Mike Tyson and Charles Barkley have more in common than you may think. Both men were undersized yet excelled in sports designed to benefit size. Tyson at 5'10 became the shortest heavyweight champion in the last 20 years using a ferocious attitude and glaring intimidation. He was also the shortest to hold the Ring Heavyweight Championship since his days as the baddest man on the planet.
Barkley was undersized to even play small forward in the NBA, and even more dramatically so, to play power forward at which he excelled by using a ferocious attitude and glaring intimidation. At 6'4 Barkley was the shortest player to ever lead the league in rebounding.
The American public had a love/hate relationship with Sir Charles and Iron Mike. It may all be tacos and golf swings for the man most now regard as an ambassador of the league. A tell-it-like-it-is former great who still gets paid as an endorser. But while Charles has always been the center of attention, very often he has been the center of the storm also. He has elicited hate as easily as he has elicited laughs.
Barkley was as famous for his run-a-way mouth as he was for his run-ins with the law and expressing no remorse. His many arrests and assaults made him loom even larger than his hefty frame. After breaking a man's nose, following an evening out at a nightclub, a reporter asked Charles what happened, Barkley replied, the guy was big "but he couldn't’t take a punch and he was a bleeder." After throwing another nightclub patron through a window, Charles was asked if he had any regrets, Barkley answered, "I threw that guy out the window, I regret I was on the first floor."
Remember Barkley posing on the cover of Sports Illustrated in chains? He said it was to bring attention to the struggle of non-athlete blacks. Many questioned his judgement and his motives. In 1995 he answered an obtrusive question with, "that's why I hate fucking white people." He went hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt to several casinos, and has been linked to the philandering downfall of Tiger Woods. Barkley has also had a arrested for a DUI while allegedly soliciting a prostitute.
Similarly, Mike was arrested for his famous fight with Mitch "Blood" Green and like Barkley has accumulated several battery charges. He's had his DUI also and a drug possession charge. He once threatened a reporter calling him a "little white pussy."
Yes, the big difference is Tyson's 1992 rape conviction. No, Barkley does not have anything as horrific as a rape conviction, but to some, Tyson may not have even done anything as horrific as rape.
And the public has an almost infinite willingness to forgive and even forget or even not acknowledge. Jerome Bettis' charges have been forgotten. Kobe's charges has been forgiven. The King of Tots aren't even acknowledged. Jackson has even been revered after his death, and Kobe has many of his commercials back. So, it is not without reason that either HBO or Showtime could get past Tyson's past.
Yes, the difference is allegations versus conviction. Yes, those are as different as Ricky Hatton and Ricky Martin. And this is not meant to diminish the despicableness of any violent crime against a woman, but if that case had been handled the way celebs now handle issues with the law... Kobe, Roethlisberger, OJ, the outcome very well could have been very different.
So to the man who "penned" the book, Who's Afraid of a Large Black Man?, and the large black man everyone was afraid of, have found themselves in a similar light. And now Barkley is viewed as the greatest thing to happen to in-studio analysis since analysis began in studios. The round mound of sound is the voice of the NBA. He's renownedly accepted as honest, knowledgeable and sharp-tongued. He entertains without losing credibility. And Tyson could not only analyse but he could do color, so very colorfully. Just ask him, "I probably have a 20,000-word vocabulary. I'll match my wits with anyone on literature, science and the arts." (Tyson, Mike)
With Lennox Lewis gone there is at least one seat available. And the seat is not too big to fill. Would Tyson turn anyone off enough to turn off? It's doubtful. Would he attract the curious, sell a few more subscriptions a month? You bet. Would his clips be favorites on youtube? You bet. Can you picture Mike in the middle of the ring interviewing a victorious or vanquished fighter? You wish.
Just seeing how Mike would handle the hanger-ons that forced Larry Merchant to threaten to end an in-ring interview would make it appointment TV. And more importantly, by all accounts Iron Mike is an iron clad historian. So it would not all be about shock value or just outrageousness. Sure, one minute he may say something inane, but the next sentence can be so simple, yet deep enough to make a philosophy professor jot it down, "the act of treachery is an art, but the traitor himself is a piece of shit." (Tyson, Mike)
If Barkley can be as big as he is. By far the most popular person associated with the NBA, not in the NBA. Mike could boost a sport he once carried. And the sport could boost the man that once carried it. Put Mike ringside. He can make the uncompelling, compelling, the ordinary, extreme. As people once set their VCRs to insure they could replay his knockouts. People would set their DVRs to insure they could replay his comments like, "he was trying to scrutinize with my brain." (Tyson, Mike)
HBO or Showtime, let Mike scrutinize with his own brain for the boxing world's enjoyment.