Monday, 5 October 2009

Kevin Rooney on Mike Tyson

The following is an interview taken from WWW.TYSONTALK.COM with Kevin Rooney, one of the legendary Cus D’Amatos trainee’s. Rooney answers questions about Mike Tyson. Although the interview was conducted in 2004 it still is very interesting to hear the thoughts and opinions of one of the very few men who ever really knew Mike Tyson. Although it is a long interview, for Tyson fans it is definitely worth reading to the end.
(WARNING: does contain some bad language)

Over the years, 'Iron' Mike Tyson's legion of devoted fans have firmly held on to a tattered thread of hope: To see their beloved fighter resurrect his desire and regain the heavyweight championship for a third time. Along with that hope are the unwavering contentions: 'Mike should return to his roots... If Mike would only take his training seriously... Mike should go back to Kevin Rooney...'

Kevin Rooney. The man who was coached as a fighter and then as a trainer by the legendary Cus D'Amato at his fabled training camp in the Catskill Mountains of New York - and the one who picked up where D'Amato left off in sculpting a young Tyson into one of the most devastating fighters the sport has ever seen.

After D'Amato's death in November 1985, Tyson won his first championship a year later at the age of 20 by annihilating WBC champ Trevor Berbick in 2 rounds. The win made Tyson the youngest heavyweight champ in history and Rooney (at 27 years old), the youngest trainer to have lead a fighter to a world title. Under Rooney's guidance, Tyson earned a record of 24-0; 20 KO's and a unification of the WBA, WBC and IBF titles by blasting his way through such opponents as: James 'Bonecrusher' Smith, Tony Tucker, Larry Holmes, Tony Tubbs and Michael Spinks.

Immediately after Tyson's brutal first round knockout of Spinks in 1988, Rooney was fired. So began Tyson's turbulent and scandalous life both in and out of the ring.

In recent days, there have been confirmed reports that Tyson (50-4; 44 KO's) has resumed light training on his own in Phoenix, Arizona and is expected to fight in the coming months. Currently, Tyson has yet to announce who will be training him.

In this exclusive interview, Fightnews spoke to Rooney to get his perspective on Tyson:

Mike has gone less than one full round in a span of nearly two years (against Clifford Etienne). How difficult will it be for him to shake off the ring rust?
It won't be that difficult. If he's been running and keeping in shape, it won't be a problem. He's been doing this for so long, that it's almost like turning on a light switch. Mike's not going to be as good as he was when he was 20 or 21, but if he gets into shape and gets prepared mentally, he'll still be a very dangerous fighter.

Has Mike ever talked to you about training him again?
No. We've really had no communication. I talked to him on the phone once, you know...'how ya doin,' blah, blah, blah. Last summer, I heard he came up here (Catskill) looking for me. But he knows where I live. My house is still the same. For him not to come to my house... uh, I don't know. You know, I've always believed that you just don't leave people, you stay with the person who brought you to the dance. Mike and I have a long history together and we accomplished a lot in this sport. That's something you just don't walk away from.

If Mike were to ask you to train him again, would you?
If he were to ask me... sure I would. Just so I could try and bring him back to where he once was.

It's been 15 years since you've worked with Mike. Is it too late to pick up where you left off?
No. I don't think so. If he concentrated and really trained hard, it can be done. When we were at the peak, I had Mike sparring 10 rounds everyday... 5 days a week! It was an all out war EVERYDAY. There was none of that one day on and one day off crap. To be a great fighter... you have to spar. You gotta spar everyday, day in and day out, week after week. With Mike, I would spar him up until two or three days before a fight.

One time in Atlantic City, Mike had gotten a bloody nose and Jimmy (Jacobs) wanted me to stop the sparring. I told Jimmy 'What the fuck? If he gets a bloody nose in the fight, you want me to stop the fight then too?!' Then, Jimmy understood exactly what I meant. Another time in Vegas, Mike got a little cut over his eye a few days before a fight. But, the cut didn't re-open because he would move his head.

