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Cohn: The fascinating, tragic careers of Tiger and Iron Mike

  • Challenger Mike Tyson stands stunned in his corner after being knocked down by Lennox Lewis in the 4th round of their WBC/IBF heavyweight championship bout at The Pyramid in Memphis, Tenn., Saturday, June 8, 2002. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Tiger Woods is Mike Tyson, and Mike Tyson is Tiger Woods.

This is not to suggest Woods and Tyson have the same personality. Tyson was a thug who went to the slammer for rape, although he seems kind of lovable now. And Woods has a thin Stanford veneer from the minute or two he spent on the Farm. And Woods, for the most part, has controlled his public image in ways Tyson never understood or cared about.

But we are not talking about Tyson and Woods as people. Mike Tyson and Tiger Woods are the same athlete.

Both burst onto the scene just kids and overwhelmed the older, established guys. Each was an absolute phenomenon. Each became the biggest attraction in his sport and, for a time, each was the biggest name in all of sports.

Each had a downfall. The downfall involved, at least in part, a crummy personal lifestyle. Tyson had a humiliating relationship with now-former wife Robin Givens — she put him down on TV while he sat there in a dreamy haze.

And, depending on what you believe, Woods' former wife Elin Nordegren looked at his cell phone, saw some calls she didn't like, realized he had strayed, as it were, chased him out of the house with a golf club and whacked him in the mouth before or after his car hit the most famous fire hydrant in the history of fire hydrants.

Or maybe their parting was more amicable than that.

The downfall of both athletes also involved the loss of larger-than-life fathers — or in Tyson's case a father figure, Cus D'Amato, who also had brought along Floyd Patterson, and who was so desperate for a second heavyweight champ he let Tyson get away with murder — well, not quite.

So, those are the basics. The two former champs have lots more in common than you'd think.

And they have this — or they had this. Each had an aura of invincibility. Call it a mystique. Guys were afraid to compete against them.


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