Shopping with Mike Tyson

By Robert Ecksel on April 2, 2013
Shopping with Mike Tyson
It was “ludicrous, a cheap publicity stunt. I’m a victim, and he presses charges on me.”

I’ve never been a rapper. I’ve never been a crack kingpin. I’ve never been heavyweight champion. My loss may be society’s gain, but it goes a long way to explaining why I’d never heard of Dapper Dan’s in Harlem.

That changed on August 23, 1988. It was on the morning of August 23, specifically at 4:30 in the morning, that Mike Tyson got into a street fight outside Dapper Dan’s with fellow heavyweight Mitch “Blood” Green.

Tyson and Green were not strangers. They had fought two years earlier, on May 20, 1986, at Madison Square Garden. Mike wasn’t yet the champ, his fight with Trevor Berbick was six months away, but his greatness was a given. After all, he was singlehandedly bringing excitement back to the heavyweight division.

Tyson was 20-0 coming into the fight with Green, whose record was 16-1-1. Mike was being paid $250,000 to Green’s $30,000. That must have stung Mitch Green almost as much as Tyson’s punches.

The bout itself was nothing to write home about. Tyson won it going away. Green fought defensively, content to counterpunch, content to run, and he held Mike even more than his wife. But Green to his credit lasted the 10-round distance. It wasn’t much of a performance, but it was a performance, and in light of his performance Green felt that he deserved another shot.

He also felt that Tyson was ignoring him.

In those days no less than these, Tyson sightings were fraught with meaning. The difference between then and now is that Tyson sightings in those days carried a frisson of danger. He wasn’t the vulnerable former champ we know today. He was the called the “baddest man on the planet” for good reason. He had earned that moniker the hard way, in and out of Brownsville, in and out of the Tryon School for Boys, in and out of Catskill, in an out of the ring.

Green heard that Tyson was in Harlem that morning. He and Mike had unfinished business, at least as far as Green was concerned.

New York is “the city that never sleeps,” and Dapper Dan’s, which was open 24 hours a day, was an insomniac’s dream-come-true. “I was having marital problems,” recalled Tyson. “I ain’t want to go home.” Mike had ordered an $850 custom-made white leather jacket with “Don’t Believe the Hype,” words made famous by Public Enemy, written on the back, and wanted to check on its progress. The jacket wasn’t ready, but Mike hung around, shooting the shit with the tailors, when Green appeared.

What happened next depends on whose side of the story you believe. Green may have been on drugs, which wouldn’t have been anything new, but Tyson “was drinking a lot.” Who at 4:30 in the morning on 125th Street in 1988 wasn’t doing something? In any event, Green entered Dapper Dan’s, all six-five-five-inches of him, and began haranguing Mike Tyson.

“You know I really didn’t fight you,” ragged Green. “You really didn’t beat me, ‘cause Don King done took all my money. You with Don King. You both owe me money.”

According to Tyson, Green began “ranting and raving about Don King robbing him. And because of that he thought I owed him money.” He told Green, “King robbed me. Don King robs me, too. That doesn’t make you special.”

Tyson baited Green by saying, “You’re going to tell me I didn’t beat you? I won that fight. I beat you. We can do it again now.”

It’s not clear who said what next. What is clear is that they took it outside, where Green tore Tyson’s shirt. Mike retaliated by punching him in the face.

“Mike Tyson,” said Green with disdain, “heavyweight champion of the world, a cheap shot like that.”

“It happened so fast,” Tyson said. “I was very upset at the time that he ripped my shirt. I haven’t had a street fight in like seven years. I was paranoid. I was scared, because he was so close to me. So I just defended myself.”

Tyson got in his car and drove away, but not before Green ripped the side mirror off his Rolls Royce.

“He ran from me, like a little fag, like a little sissy,” Green said. “He was shaking his little finger—oh, he hurt his little finger—and he ran.” He also said, “I broke his jeep.”

Blood was wrong on both counts. The Rolls wasn’t a jeep. And Tyson didn’t run. He drove to Mt. Sinai Hospital where x-rays revealed a hairline fracture of the third metacarpal of his right hand, which was placed in a cast. Green, on the other hand, had his left eye swollen shut and the bridge of his nose needed five stitches.

Green left North General Hospital and filed assault charges against Tyson at the 25th Precinct. Tyson called it “ludicrous” and a “cheap publicity stunt,” adding, “I’m a victim, and he presses charges on me. I don’t understand.”

Because of the injury, Tyson had to postpone his fight with Frank Bruno. Mitch Green, who said, “It’s like they say, don’t get mad, get even,” sued Tyson for $45 million in damages, but was willing to settle out of court for $45,000.

Not too shabby, except that it was just enough to cover his legal expenses.

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  1. peter 10:17am, 04/02/2013

    You should witness how Mitch Green trains in the gym. You’d laugh your head off. When he’s punching the heavybag he’s all, “Hrrmpp!  Hrrmpp! Hrrmpp!” and very little actual punching.

  2. Mike Casey 07:45am, 04/02/2013

    Modern society at its worst. Start a fight, moan about getting slugged and then sue.

  3. Clarence George 05:49am, 04/02/2013

    I remember thinking at the time, “How stupid can you get?”  Two pro boxers fighting outside the ring—i.e., for free…dumb as a doorknob.

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