Updated: Sep 5, 2020
I will never forget this day because it was a day I didn't want to work. I'm almost sure it was a Holiday weekend, like 4th of July or a day very festive on the beach. I remember because the gym was empty all day, and I was the only one working. I was the low man on the totem pole so of course the other guys took the day off. I just did what I could to stay busy in the gym even with little to no workouts, and for sure no guests. As the day was winding down, sun went down, we were closing early on Sundays, maybe 8pm or 9pm. I was closing things down, turning off computers, and counting money, normal closing procedures when a man walked in.
A large black man came in the gym as I was closing. He was in sweats, normal gym shoes, and was unshaven, a bit scruffy honestly. I didn't think much of it, just that I didn't want to get into a long conversation because I was young, it was a Holiday, and I wanted to go catch up with my friends. My first impression was maybe this guy wants to workout, and I'm going to have to tell him sorry we are closed. He was very friendly guy, we spoke a bit, and he asked if he could train a high profile person at the gym. I said sir, we only have in house trainers, no independent trainers, however if you tell me who the high profile guy is I may be able to get authorization. At this point, I was a sales person, with limited pull, I would have to ask the Owner. If my memory is right, I believe the guy's name was Carlos. Anyway, he said Mike Tyson, and we want to train tomorrow at 4am. I said we open at 5am, he said, well thanks anyway. I said, without contacting anyone, no problem, I will be here at 4am tomorrow, and I will open early for you guys. He said, thanks, see you tomorrow, and left.
Now I have a million things going through my mind, the first thing is how big a fan I was and still am of Mike Tyson. I was a gym boxer, had some amateur fights, and loved the sport. Not only loved the sport but Mike and Sugar Ray Leonard were my absolute favorites. I also was thinking maybe this guy was just a scammer, and was just doing the LA shuffle. LA tends to bring in tons of grifters, many people drop names, claim they're either someone or know someone famous, you just don't know. I spoke to the gym Owner who was skeptical, but he said, yeah if you want to open early you can, let me know how it goes. Needless to say all night I was thinking about it, wondering what am I going to say, what's it going to be like to look Iron Mike Tyson in the face, still fighting, at the tail end of his career. I believe he was training for Holyfield at this time, it had to be 1996 because I remember Kobe was a Rookie.
I show up at the gym, 3:45am, opened up, all alone, and wondering if this was going to happen, each minute waiting felt like an hour, 3:46, 47, 48,...... At exactly 4am two or three black SUV's, windows tinted out all pull up in front of the gym. I can easily see because the gym is a wall of windows from the top of the gym to the bottom, facing Main Street Venice/Santa Monica. I remember I was scrambling, ok, this is it, he's coming in, do I have a contract for him to sign, I want to show him that we comped his membership, literally shuffling papers in front of me, I must of looked like someone with a terrible nervous condition. My plan was to open the front door for him, greet him with a handshake, at the same time be cool, don't look like a Groupie at a Bon Jovi Concert. Before I could execute my plan I look up, and I'm looking eye to eye with Iron Mike Tyson.
To this day I don't remember who spoke first, or even how the saludos between us went. I do remember that distinct voice that honestly put me at ease but at the same time remembering how big his deltoids and neck was, and a head that looked like it was chiseled from stone. Mike looked like a cartoon character, a real life Marvel Comic come to life. Mike was super nice, and kind, started asking me questions about me, and we just talked like two normal folks, about normal things. I remember showing him around the gym, taking him into the locker room, showing him the cardio, weights, and answering any questions. What surprised me was it was only just Mike and I in the gym, and few guys standing outside the gym (Big Guys) by the doors. The way the gym was laid out there were two parts, you had to walk out one part of the gym, cross a walkway, and enter the second half of the gym. He was in the second half of the gym on a stationary bike doing cardio at a Mike Tyson pace. I heard him say something from the other room I was in, so I came over to see what he was saying.
He was watching SportsCenter on ESPN while doing cardio and was commenting out loud, I came over and he engaged with me in a conversation about Kobe Bryant. Luckily I followed sports and had knowledge about Kobe and the Lakers and must of spoke for 20 minutes about how he was going to be a superstar. Mike was a fan, and predicted Kobe was going to bring a Championship to the Lakers. Mike was intimidating to say the least, but he also had the power to make everything calm. I remember when he was speaking to me thinking this is the man I've seen on TV just annihilating fighters. He had already destroyed Michael Spinks in 93 seconds, The World Heavyweight Champ, and for sure the baddest man on the planet. I heard it once said "The only person that could beat Mike Tyson was Mike Tyson". I believe that to be true.
Tyson coming to the gym was brief, he eventually moved to Vegas or Phoenix I don't remember. I do know that I opened the gym for him at least a handful of times, and one time he brought his wife in. He asked me to take her through a workout while he did his thing. I was not a trainer, or even certified to train someone but I didn't hesitate or give any clue that I didn't know what I was doing. I met her, she was very nice, and took her through some safe, and easy exercises that I knew she could do, and mostly put her on cardio. I think Mike wanted her to get a workout, but didn't want to interfere with his own dished her off to me, which was fine and understandable honestly. Mike had a huge fight with Holyfield coming up, and he had to stay focused.
I remember telling my fellow workers about Mike now coming to the gym, but these guys were young and burned the candle at both ends so there was no way they were going to get up at 4am to come see Mike. This was perfect for me, because I enjoyed just us two at the gym, (mostly). However, one day, he missed his 4am workout and showed up at like 10am. I will never forget it because the gym was busy, all the employees were there, and just watching the people walk past him, and that 5 second delay, and then seeing their faces, lol.
I also remember feeling validated because now all my co-workers got to see him in person including the Owner, I wasn't just a story teller anymore. The best thing about Mike coming at this time which he only did once, he knew 1 person only in a busy gym, that 1 person who he would come up and talk to, guess who that was? My only regret was not getting a picture with him, for one needless to say I was a bit intimidated, also back then we didn't have cameras in our phones, and if we did they were nothing to write home about.
This was my Mike Tyson story however it is not my last, I ran into him again a few years later and it was a crazy experience. Mike Tyson Blog Part 2 will come out soon.
In the news recently Mike Tyson has signed to fight Roy Jones Jr at age 54 years old. WOW.
Also, this wouldn't be my last Kobe Bryant story, I would come to know him fairly well just a year or two later......
Special shout out to some of my forever friends and colleagues Josh Fuglsby @joshfuglsby, Maurice Murphy @moflex1, Steve Manak @stevemanak and R.I.P. to Michael Ward.