Jeremy Schaap has been covering boxing legend Mike Tyson for many years. But Schaap says that Sunday’s interview with Tyson is unlike any conversation they’ve ever had, airing this Sunday morning on E:60 at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN.
“Originally it was going to be an interview about his new book, which focuses on his childhood, and his relationship with [his first trainer] Cus D’Amato. It wasn’t very complicated,” Schaap said. “But then he canceled his book tour because of his bad back, so he said, ‘Come see me in Vegas.’”
Schaap headed out to Tyson’s home in Las Vegas, Nev., where he had planned to interview Tyson about his trainer and father-figure D’Amato, the focus of Tyson’s book.
“Knowing that would be the emphasis, I enlisted the help of Brin-Jonathan Butler, a well-respected boxing writer who knows Mike’s story well, and he had questioned him in 2014 about an incident described in Tyson’s first memoir,” Schaap said. “Brin had asked Tyson whether he had been molested —and Tyson said yes, but he wouldn’t go much deeper than that. Together with Brin and several of my colleagues at E:60, we formulated a plan for the interview. We wanted Mike to feel comfortable going there, because I think it’s an important element of his story that we haven’t previously explored. We didn’t want this to be just another Mike Tyson interview but something more meaningful that could go deeper.”
Tyson certainly goes deeper with Schaap as he opens up about being molested as a child, something he has never discussed in detail.
“I think over the years we built a kind of rapport,” Schaap said. “I would like to think Mike had some respect for me because I would ask him tough questions and he didn’t shy away from them. If you ask him directly and if you’re an honest broker, he gets that.”
Schaap recalls a time when the late ESPN.com columnist Ralph Wiley had a conversation with him about how he interacted with Tyson.
“There was a time when he was still fighting when I was with him a lot, and I had done a number of pieces about Mike that I think were fair but on the harsh side. Ralph said, ‘The goal isn’t always to prosecute, but it should be to understand, to get him to open up.’ That affected the way I conducted my interactions with Mike over the years,” Schaap said. “Sometimes, you have to take on the role of a prosecutor, or at least an adversary, but sometimes the job is to ask questions that elicit honest response and that bring out the subject’s true emotions. Even after all these years, and not being a factor in boxing for 15 years, he’s still – you could argue – the biggest figure in the sport.”