Another thing, ever since he left me, Mike stopped moving his head. All of his trainers after me, weren't in his mind like I was in his mind. I was raised by Cus and I think Mike had respect for me and he knew what I was telling him, was the right thing. The average person doesn't know what it takes to become a great fighter. It takes constant discipline and repetition. Boxing is 80% mental and 20% physical. Anyone can get in physical shape.

Since your departure as Mike's coach in 1988, very few trainers have been able to motivate him and keep him in the gym. Why do you think that is?
Mike didn't respect those guys. He knows more than them... and he knows it too. Those trainers that he's had, they don't know anything! Mike couldn't pull that shit with me. When it came to style, technique and all that, he couldn't go head to head with me. When he had those other guys, they didn't know what to tell him! My work with Mike had made the phrase 'Move your head' common now. But, there is much more to it than someone just saying 'Move your head.' When I say 'Move your head', there's a system. There's a secret behind that. Cus was very secretive. He always wanted to keep things secret for his own fighters.

Could Mike be so confident in his abilities that it just makes him lazy?
No. All fighters have a tendency to be lazy. Because Mike has had no guidance since he left me, he just does what he wants! His mind set is 'I'm the man.' But, a lot of fighters get like that. They forget the training that was there when they were just a little pup. Mike won't listen to anybody! If he felt he was in shape and needed to take off 5 or 10 pounds, he would just dry out. When I had Mike, he worked out. There was no need to dry out! He work out hard! That's what made him the best fighter and youngest heavyweight champion in the world.

Two weeks before his fight with Etienne, Mike got a tattoo on his face. What did you think about that?
That's just Mike being impulsive... and silly.

In June, Mike turns 38 years old. Since he's not a beat up fighter, how many more years do you think he has left?
Maybe one or two. Mike should get out because I think he lost his desire to fight. Once you lose your desire, you should get out. Right now, he's just fighting for the money. But on the other hand, there really is no one out there. The heavyweight division is wide open for him. Mike still has punching power and when you still have power, you're always dangerous.

What is your opinion of the heavyweight division and the future of boxing in general?
The future of boxing doesn't look good. When was the last time the American's really did something in the Olympics? It was in 1976! All those boys were kickin' ass back then! Now, we've got nothing coming out of the Olympics. And, you know something... part of that problem is because we're the only major league sport, whose minor league has a different set of rules. Baseball, Football, Basketball... you name it. They all have the same rules in their amateur and pro leagues! Boxing is the only sport who does things differently! But, nothing is coming out of the amateurs and that's why we're in the tailspin that we're in right now. It's THAT, and the greedy promoters who've ruined the sport.

As far as the heavyweight division now, it sucks! Boxing through the 50's and 70's was where it was at. Guys like Tyson, Frazier, Ali, Liston, Foreman and Marciano were killers! Today... you've got the Klitschko brothers and Joe Mesi. So what! They'll never make great champions because they are too gentleman-like. They're not killers! Fighters in the 70's and earlier were looking to take your head off! Also, Chris Byrd... who wants to see him fight? He doesn't knock anybody out and he doesn't LOOK to knock anybody out either. He just looks to survive! He's nothing special... with all that running around and tap, tap, tap shit he does.

Mike's fight against Lennox Lewis. What did you think?
Mike wasn't in shape. If he had gotten in shape he would have beaten Lewis. But he quit against Lewis. That whole fight sucked! Lewis didn't do anything great or spectacular! He hit Mike with a couple of shots and Mike got a couple of cuts. Then, Mike tried to quit in the corner, but they sent him out. After that, Mike just laid down. He could have knocked Lewis out if he had only trained.

In that fight, Mike took a heck of a beating - the worst of his entire career. Do you think it affected him?
Nah! Mike quit! He gave up! He was just in it for a payday!

Although there have been many, in which fight do you think Mike threw his best punch? A punch that surprised even you!
The Spinks punch was pretty good. Mike hit him on the chin and put him in La-La Land. Although, that was expected because Spinks was a little nervous. But, Spinks grabbed his 13 million and got the hell out of there and retired. But, the Trevor Berbick punch... THAT was the best! He knocked Trevor down three times with one punch! That was a hell of a punch. That was the best one!

