For a long time, Mike Tyson was my favourite heavyweight of all time and Cus D’Amato my favourite trainer. 

I can’t think of many other fighters who can match the explosive speed, power and accuracy he possessed in his pre-prison pomp.

In terms of boxing technique and style, he is still my favourite boxer to watch (which is, of course, thanks to D’Amato).

Everything Tyson did was intimidating; from his lifestyle outside the ring, to the way he’d enter without a robe, dripping with sweat and deadly focussed.

In contrast, Cus D’Amato was a scholar of the sport, obsessed with the psychology of fear and how it could be harnessed.

Where I get confused with Tyson though, is with him as a person, his history and the role D’Amato played here.

The documentary Tyson portrays Iron Mike to have been a victim of circumstance his whole life, rescued from the mean streets of Brooklyn by Cus D’Amato.

D’Amato recognised Tyson’s potential and, under his tutorship, civilised him and laid the foundations for his career.

Tyson was devastated when he died and lost one of the few positive figures to enter his life.

This story is easy to buy into and makes Tyson’s behaviour during his reign a lot more palatable.

The loss of the main influence for good in Tyson’s life is used to explain how he went so far off the rails when he did find success. With no one left to guide him, his irresponsible actions after becoming champion are easier to justify.

If you read Teddy Atlas’ account (one of Tyson’s former trainers with Cus), you’ll be painted an entirely different picture, one in which D’Amato’s influence on Tyson is viewed as somewhat malign.

Atlas felt D’Amato spoiled Tyson.

He says Cus let him get away with murder in his early years, not to save Tyson from himself, but for the prestige of training another heavyweight champion, the youngest that ever existed.

Had he been harder on Tyson, he may have instilled a sense of discipline that would help him handle the pressure of being the champion.

This begs the question as what would have happened had Cus D’Amato lived to guide Tyson through his years as a champion and whether or not he would have saved him from himself?

There is no doubt that Cus D’Amato helped Tyson, as he did countless other. It is not, however, as black and white as it is sometimes portrayed.

It’s very possible that the nature of Tyson’s boxing style meant his career would always be short-lived, but that’s another debate entirely.

That’s how I feel about Mike Tyson anyway. My new gloves arrived today so I’m looking forward to putting them through their paces on the bag tomorrow night.

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