MUMBAI (Reuters) - The current generation of boxers do not have the wild streak that Mike Tyson wore like a badge of honor during his career and the former world heavyweight champion says the lack of personalities in the sport has contributed to its decline.
Tyson, who was in Mumbai to promote the launch of the Kumite 1 League mixed martial arts competition, told reporters late on Friday that he would be a rarity if he boxed today.
“It’s just different because they are not the big personalities,” said the 52-year-old when asked why boxing’s popularity was on the wane.
“Most of the (current) fighters are very straightforward guys. They are real nice guys and they are good individuals.
“I was always in trouble. I was always here and there so that’s why I was always in the papers and that’s why it’s different. These are really straight gentlemen guys. I was really wild and a young kid getting into trouble.”
U.S. broadcaster HBO said this week it would drop live boxing from its programming schedule from 2019 due to dwindling ratings, ending a 45-year association with the sport starting from 1973.
While boxing seems to be on the way down, the sport of mixed martial arts is gaining traction in the mainstream with fighters such as trash-talking Irishman Conor McGregor becoming household names.
Tyson said he enjoyed last year’s boxing match between undefeated multi-division world champion Floyd Mayweather Jr and the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s (UFC) McGregor.
“I go to the UFC all the time,” he said. “That was a good fight. I was entertained.”
Tyson became the youngest world heavyweight champion in 1986 at the age of 20 and was the undisputed champion until a stunning loss to Buster Douglas in Tokyo in 1990.
He served three years of a six-year U.S. jail sentence after being convicted of rape in 1992 and returned to the ring in 1995. He then added to his notoriety when he bit off a chunk of Evander Holyfield’s ear in a bout two years later.
Tyson, who had his last fight in 2005, picked Briton Anthony Joshua as the best of the current crop of heavyweights.
The 28-year-old Joshua holds the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO belts and has been in talks about a fight with WBC title holder Deontay Wilder which would give him a shot at becoming the undisputed heavyweight champion.
American Wilder will defend his title against Britain’s former world champion Tyson Fury on Dec. 1.
“I think Joshua right now,” said Tyson when asked to pick the top heavyweight.
“Tyson Fury hasn’t fought in a while. I don’t think he has had enough fights yet. He should have won more fights.”
Tyson also said he planned to avoid Bollywood parties while in India and that he would rather visit Dharavi, one of Asia’s largest slums.
“I’m a slumdog. I grew up in the slum,” said Tyson, who was raised in Brooklyn, New York. “But I had that ambition and I wanted to get out of the slum and that’s why I’m here talking to you guys now.
“There’s nothing wrong with the slums. I think the poorer you are, the better boxer you are.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford