Back in 1982 this writer went to Park Avenue to see Jim Jacobs who at the time was the man working with Cus D’Amato the legendary trainer of such boxers as heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson and light heavyweight champion Jose Torres. I asked Jacobs to consider a boxer from West Philadelphia named Tyrell Biggs for D’Amato to train. He said “we have a heavyweight named Mike Tyson (15 at the time). I said “never heard of him.”
Jacobs noticed I was looking to my left at the open bank vault where I figured he was keeping the “Fights of the Century”. He asked “what did you think you were going to do come up here and watch the old fight films? I remarked “yes” and he laughed saying they are in a real bank vault”. Jacobs took me to lunch after that and his lovely wife Lorraine was walking past the restaurant we were about to enter. Jacobs told me how he managed world champion Wilfredo Benitez. He was a class act.
Six months later while up in Scranton to watch a boxing show (not writing yet) I met D’Amato and his then boxer Kevin Rooney. I invited myself to Catskill because I who was skeptical about how D’Amato handled Patterson with “kid gloves” and was curious on top of that. I would later help put Rooney in a rematch fight on a Bob Connelly show in Scranton.
I got to meet Tyson in Catskill along with such people as Teddy Atlas at the dinner table. D’Amato and I spent from 9pm to 3am talking boxing with me getting a real education from this boxing genius. Running the house was Camile who let me know in a tactful way not to have D’Amato up so late again. She was a sweetheart.
While there the Hilton brothers (Davey, Alex and Matthew) and their father (Davey Hilton, Sr.) from Montreal were there. The elder Hilton always wanted D’Amato to be his trainer so he brought his sons in to meet the legendary trainer.
Tyson and I would watch fight films in his bedroom of the Jack Dempsey-Louis Firpo and Bobo Olson-Kid Gavilan fights. Tyson loved the old champions like Dempsey and when he came into the ring as a professional with no socks and just a towel over his shoulder it looked like he had the Dempsey look. Tyson was very respectable to both D’Amato and Camile whom he looked at as a father and mother image.
In September of 1982 D’Amato knew I was doing my second promotion (Allentown, PA, first) in Mt. Pocono and asked about turning Tyson professional. It was unfortunately too short of a notice. Tyson would go onto the Olympic Trials and lose twice to Henry Tillman for the 1984 Olympics and later defeat him in the pro ranks.
After Jacobs and D’Amato passed away I got a call from a person with an obvious distinctive voice saying “Ken Hissner do you know who this is?” I immediately said “Mike Tyson!” He replied “how did you guess?” He was inquiring about a future opponent named David Jaco who he would go onto defeat in January of 1986. I simply said “he’s a big white guy, don’t worry about him”.
The next time I met Tyson was in Atlantic City, NJ, in June of 1988 when he was preparing to fight Michael Spinks.
In February of 2014 I saw Tyson at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, PA, where he was involved with a promotional group. Sammy Vasquez was on the card. I gave him a picture I had with D’Amato and Rooney from our Scranton meeting. I later saw him talking to Larry “The Easton Assassin” Holmes who was helping with the local broadcast. The next day I wrote “Holmes-Tyson” Two stating “the last time these two met Holmes’ feet were up in the air!” I guess you figured I am not a “Peanut Head” Holmes (Ali’s nickname for him) fan from past experiences with him.