Euronews’ Isabelle Kumar dashed off to Monaco to speak to world famous boxer Mike Tyson. She got a little more than she bargained for – but still has all her teeth. She describes her encounter.
Meeting a moody Mike in Monaco
It was an experience to say the least. Mike Tyson arrived one hour late… Beforehand, I was told he was in a bad mood. Great. My last interview for The Global Conversation was with UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon, the next is with designer Philippe Starck, both are imposing figures but neither possesses the same slightly unnerving qualities as the self-proclaimed “baddest man on the planet”.
He arrived in a whirlwind, looking gigantic and surrounded by some 30 people. We had a great interview location in a lush velvety auditorium in Monaco’s Sportel complex. Mike Tyson sat on his chair which suddenly looked comically tiny beneath him. Immediately, an equally large member of his entourage, who did not care to introduce himself, read me the Riot Act. I was barred and double barred, from asking Mike Tyson anything about his personal life. Tricky that, as that was what my interview was pretty much all about. After some tense negotiation, supported by Monaco’s extremely helpful press team, we had the green light to go ahead. Phew.
I scanned the room. A young kid, who I think was Tyson’s son, was already sound asleep, stretched out on some of the theatre seats, knocked out by jet lag it seemed. There were also dozens of people, chattering nervously, squeezed onto the seats to the left of the stage out of view of our cameras. I asked Tyson who they were – he said with his signature lisp that he didn’t know – “I just came” he said. The life of the celeb, I suppose.
Silence! 3,2,1 and we lurched into interview mode. It was hard work to begin with as he clearly wished he were somewhere else. I had to coax out answers. But then, out of the blue, after a question from one of our online audience, he loosened up, becoming animated and quite funny telling some anecdotes of his next play in the pipeline “Addicted to Chaos”.
We had been told we had 25 minutes with Mike – but as of about 15, from the corner of my eye I began to notice disgruntled Tyson aides indicating it was time to stop. I did my best to ignore it and continued as Mike was on a roll. But then, wallop! Not literally thankfully. But I asked Mike if he had a mantra in life. His breathing became suddenly loud, I saw his fists clench, and felt my own heartbeat accelerate. And we had been getting on so well! There was an eerie silence accompanied by a hard stare, “maybe”- he said . Ooops – time to change the subject. Thankfully I had a few more viewer questions up my sleeve. It was definitely time to wind down. Mike was in a mood and it was now impossible to ignore the fact that his entourage felt our time was really up – Mike had to move onto his next rendez-vous.
I closed the interview asking Mike if he was at peace with himself. He kept the same steely gaze that made me feel uncomfortable. But then, instead of disappearing when the interview was done, he stayed rather obediently on his undersized chair. So, I took my chance and asked him to sign my copy of his autobiography. In the few seconds it took me to grab the book, Mike’s mood had lifted. He was all smiles and delighted that I was from an area of London he knew and gave me a high five. By then his mystery entourage were ready to hustle him away. Alone on the stage, I felt perplexed. I can’t say I was knocked out by Mike, but rather mentally pummelled.