Cus D'Amato. If he could see how Mike's career turned out, what would he say?
Well, I gotta answer that in two ways. Number one: If Cus had stayed alive, it never would have happened. Number two: I think Cus would be very disappointed. He would have thought 'Dammit, I didn't have enough time to teach Mike.' And, I believe that. Cus and Mike were together for almost 5 years and it took Cus almost 2 years to get Mike's trust. Once Cus got that trust, Mike started to go through everybody in the amateurs. Then, when Cus died after Mike's 11th pro fight, he told Jimmy and Bill 'Let's prove Cus right.' There was no greater mind in boxing than Cus D'Amato. Nobody!

Even Ali sought Cus's advice. No?
Right! He did that before his fight with George Foreman. Cus told Ali: 'George doesn't respect your punch, so go out there and nail him!' If you watch the fight, you see in the first two rounds, Ali plants himself and nails Foreman hard with a straight hand - right on the button! You can see the surprise in Foreman's eyes! With 30 seconds left in the rounds, Ali would open up on Foreman. So, after every fuckin' round, George is going back to his corner and they're telling him Ali can't punch! That was the psychology and Cus saw that. After the rope-a-dope, Foreman was tired and he more or less gave up.

Fighters who are big punchers usually have problems with their hands. Did Mike have hand problems? Was it ever a concern for you as his trainer?
Mike never had any broken bones or knuckles. He never had any type of hand problems when I was working with him. One time he had a problem with his thumb, but he got that in a street fight with Mitch Green.

Speaking of Mitch 'Blood' Green, he was the first man never to touch the canvas against Mike. Did Mike have a problem with Green's style or did he underestimate him?
It was Green's style. All Green was doing was counterpunching. He wasn't leading. Green fought a defensive fight and didn't look to engage. He only looked to survive. Mike beat the fuck outta him! When you got a guy who's 6'4", that doesn't want to lead or exchange, he's hard to fight - and he's definitely hard to knock out. Also, Mitch has always been pissed off about his situation with Don King. That's what lead to that street fight in Harlem in front of that clothing store. Green took a slug at Mike and Mike blasted him.

What do you think prompted Mike to bite Holyfield?
I believe Mike bit him because Holyfield kept head butting him. Holyfield is a very dirty fighter and no one ever talks about that! He's very slick with those dirty tactics. Even George Foreman said that Holyfield was the dirtiest fighter he ever fought. But in that fight, it all started when Holyfield threw Mike up against the ropes and came in with his head! He cut Mike. And, Holyfield kept on doing it throughout the fight! People have to realize that the atmosphere in that fight was really charged up. If you look closely, Mike nibbled on his ear before he actually bit him. It was almost like a warning to Holyfield to stop head butting. Of course, it was wrong for Mike to do that. But back in the old days, stuff like that used to happen all the time.

When I was coming up, Cus showed me some tricks and how to get away with them. Cus was from the 20's and he knew every dirty trick in the book! He showed me how to hold a guy a certain way... come in with your head... put your elbow under his chin... put a thumb in the guys eye... hit a guy low... knee him in the groin, things like that. When you're in close, you can do those things and get away with it. It's hard for the referee to see things like that. In a fight, it's an all out war. Although there are rules and you try to stay within those rules, fighters... like Holyfield, do try to break those rules.

It's been said that Holyfield had the perfect style to beat Mike. How would you have coached him against Holyfield?
I would have sent Mike right after him. Get right in Holyfield's face! AND, move his head more. That was Mike's main ingredient. Moving his head. It made him difficult to fight. When a fighter throws a punch at another fighter, and it doesn't land, he becomes more cautious and won't throw that same punch. The guy gets confused. That's when a guy like Mike, who's moving his head, can land his punches and knock the guy out. If Mike had the proper training, with me in his corner, he would have knocked Holyfield out. There is no question about it.

Mike's loss to Buster Douglas. Many people were saddened to see him on the canvas struggling to grab his mouthpiece. What did you think of that fight?
I wasn't saddened because I saw it coming. But, I was saddened when I saw Mike's next fight after Spinks, eight months later. He fought Frank Bruno (their first fight) and his skills had already become diminished. I could tell he wasn't training like he should. If Bruno could fight, he would have knocked Mike out that night. Bruno landed a punch that buckled Mike, but Bruno didn't know what to do after that! When I saw that, I knew it wouldn't be long before he got knocked out. For me, that was sad... to see Mike's skills start to unravel.

