Mike Tyson wants you to take pigeons as seriously as he does.
“The history of pigeons goes way farther back than we know. Pigeons are man’s first feathered friends, before chickens or anything,” the boxing legend said Thursday at the TCA 2011 Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif.
Tyson spoke on a panel alongside the cast of his new 6-part docu-series Taking on Tyson, premiering March at 10 p.m. (ET/PT) on Animal Planet. He certainly redefines “roots and wings” with the series, in which he returns to his childhood neighborhood in Brooklyn to reconnect with his lifelong passion for raising pigeons.
But Taking on Tyson kicks it up a notch (it wouldn’t be Tyson if there wasn’t a little competition): enter the world of pigeon racing.
“Mike didn’t like to lose when he was fighting, and now with the pigeons, he doesn’t like to lose either,” said Mario Costa, Tyson’s manager, lifelong friend and pigeon fancier.
Though Tyson is himself a novice (”I’m very familiar [with caring for racing pigeons] but I’ve never participated as far as being a sanctioned player,” he admitted), he’s apparently taken to the world of pigeon racing like an old pro.
“This is what we do. I’m Mike Tyson and the show is focused on Mike Tyson, but this what we do. It’s a cultural thing, this is more of a cultural thing than just a hobby,” he said.
“It’s like a brotherhood,” said Vinnie Torre, Tyson’s pigeon trainer and respected pigeon racer. “That’s what it’s all about. Bragging rights and the love of the pigeon.”
“The pigeons keep us alive and out of trouble,” added Helder Rodrigues, a competitive pigeon racer.
Tyson displayed a deep respect for the pigeon, and was quick to differentiate between his beloved racing birds and the common street pigeon.
“They’re not dirty, there’s never been a deadly virus from a pigeon. There’s never been a person who’s gotten a deadly disease from a pigeon,” the boxer clarified. “We deal with the crème de la crème of the pigeon world.”
“They’re the thoroughbreds of the sky,” added Costa.
When asked about fellow fallen athlete Mike Vick, Tyson kept the conversation focused:
“My opinions don’t mean nothing, I’m just here to talk about pigeons.”
Watch a preview of Taking on Tyson below.