabloid reported the Muslim name he has taken as Malik Shabazz, the name of a former prime minister of Punjab. Shabazz was also the name taken, and then dropped, by Malcolm X, another prison convert to Islam.
Imprisonism, page 14
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies