The former “Baddest Man on the Planet” added to his list of bizarre public appearances with another unrestrained interview, this one courtesy of Matt Lauer of the “Today Show” who sought to find out more about Tyson’s recent admission that he’s still grappling with substance abuse issues and is “on the verge of dying.” Tyson uttered those words last Friday at a post-fight press conference for his initial venture as a boxing promoter, admitting he’s just been sober for six days.
Tyson visited that theme again on Thursday’s “Today Show” in a segment that was taped in Las Vegas with the two facing each other just a few inches apart and Tyson sometimes leaning over, as if trying to peer at Lauer’s notes.
“When I start drinking and I relapse, I think of dying,” Tyson told Lauer, in a piece that was taped on Wednesday. “When I’m in a real dark mood, I think of dying. And I don’t want to be around no more. I won’t survive unless I get help.”
Lauer’s interview with Tyson was heavily hyped on “Today,” with teases sandwiched between segments on the growing crisis in Syria and news of Valerie Harper’s ongoing battle with terminal cancer.
“I’ve been sober 12 days now and it’s tough,” Tyson said in his first public comments since Friday. “I’m mean and irritable.” Later, he spoke of his difficulties, abstaining from drugs and alcohol. “Yes, it’s a real challenge because I don’t know if I like this sober guy,” Tyson said. “It’s hard for me to live normal – straight is hard.” The interview with Lauer came on the heels of Tyson’s stunning comments on Friday that he still struggles with substance abuse issues. “I’m on the verge of dying because I’m a vicious alcoholic,” Tyson said at the post-fight press conference at the Turning Stone Resort in upstate New York. “I haven’t drank or took drugs in six days, and for me that’s a miracle. I’ve been lying to everybody else that think I was sober, but I’m not.”
The media in attendance later rose to give him a standing ovation when Tyson told them he would never use again.
“No one’s failed more than I did,” Tyson said, choking up to Lauer. “I’m a king of the barbarians. There’s no one that could surpass me in the pain that I’ve endured. I can deal with it. I can handle it.”
In the interview’s most revealing moment, Lauer asked Tyson why he has never taken responsibility for his 1992 rape conviction that led to a three-year prison sentence in an Indiana prison. “I don’t think I have to make amends to that because I’ve done nothing,” Tyson said. “I really didn’t do anything to her. I didn’t rape her. I didn’t beat her. I didn’t do anything to her and I’m not going to make amends. I already made amends to myself. But to her, no.”
Tyson said he’s been able to put that episode behind him. “I’m at peace with myself pretty much,” Tyson said.
While Tyson is always raw and uninhibited, Lauer’s interview on Thursday lacked the visceral punch that his grilling of Alex Rodriguez attorney Joseph Tacopina had earlier this month on the show. In that one-on-one, Lauer surprised Tacopina with a letter from Major League Baseball in which the league said it was willing to waive the confidentiality clause in the Joint Drug Agreement to allow Rodriguez to discuss his drug testing history.
No such moment took place on Thursday.
“He is in complete conflict in his own mind,” Lauer said on Thursday on air of his segment. “You heard him contradict himself: He said I’m at peace with myself but earlier in the interview he said he can’t live with the guy he is and doesn’t know how much longer he’ll be alive. So there is an awful lot going on inside his mind and I think sometimes it confuses even him.”
Outside of giving the public a glimpse of Tyson’s struggles, the segment on “Today” also served as a promotional vehicle for Tyson’s many undertakings, such as his upcoming docu-series on Fox Sports 1 “Being: Mike Tyson” and his forthcoming HBO special, “Undisputed Truth,” which is a demo of his one-man play. While Lauer mentioned both projects, he chose not to bring up his own appearance on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” last year in which he poked fun of Tyson by sporting a fake facial tattoo in a humorous bit.