The Terminal 2 of Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport was abuzz in the wee hours of Friday. And for good reason at that, for someone special was touching down for the first time in India.
A large group of fans waited with bated breath to catch one glimpse of a familiar face who they must have seen a millions of times in the boxing ring. And a while after the Air China flight landed, out came The Baddest Man on the Planet — Mike Tyson.
It was not an easy exit for the most celebrated, cherished and controversial man in the boxing world, though. He had to wrestle his way from the arrival arena towards his car, with the packed crowd flashing camera phones and screaming chants of ‘Tyson, Tyson’ along with the media personnel.
It needed Bollywood star Salman Khan’s personal bodyguard — Shera – to ensure a smooth exit for the American boxing superstar.
Almost about 12 hours later, Tyson’s entry into his first press conference in India — to announce the launch of Kumite 1 League — was as stylish as his arrival at the airport.
He might have arrived a couple of hours later than the scheduled time, but it didn’t matter. He was Tyson, after all.
And, the wait was worth it, as the man with a record 50 victories in the boxing ring dished out some words of wisdom that were as memorable as his fights.
While Tyson is in the city for India’s first mixed martial art league — Kumite 1 League – that will be held on Saturday, he did not shy away from expressing his desire to visit Mumbai’s slums.
Slums was where Tyson grew up in, overcoming the biggest and baddest of odds to become the king of the boxing ring.
“I think the poorer you are, the better boxer you are,” Tyson said.
“The most successful fighters have come from slums. All the fighters who come from the slums are successful. All the current top fighters are from the slums,” Tyson said when asked about his intentions of visiting Dharavi, Asia’s biggest slums, during his current visit.
Tyson’s life has more to it than just his glorious boxing journey. After a dramatic start to his career and rapid rise to stardom, he had served a prison term after being convicted of rape quite early in his career.
“I am a slumdog. I grew up in a slum. I had the ambition to get out of the slums and that’s why I am here. If someone works hard, they can get out of the slums. I still go back to see my friends in my old neighbourhood. They still call it a slum,” he added.
Not just slums, Tyson has other plans in India too. “I want to see the Taj Mahal as well,” Tyson said.
On his first visit to the country, Tyson was also excited about watching some top mixed martial artists battle each other on Saturday night.
“I am very excited to be here. This is my first time in India. This is something I never dreamed of before. I am a big fan of MMA. I go to UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) in Las Vegas all the time,” added.
Asked if he would have participated in MMA if it existed during his professional boxing days, pat came the reply from Tyson. “I don’t know. They don’t pay a lot of money in MMA … I would not have worked without money,” he said as the audience burst into a laughter.
For Tyson, Anthony Joshua is currently the bext boxer in the heavyweight category. “I think it’s Joshua right now. It’s going to be an interesting fight between Joshua and (Deontay) Wilder,” he said.
Even as the India-Bangladesh Asia Cup match was being screened in one of the television sets in the media room, Tyson was asked whether he follows cricket. “I know cricket. I know you hit the ball with a stick. It’s a bit like baseball in a way,” he said.
Top fighters will wrestle out in India’s first global mixed martial arts Kumite 1 League at the NSCI Dome in Worli, Mumbai on Saturday evening. MMA fighters from around the world will compete with each other in a team format. 24 athletes will be representing Team India and Team UAE in the Fight Night. “Its launch of the league on Saturday. We will raise the bar next year. This year we are having India and UAE contest, next year we plan to take it to the US, Europe in different part of cities. Mike Tyson liked the format too where country takes on country unlike the usual where in MMA individuals take on each other,” said Mohammed Ali Budhwani, promoter of Kumite 1 League.