But for Douglas, the minute I saw Mike walk into the ring, I knew he wasn't in shape. I saw the fat. He wasn't ripped. I just KNEW he was partying it up in Japan before that fight. They really like to party over there in Japan. Believe me! I found that out when we went over to Japan the year before to fight (Tony) Tubbs. But, we had to refrain until AFTER the fight. It was a long plane ride over there, something like 14 hours. When we got there, Mike slept for a while and then I woke him up for a 3 mile run. Then, he would go to the gym and he worked out hard. There was no fooling around before the Tubbs fight!

Two weeks before the Douglas fight, I heard Mike weighed 250 and had to take off 30 pounds. So, he dehydrated and starved himself. In the first few rounds, Douglas came out throwing a few jabs and you could see that he was nervous. But, he was throwing punches and Mike wasn't! If I had been in Mike's corner that night, I would have said: 'Look Mike, you came all the way over here and all you did was party. You've only got 3 or 4 rounds in you and you better throw EVERYTHING you've got. If you don't knock him out in that time, I'm throwing in the towel.' If Mike had done that, he could have knocked Douglas out. But, he didn't. He let a scared fighter get brave. Once you do that, you've got problems. Brave fighters don't go back to being scared. So, as the rounds went on... Douglas got confident! And when Douglas got knocked on his ass, he punched the canvas and got up. The next round, he beat the hell out of Mike... and then stopped him.

Which fights do you feel were the best performances of Mike's career?
Oh! There were many! When he went 10 rounds with James Tillis. It was his first 10 round fight. Before that, he was knocking guys out in less than 6 rounds. Another one was the fight with Mitch (Green). Mike beat Tony Tucker in a 12 round decision, EASY. He destroyed Tyrell Biggs, EASY. He knocked out Larry Holmes, EASY. Then it was Tubbs and then Spinks - EASY. Mike was on the road to greatness. In his first fight without me, he looked terrible against Bruno. Then he fought (Carl) Williams in a controversial stoppage. And then came the Douglas fight. So, all I have to say is... look at Mike's record before and after me.

Mike's rape conviction. Many people feel it was a set up. Your thoughts?
Definitely a set up! How the hell are you gonna get a TAX attorney to defend you in a RAPE case?! Just before that happened, the rumour was that Mike was going to leave King and go with Harold Smith. That whole thing just didn't add up. So... who knows.

Mike could have gone down as the greatest heavyweight ever. He could have been undefeated in 100 fights! But, he surrounded himself with lowlifes and jerk-offs and everyone was having a party with his money. Mike was making a ton of money because of Jimmy and Bill (Cayton). They are the ones who got Mike 20 million to fight Michael Spinks! It was the biggest purse ever at the time. He made 10 million to fight Tony Tubbs in Japan and Mike was making commercials for millions of dollars. Then, Mike marries Robin (Givens) and King steals him away. Mike can't sit around and say 'Cus never told me!' That's all bullshit! Mike had the BEST team! You don't go from the BEST to the WORST and then try to play naive! It's Mike's fault and his fault alone.

You know, Mike hurt himself and stabbed me and Bill in the back when he went with King. But, Mike was wooed away by King and I understand that. Mike should have just stayed with the people who brought him to the top. But, he chose to go with King. Mike blew it. He had a great run. But, he got suckered when he went with King and he should have known better. Now... Mike is suing him for 100 million dollars! You go figure it.





Marks
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16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Truly insightful article of raw honesty, it makes me truly saddened when I think how he left the people who truly loved him for those who pretended to and it ruined him.

Anonymous said...

just like cus, rooney loved mike like a son. it is clear that those two really cared for tyson.

Anonymous said...

The introduction to the interview contains a mistake. It reads "Under Rooney's guidance, Tyson earned a record of 24-0; 20 KO's." The correct record with Rooney was 35-0; 31 KO's.

