Boxing icon Mike Tyson wows appreciative Golden Gloves crowd – Lowell Sun

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March 10,2022 – Former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson is the special guest at final night of New England Golden Gloves. From left, Golden Gloves Executive Director Bob Russo, Tyson, former world boxing champion Mickey Ward, Lowell Mayor Sokhary Chau, and Lowell Sun Charities president Kevin Coughlin. (SUN/Julia Malakie)

LOWELL — Bruce Springsteen performed songs there. Robin Williams told jokes there.

The Lowell Memorial Auditorium was also where the likes of Rocky Marciano and Marvin Hagler threw punches years before they became world boxing champions.

But in the 100-year history of the Auditorium, the roar created at 7:11 p.m. Thursday was at another level.

When Mike Tyson stepped into the ring on the final night of the 75th annual Golden Gloves tournament, it wouldn’t surprise anybody in the standing-room-only crowd of 3,000 if the noise produced a 2.6 reading on the Richter scale and caused the nearby Concord River to surge.

“We love you Mike!” one fan yelled from the balcony.

This was an event. Tyson, who became the youngest world heavyweight boxing champion at age 20, is now 55. But he’s still one the most famous men in the world and the East Merrimack Street building nearly shook from the applause.

Tyson was in the ring for eight minutes. He received a key to the city and a commemorative plaque from Mayor Sokhary Chau. Standing a few feet away was Lowell’s favorite boxing son, Micky Ward, a former world champion himself.

Also in the ring were Bob Russo, the executive director of the Golden Gloves, and Kevin Coughlin, the president of Lowell Sun Charities, which stages the tournament each year.

Cellphones lit the near-dark arena as Tyson basked in the applause prior to the final night of this year’s tournament.

A few minutes earlier, Tyson visited the fighters in the locker room area before they fought for New England championships. The winners would go on to nationals and their eyes became as big as Frisbees when Tyson spoke.

Earlier, about 100 people crammed into the cafeteria room at the Auditorium for a 15-minute press conference.

“I’m definitely humbled by this,” Tyson said, his eyes scanning the room.

Tyson, a troubled kid from rural New York, won the 1983 New England Golden Gloves heavyweight crown in Lowell. He doesn’t remember much about his first visit to Lowell.

“I wanted to win so bad,” he said. “When I didn’t win I would cry all the way back to the Catskills, New York. I just wanted to do well. I wanted to be like Marvin Hagler and some of the great fighters who fought here. It takes a lot of courage to even become a fighter.”

Tyson seemed to expect a smaller crowd during the prefights event.

“I don’t care how big a fighter you are, this is very humbling,” he said.

Tyson hasn’t fought a real fight in the ring since 2005. But he still carries a large presence. Politicians. Business leaders. It didn’t matter who they were. When Tyson walked into the room, all eyes were on him.

He still looks powerful enough to step into the ring, though his beard carries plenty of gray these days.

Young people know him more from his role in the 2009 hit comedy “The Hangover” than for his legendary boxing career. He’s OK with that. In fact, he seems to relish being known for more than just his pugilistic skills.

Tyson had plenty of run-ins with the law as a teenager. His problems continued into adulthood. He was found guilty of rape and sent to prison in 1992. He was released after serving less than three years.

Tyson has tried to rehab his image. Asked if he’s found happiness, he said, “Where’s that?” before explaining that his family seems happy, so he’s happy.

Who was his toughest fight against?

Wasting no time, he answered, “me,” drawing laughter from the audience.

Tyson said he likes returning to the Boston area.

“Boston is aggressive. It’s a really good thing,” he said.

He had two connections to Lowell prior to Thursday’s visit. He was the New England champion in 1983. Also, his first fight as a professional, in 1985 in Albany, N.Y., was against a boxer from Lowell, Hector Mercedes, who lasted all of 1 minute and 47 seconds.

“I didn’t know he was from Lowell, Mass.,” Tyson said. “I was real nervous.”

The Golden Gloves was Tyson’s second stop in Lowell on Thursday.

At 3:35 p.m., he walked into Cannabist, a dispensary on Industrial Avenue. The place got quiet. Employees looked at one another. Mike Tyson was in the building. For real.

Minutes later, wearing a scally cap, a red turtleneck, jeans and sneakers, Tyson walked into 44-degree sunshine to wild applause.

When he returned inside, The Sun conducted a 15-minute interview with Tyson and Adam Wilks, the CEO of Tyson 2.0.

“I’m the King of Cannabis. The Weed Warrior,” joked Tyson, who went by several nicknames — notably “Iron Mike” — during his legendary boxing career.

Turning serious, Tyson said cannabis products are part of his daily life and that he has a real passion for promoting the year-old company.

“I use it for life purposes,” he said. “It’s changed me and done so much for me. My word is my appearance. I travel because I believe in the product.”

“Mike is as authentic as you get,” Wilks said. “Mike is the real deal.”

Tyson 2.0 products are sold in 18 states, with another three nearly on board, and an international deal was just signed.

After the interview, he met with a small group which included Ward, a friend who he first met when both were fighting at the 1983 Golden Gloves.

Looking ahead three hours, Ward was excited to see the Auditorium sold out.

“It’s a good thing for the city. It’s good for the kids at the Gloves to see someone who’s done so much for boxing,” Ward said. “For the kids to see that is inspiring to them.”

Tyson knocked out Jim Bisson in just 42 seconds to advance to the 1983 heavyweight final. The fighter he was supposed to meet in the final, Jim Rayborn, forfeited. He said his knee was too injured to fight.

“I was so accustomed to that,” Tyson said with a smile.

Told of Rayborn’s decision, Ward got off a great line when he said Rayborn came down with “knee-monia” in order to avoid having to face Tyson

Told about Ward’s comment, Tyson howled in laughter.

“Knee-monia!” he roared.

Tyson has a loud laugh. But it doesn’t compare to the avalanche of noise which greeted his arrival in the ring later that day.

A historic ovation on a historic night.

March 10,2022 – Former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson is guest at final night of New England Golden Gloves. Lowelll Police Officer Mindy Dower helps Tyson through the crowd after his appearance. (SUN/Julia Malakie)
March 10,2022 – Former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson is guest at final night of New England Golden Gloves. Mike Tyson speaks at a news conference before Golden Gloves. (SUN/Julia Malakie)
March 10,2022 – Former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson is guest at final night of New England Golden Gloves. Tyson poses for photos after the news conference, with Bob Russo at left and Lowell Mayor Sokhary Chau at right. (SUN/Julia Malakie)
March 10,2022 – Former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson is guest at final night of New England Golden Gloves. Tyson poses for photos after the news conference, with Micky Ward at right. (SUN/Julia Malakie)
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