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September 20, 2014

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Mike Tyson unveils his charity and speaks highly of Agassi and Muppets

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Erik Kabik/ErikKabik.com

Mike Tyson at the Score! Be the Legend grand opening at the Luxor on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012.

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Mike Tyson formally unveiled his charity organization Mike Tyson Cares on Friday night, trumpeting the foundation in that famed haven of charitable activity: Tabu Ultra Lounge at MGM Grand.

For real, on this night, there was ample good will put forth. Tyson’s new organization focuses on underprivileged kids, and the event also provided a boost to Shade Tree shelter for abused women and children. Tyson’s wife, Kiki, has become a major supporter of the foundation after visiting their campus in June.

On Friday night, Tyson appeared at a Tabu-lous (ouch) party amid fellow fighting legends Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy “Hitman” Hearns, Winky Wright and Roy Jones Jr. The celeb turnout included a knockout model (Claire Sinclair), a counter-punching comic (George Wallace) and a haymaker headliner (Frankie Moreno). And we will now sound the final bell on boxing metaphors.

Tyson was at the center of all this conviviality, and he seemed in a great frame of mind, consistent with the past few times I have seen him. Tyson has recovered from surgery on his spine that forced him to wear a neck brace as recently as September, when he appeared wearing a brace at a gala event sponsored by Hublot at the Bellagio. Dependably gregarious and spontaneous in his conversations, Tyson talked of sending his one-man show across the country to 36 cities, none of which are Las Vegas -- although a May date in VegasVille remains a possibility.

The tour reportedly begins in February in Indianapolis and visits Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Detroit and Washington, D.C., next year. But there is no date on the books for the show to return to MGM Grand’s Hollywood Theater, or any Las Vegas venue, just yet.

As if frequently the case, the chat with Tyson veered weird-wise when he said his friend broadcaster Jim Gray calls periodically to remind Tyson, “Don’t (screw) it up, Mike!”

By “it,” Gray is evidently referring to Tyson’s recent run of good fortune, which is based on his simple but powerful premise: If you don’t screw it up, it won’t get screwed up.

Tyson also was asked if he has any projects in the pipeline he wanted to talk about.

He answered that he wanted to work with the Muppets.

“Maybe I could pretend to beat up Gonzo or something,” he said, laughing. “Or let him give me a black eye. I think the Muppets are awesome. My son loves the Muppets -- maybe a Mike Tyson boxing Muppet. I would love that.”

Tyson says he wants to emulate the philanthropic success of Andre Agassi, who is building versions of his preparatory academies in at-risk neighborhoods in municipalities across the country. “I haven’t talked to Andre in about 100 years, but what an awesome idea he had, to put his schools in the inner-city. I am a big fan of his.”

As is the case with Agassi’s devotion to education, Tyson holds a heartfelt connection to children in need.

“I was one of those homeless children. We lived in a condemned building and stuff. I know the thoughts of helplessness, not knowing what’s going to happen next in life, if you’re going to be victimized by one of these street people who come into a condemned building. You don’t know what your life is going to be. This is close to my heart.”

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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