MUMBAI (Reuters) – The current generation of boxers do not have the wild streak that Mike Tyson wore like a badge of honour 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.”
US 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, 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 December 1.