By David Shapiro

Saturday, July 5, 1997

Tyson is the product
of loveless childhood

There were two sickening things about last Saturday's heavyweight title fight between Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson.

One was the way Tyson ended the fight in disqualification by biting off a hunk of Holyfield's ear. He disgraced himself, boxing and the ideals of athletic sportsmanship.

The other was the way the rest of us so gleefully exulted in Tyson's disgrace. It was as though the public and the sporting press suddenly felt free to direct a hateful stream of unrestrained antipathy at Tyson.

The ear jokes were too easy to pass up. We gathered around the TV to laugh maliciously when Tyson called a press conference to try to apologize his way out of trouble. Tyson is a common street thug, we said. Tyson is a coward. Tyson is a bully.

All true. But most of all, Tyson is the product of an ugly life that has known no love. That is pathetically sad and nothing to exult about.

Children are born without a conscience or set of ethics. We learn these things from the people who love us and earn our trust. They teach us a higher level of being than simple self-preservation and self-gratification.

Tyson grew up fending for himself on the streets of New York with no supportive family love or guidance. He beat up elderly women and stole their money without shame. The juvenile detention facilities in which he landed only taught him more violence.

His boxing skills offered him a different kind of life. He was adopted by legendary trainer Cus D'Amato, who gave him fist first lessons on conducting his life more positively. But D'Amato died before the job was done and left Tyson in the hands of cold businessmen he didn't know or trust.

That led him into the clutches of a gold-digging actress and greedy promoter Don King, who loved only his money. The result was a humiliating divorce in which he was accused of spouse abuse, the loss of his championship to a chump boxer and a rape conviction that put him in prison for three years.

Tyson was welcomed back from prison like a returning hero in some circles. Everybody around him was willing to excuse away his hideous behavior -- as long as he made the big bucks roll in.

And he always could get the money machine rolling because we're so eager to pay to see the uniquely savage way he attacks his opponents. We've had a magnetic attraction to the very thing we now condemn so piously. People who paid $54 to see the Holyfield fight on cable TV are outraged because they didn't pay to see Tyson bite off Holyfield's ear; they paid to see him punch a hole in Holyfield's skull.

None of this is to make excuses for Tyson. His behavior is reprehensible and he deserves harsh punishment. He has passed up too many good chances to make better choices, associate with different people and change his life.

The thing is that Tyson is the most compelling evidence we'll ever see than an emotionally neglected child will grow up to be a dangerous adult with little control of his impulses.

There are thousands of children today growing up without adult love or guidance who will end up unable to form loving relationships or behave responsibly as adults. Most will play out their sordid stories invisibly on the streets, in the prisons and in the family courts.

Tyson's story has played out all too publicly. Let's stop being entertained by its depravity long enough to learn something about the importance of loving adult influence in the lives of our children.

David Shapiro is managing editor of the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at
Volcanic Ash runs every Saturday in the Star-Bulletin.

Previous Volcanic Ash columns

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Community]
[Info] [Letter to Editor] [Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1997 Honolulu Star-Bulletin