Anonymous said...

Indeed Tyson gained 24 victories exclusively with Rooney, after the death of his legendary mentor and father figure Cus, but Tyson had trained with Rooney since the begining of this proffesional career.

Darius Denzel Wesley said...

I wish i could have kevin rooney as my trainer right now mike had alot of good oppertunity's but wasted them i am a teenager 14 and in boxing and if i was blessed with a great trainer like rooney for me to be under his wing i would be the greatest

Anonymous said...

@Darius: Mike wasted opportunities? Yeah by getting rid of Rooney. Givens (with orders from King) persuaded Mike to get an all-black corner by firing Bill & Kev after the Spinks fight. Then Tyson signed up with King, all to plan. You wouldn't be the greatest, are you blessed with the body of a god and natural ability? Hell go to Catskil and join Rooney's gym, it's still free membership like it was when Cus ran it! I think you'll find that you will never be anywhere close to Tyson's level, plain and simple. You honestly are deluded if you think a great trainer can make anyone great, the person must be inheritantly genetically great. Cus waited for years before Floyd walked through the doors and then years more for Torres. After Tyson, Rooney made only Vinny Paz into a champion and chances are Vinny has considerably more natural ability than yourself, sorry kid.

Anonymous said...

Darius don't listen to that idiot. You are you and tyson is tyson. A great trainer can help you bring out your best if he/she can inspire you to do that and the the other part of the pie is you. Cus was a genius and his method is fool proof if you follow the formula. Yeah Rooney had Pazienza but he obvious trained somewhere else before because he wasn't really that good doing the peek a boo style. Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

He said he'd be the greatest boxer ever with a great trainer and i'm the idiot? Yeah I was perhaps too negative in my speech and indeed with a quality trainer teaching the peak-boo-style he could bring out his best if he trains extremely hard and has supreme discipline. And I already knew that Vinny hadn't always been with Rooney, and indeed he needed Kevin's training to push his abilities further and capture the title, but he was a natural fighter. Hey best of luck to the kid, I was just offended by his premise that he can do better than Tyson, considering the unmatchable dominance Tyson had in the division with his old team. Fighters like Tyson and Patterson are ultra-rare talents, I just question why this kid believes he has the ability to perform the peek-a-boo system to their top level. At least he has a tonne of confidence, i'll give him that.

Anonymous said...

Tyson should of just stayed with his trainers that brought him to the top. Its so sad to see the greatest heavyweight champion ruin his own life on stupid decisions.Imagine if cus was 10 years younger in the 80s. Regardless, Mike Tyson is still the greatest boxer ever.

Anonymous said...

Tyson had trouble with Holyfield in 1984. Shortly before turning pro they would spar and Holyfield was pounding Tyson, so Cus jumped in and stopped the match. Tyson beat a bunch of bums in his career and lost to the 2 great fighters of the era (Holyfield & Lewis).

hamza said...

no matter what ne1 says tyson cud hav been the greatest of all time holyfield lewis buster williams mcbride never beat the real tyson and they on it

scotty said...

Mike Tyson was the best ever he made mistakes but had he stayed with Kevin Rooney he would have koed Lewis holyfield earlier Douglas wouldn't have gone 2 rounds!

e.k said...

Lewis vs Tyson was a dull fight, lewis clinched and leaned on him the whole fight. Lewis couldn't beat an in-form Tyson.

nattmaczon@gmail.com said...

When I went to the Tyson-Tubbs weigh-in, I wanted to tell Tyson then to never give up the Camp he has now (Kevin Rooney Cus Camp) But something told me that he might look at me and say who da Fuck are you to tell me that? And then knock my Ass Da Fuck Out. Hahahahaha... Plus I was there rooting for Tubbs my Home Boy.

Anonymous said...

Rooney was no Cus. Let's be real. Every fight Tyson had after Cus Tyson looked worse.

Anonymous said...

hindsight is a wonderful thing...but lets be honest Mike was married to a hot women (Givens)and had $50 million in the bank. How would he have stayed motivated with all that cream? Do you know why Mike left Bill Cayton? Because he could.

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