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BEST TROUBLED SPORTS ICON Phoenix 2007 - Mike Tyson

One morning when we lived in L.A., we were jogging through our neighborhood in short pants when we came upon a hulking black man (shoulders about a yard across in a gray T-shirt and black suit pants) leaning against a very large Mercedes-Benz. When we got closer, he turned toward us, and we had a glimmer of recognition.

But not until he flashed a gold-toothed grin and uttered, "How you doin'?" in that lispy, high-pitched voice. It was Iron Mike! We wheeled around and extended our sweaty hand. We'd always wanted to shake the mitt of one of the great heavyweight champions of all time.

He seemed a very nice guy. This was at a time before Mike had gone to prison for rape in 1992. It was long before he'd dined on Evander Holyfield's ear in 1997.

Ratchet forward to 2003 to present, and here's Tyson training at Phoenix gyms, attending Phoenix Suns games, getting pulled over for a traffic violation (with dope in his car), and filing for bankruptcy, though he owns a Paradise Valley home. Okay, he's a joke now (he's got a large face tattoo, for the love of Joe Louis!), but it wasn't always so.

The product of a troubled youth in Brooklyn, Tyson was fighting as soon as he was talking. That lisp attracted bullies, and soon Tyson became the toughest kid in school (he was kicked out for brawling). He became famous as a professional for knocking out his opponents. He KO'd his first 19 pro challengers inside six rounds. He won 44 of his 58 pro bouts by knockout. Tyson was the only boxer to ever knock out the legendary Larry Holmes. He was the youngest heavyweight champ ever at 20 years old, and estimates of how much he earned during his career top out at $300 million. At 35, his quest for another championship ended when Lennox Lewis knocked him out.

He's retired from the competitive ring but still makes bank doing exhibition bouts around the country. We saw him at a Scottsdale mall several months ago, and he was looking pretty much the same as he did on that L.A. street when he was at his peak — except for the face tattoo.

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