Sat within the familiar opulence and grandeur which came to delineate much of his life as one of the most recognised athletes on the planet, Mike Tyson is perched over a chessboard.
It’s a fitting setting as the 50-year-old begins to loosen his tongue and relax his broad shoulders into a conversation about the sport he once ruled.
Boxing is, after all, a bit like chess and the potential rewards not too dissimilar to that of the grandiose presidential suite the former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world is occupying.
Behind boxing’s naked violence is a cerebral element, one of tactics and strategy both in and out of the ring. It is also a sport which can elevate athletes from pawn-like status into kings as the sweet science is littered with examples of fighters who have reigned over it and taken on global prominence.
In the mid-1980s Tyson was one such man and he senses a new talent is about to ascend into the crown – Great Britain’s IBF and WBA heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua.
Indeed, Joshua has been catapulted into popular mainstream culture after the 27-year-old conquered the king of old Wladimir Klitschko in front of 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium last month.
The nature of the clash, one hallmarked by several plot twists and just the right amount of savagery, captured the imagination, not just in Britain where it is widely expected to break the pay-per-view record previously set by Floyd Mayweather’s flop of the century fight with Manny Pacquiao, but across the globe.
The 41-year-old Ukrainian was resurgent after his defeat to Tyson Fury in 2015 and he picked himself up after being put down in the fifth round to drop Joshua in the next session for the first time in his career.
But Joshua rose from the canvas and into his new throne as he tactically conserved his energy before delivering a shattering uppercut and then an eruption of blows to force a sensational stoppage in the 11th.
“There’s a new king now,” Tyson says with a grin. “Anthony Joshua is a superstar.”
Speaking exclusively to Sport360 in Dubai’s Atlantis Hotel for the launch of his Mike Tyson Academy franchise in the UAE, ‘Iron Mike’ revealed his delight in Joshua’s success.
By living up to his pre-ordained hype in a blockbuster bout of worldwide significance, Joshua has helped to inspire the reawakening of the heavyweight giants.
With his transcendent appeal and ferocious physical attributes, the Olympic gold medallist leads a pack of hungry heavyweights with names like Fury, WBC title holder Deontay Wilder and WBO champ Joseph Parker all potential opponents. But Tyson believes Joshua has what it takes to reign atop the division for a long time and bring the big men back into the big time.
“It was great fight because he got back up!” he says. “He got hit with a really good shot but he got back up and even though he was still hurt he pulled through.
“Oh he got heart! He got it for sure because he was able to get back up. Klitschko performed really well and I never counted him out but for Joshua to go down and get back up, I don’t care how old Klitschko is 41 or whatever, for him to go down from a clean hard punch and to come back and be successful that says a lot about him.
“I like that he’s patient, too, he’s like Frank Bruno but on steroids (sic). He’s like a super Frank Bruno as far as his toughness and everything. The way he throws them overhand punches it reminds me of him but he’s such a specimen.
“It’s amazing because he’s only had 19 fights and he’s already champion of the world so he has a long way to go. He’s going to do a lot of good things. If he can keep his mind right and stay out of controversy he’s going to make a lot of money.”
The victory ensured Joshua stayed perfect with his record stretching to 19 fights, 19 wins and 19 stoppages. That he has reached the pinnacle of boxing having only gloved up for the first time nine years ago is a testament to not just Joshua’s discipline but his mental fortitude. Tyson, though, believes there is another feature of Joshua which could see him become one of the most successful athletes of all time.
“AJ is the superstar. I’ve never seen an entrance quite like his before with the flaming ‘A’ and ‘J’,” he adds. “That’s why he’s going to change boxing because that’s entertainment. It’s not just about knocking guys out.
“He’s the big man around the campus now. The heavyweight champion is the man, especially a guy like that who is knocking guys out quick. He looks like the heavyweight champion too, the way he carries himself and the shape he is in. Apart from Klitschko, most of the heavyweight division look like truck drivers.”
In Tyson’s own words, one fighter has seemingly altered what was a bleak landscape for boxing. Indeed, the lingering stench from May/Pac two years ago coincided with the rise to prominence of the UFC and headed by superstar names like Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor, a definite shift in popularity saw MMA progress as boxing regressed.
Tyson himself is a fan of MMA and has regularly been seen Octagon-side with close friend UFC president Dana White. And while the former ‘Baddest Man on the Planet’ is a keen follower of the UFC – noting bantamweight champ Cody Garbrandt as one of his favourite fighters to watch – he believes the balance of power is tipping back in boxing’s favour.
