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The Brewery

A gathering place for sports analysis and opinion with Seattle Times sports columnist Jerry Brewer.

February 9, 2011 at 8:29 PM

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This Week In Revisionist Sports History: What if Mike Tyson hadn't married Robin Givens?

Posted by Jerry Brewer

MikeRobin.jpg

NEWS ITEM FROM THE PAST
Mike Tyson marries Robin Givens
Date: Feb. 7, 1988

Tyson -- aka Iron Mike, aka The Baddest Man On The Planet -- was a 22-year-old undisputed heavyweight champion worth $55 million when he wed Givens in Chicago. Givens, who was 24, had already dated megastars Eddie Murphy and Michael Jordan, but Tyson was the guy who proposed.

Before the year ended, Givens had filed for divorce.

Tyson's rocky marriage to Givens was really the beginning of the bizarre public life he still leads. It was his treacherous trek into adulthood, something that Tyson clearly wasn't ready to handle. Before he married Givens, Tyson was the troubled kid who made it big as a fighter under the guidance of Cus D'Amato. D'Amato died in 1985, but his protege, Kevin Rooney, took over training Tyson and finished the job of molding him into a champion.

But marriage meant that Tyson was officially a man. And disaster ensued. Tyson fired Rooney in the summer of 1988, even though Iron Mike had just famously beaten Michael Spinks in only 91 seconds. Speculation was that the firing came at promoter Don King's urging. Whatever the case, Tyson was severing ties with all the people who raised him and cared for him. It did not bode well for his personnel life.

The marriage to Givens became a public embarrassment. She accused him of domestic violence. He later accused her of being a gold digger who had pressured him into marriage by claiming she was pregnant. The nation watched in horror in September 1988 as Givens and Tyson appeared on "20/20" with Barbara Walters. In the interview, Givens essentially painted Tyson as a monster while he sat next to her, looking almost comatose.

By Valentine's Day of the next year, their divorce was final. But the problems were just beginning for Tyson.

REVISIONIST THOUGHTS

I don't know what the truth about Tyson and Givens is. Looking at Tyson's history of violence and his rape conviction in 1992, you're left to guess that Givens' abuse claims have validity. At the same time, America was never really sympathetic toward Givens (and her mother) because she came across as disingenuous.

We can do the he said/she said all night, but I don't think it's right to dismiss Givens. And I'm also not saying that she's at fault for Tyson turning into a dangerous sideshow. However, I do think that Tyson married too young, and he would've been better off remaining in the protective bubble that the likes of Rooney and business manager Bill Clayton (Tyson also fired him in 1988) provided him.

Over the years, we've learned that Tyson has severe mental and emotional problems. Those issues are so deep that they were bound to rise to the surface, regardless of whether he kept his mentors close. But if he hadn't married young, perhaps Rooney, Clayton and others could've remained connected to Iron Mike and kept King away from him until Tyson understood the business of boxing better.

It likely would've resulted in Tyson remaining the champion much longer. For as dominant as he was, his run was too short. Buster Douglas knocked him out in 1990, and Tyson was done. He lost his aura of invincibility. Then he went to prison. And when he returned, he was an ear-biting street fighter, not a boxer.

It seems that Tyson has settled down in recent years. He even starred in the hit comedy "The Hangover" and was brilliant in that supporting role. Of course, he played himself, but he was funny.

But even when he makes us laugh, part of that is because we're laughing at him.

He wouldn't have been this much of a joke if he stuck with the people who knew him when he wasn't famous. They could've kept him hungry. They could've protected him for a while longer.

Instead, Tyson, who acts like a kid even today, became a man way too soon. If only he had stayed in that protective bubble.

Note: This feature is part of The Brewery's new programming schedule. Read about it here.

Fed up with my long-winded ways? Follow me on Twitter: @Jerry_Brewer. Sometimes, I don't even use all 140 characters there.

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