Mike Tyson’s second act marches on.
First things first: Yes, there’s an ear emoji.
Mike Tyson on Thursday became the latest celebrity to release an emoji sticker application and the ear is right there among the portraits and catch-phrases and other ephemera, clenched between a bared set of teeth.
This is life for Tyson now, 20 years after his most infamous moment, when he bit a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear off during a 1997 bout for the heavyweight championship. Tyson was already a boxing legend by then; at 20 years old, in the late 1980s, he became the youngest pugilist to win the World Boxing Association, International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Council titles. That ignominious bout with Holyfield represented a professional nadir, but now the ear-bite heard ’round the world is a joking matter.
"At all my meet-and-greets now, everyone wants to take a picture of me biting their ear," the 50-year-old Tyson said with a laugh in a recent phone interview.
Tyson’s app, called TysonMoji, hit Apple’s iOS app store Thursday. It’s the latest step in a rather stunning transformation by Tyson over the past several years. He’s been in a handful of movies. He has his own TV show, a cartoon called Mike Tyson Mysteries. His one-man theater show, Mike Tyson: The Undisputed Truth, made its Broadway debut in 2012. He has a book coming out soon. And now of, course, there’s TysonMoji.
Not long ago, he spoke to high schoolers in Arizona. It was a moment he classifies as "humbling" — for reasons you might not expect.
"When I went into the classroom, there was a giant screen where they showed pictures from my old fights, but these kids only knew me from The Hangover," Tyson said. "And listen to this one: One of the kids said, ‘I think my grandfather told me about you.’ He must think I’m Joe Louis or something! God!"
Tyson recounted this story in his high-pitched, lisping, Brooklyn-accented voice, one that’s more than a little incongruous with the historically destructive force Tyson was in the ring. It’s especially incongruous because Tyson in conversation these days is relentlessly positive and enthusiastic about, well, most everything. Our conversation started something like this:
"Heyyy Sam! How you doing, buddy?"
I’m good, Mike. How are you?
"Oh, man. Just awesome. Just awesome."
The inspiration for TysonMoji came from Mike’s wife, Kiki. She noticed the trend of celebrities releasing personalized emoji-sticker apps and told Tyson he should produce his own. Now there are emoji stickers of Tyson’s face frozen in various expressions, of his quite unsubtle face tattoo, of his beloved pet pigeons and much more, including that severed ear.
"I never thought something like this would be something anyone would ever be interested in," the 50-year-old Tyson said over the phone. "This is a very changing world we’re living in, isn’t it?"
Indeed it is, Mike. Indeed it is.