“I know all the fighters, I watch all the fights, I love it,” he says. “In boxing we have one discipline but we use it in different ways but in MMA there’s so many different disciplines, it opens up so many different ways to win.”
He adds: “Everybody gets their moneys worth with the UFC and that’s really what fighting is about people going there to be entertained.
“That’s why boxing dwindled because there are great fighters but not great entertainment.
“But with Joshua boxing is going to be a whole different ball game and everyone is going to want to watch him fight. He’s got the potential to be one of the biggest boxing stars of all time.”
Mike Tyson sat down for an exclusive chat with Sport360 reporter Alex Rea.
You can read the full interview with ‘Iron Mike’ HERE.
But there was more from the interview we didn’t want you to miss out on. Here’s more from Mike:
“I would just go forward, moving my head, be aggressive and hope something happens. But he’s big, too! It would be very interesting though.”
“He’s a character and I hope he turns out well because I heard he wasn’t doing too good.
“That’s the thing when you become champ. No one really knew Tyson Fury outside the boxing world but when you go from that to being the heavyweight champ of the world, you lose your mind and I can understand that. I hope he comes back.”
“He’s improved a lot but he’s not of that quality yet, he won’t be able to take that heat. Soon as he starts throwing them combinations he ain’t going to take that power. One round, two rounds, it’s just not going to happen.”
The heavyweight division is 🔥 right now but it won't fully return to glory until we have ONE title, ONE face, ONE name.... DEONTAY WILDER. pic.twitter.com/PIKOqZEICI— Deontay Wilder (@BronzeBomber) May 4, 2017
“I don’t give McGregor a chance. Him boxing Floyd doesn’t make it interesting. If he fought with MMA rules and Floyd boxing, now that would have been interesting.
“Now that would have genuine intrigue and we’d wonder who is going to win but right now it’s like this (squashing motion) but with those rules it’d be totally different.”
I am going to break his face pic.twitter.com/sI5jxpVGQN— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) December 24, 2016
“This is the place my business partner Fred Frenchy decided to bring me this deal and he thought it would be a good idea to open this academies in the UAE to begin with
“At first I didn’t think it would be a good idea, I said ‘really you think so Frenchy?’ but he knows what he is talking about because he’s sold a bunch of franchises and he was doing really well.”
“Yeah, yeah, It can be difficult but it’s good.
“My daily routine these days is to get up in the morning, work out, wash the kids, feed the kids, take them to school, stay on my phone so I can get my business done and then pick the kids up. I take the kids to tennis and take them to Jump World.”
Mike Tyson, who launched the Mike Tyson Academy (MTA) in Dubai on Thursday, feels the UAE could host a huge fight in the future – but he admits it would need the backing and appearance of star Anthony Joshua to make it a success.
Tyson – who became the youngest heavyweight champion in the world aged just 20 in 1986 – is bringing his latest fitness venture to the UAE – and will soon be opening a franchise of the worldwide MTAs in either Dubai or Abu Dhabi.
And having chosen the UAE as the launchpad for the new fitness centres that will based on the New York-born star’s famed commitment to hard work and discipline in the ring, he is confident it is the perfect part of the world to host a big night of boxing.
But, he feels, it would need rising star Joshua to make an appearance in the UAE – with the Emirates being familiar to the 27-year-old who trained in Dubai recently in preparation for his epic win over Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley last Saturday.
He said: “It has to be done here one day – once it’s done, especially if the new champion Joshua comes here – this will be a main hub for boxing. It just has to be done once with the right person and I believe Joshua is the right person (to help bring boxing to the UAE).”
“Why not Dubai? It’s a good place to launch my academy and it’s become very established – where else would you have it (my academy)? Dubai needs it and it will be awesome for the city.
“My hope is to be able to pass on the best trainings I’ve gained to the next generation of athletes. Through the Mike Tyson Academy, and the support of all these international entities that share our goal, these fitness centres will be available for the global community to use and take advantage of.”
The 50-year-old added: “I’m extremely grateful to be part of it and excited for it to positively contribute to the fitness journey of our clients.”
For more information about the Mike Tyson Academy – which will see a new brand of fitness centres under the legend’s name open in the Middle East, US, Australia and other destinations, visit www.miketysonacademy.com.
Look out for our full and exclusive video interview with Tyson on Sport360.com on Saturday.