"I'm gonna cry," the man says, his voice softening and cracking.
He then purses his lips and takes a deep breath in an attempt to steel himself.
The sad soul is Mike Tyson, the one-time heavyweight champ and longtime public menace. He is recalling his long-deceased mentor in the ring of boxing, and of life, Cus D'Amato, in a scene from a recently released James Toback documentary, Tyson.
Never before had anything filmed, videoed, written or otherwise recorded about the most-dissected troubled athlete of our time succeeded in creating so much catharsis for such a contemptible character. In the immediate wake on the conscience that Toback's bio-doc left, it seemed unlikely, too, that anything would come along that would humanize anymore a fellow human being so many of us had come to think of as something less.
But Tuesday, a man who once threatened to devour his opponent's children, discovered he was about to live the worst nightmare of most of us. Tyson learned he would have to bury one of his progeny.
Tyson's 4-year-old daughter, Exodus, died at a Phoenix hospital on Tuesday, one day after apparently getting her neck entangled on a cord dangling from a treadmill at her home, according to police. Tyson was in Las Vegas at the time of the incident but was seen arriving at the hospital Monday where his little girl was taken.
"There are no words to describe the tragic loss of our beloved Exodus," Exodus' family said in a statement. "We ask you now to please respect our need at this very difficult time for privacy to grieve and try to help each other heal."
We've seen many sides over the last quarter century of Tyson -- as transcendent an athlete in sports as Muhammad Ali or Michael Jordan -- but most of them are despicable. He was a notorious truant and juvenile delinquent growing up in a tough Brooklyn neighborhood with a record that began when he was 8 years old. His boxing talent was discovered when he was a 12-year-old resident of a reformatory in upstate New York. At age 20 in 1986, he became the youngest heavyweight champion in boxing history.
But that success was short-lived. He was knocked out by James "Buster" Douglas in 1990, and in 1992 he was convicted and imprisoned for three years on charges of raping an 18-year-old beauty pageant contestant, Desiree Washington, in Indianapolis. Washington testified in court that Tyson raped her in his hotel room and laughed about it as she wept.
After his release, Tyson got three months in jail for beating up two men after a minor car crash in suburban Washington D.C. And in 1997, he etched himself infamously in America's psyche forever more when, trying to regain from Evander Holyfield the undisputed crown he once held, Tyson bit off a piece of Holyfield's ear.
I've never witnessed in person a more disgusting thing in sports, and I wrote that evening from ringside in the MGM Grand arena that Tyson had turned a professional boxing match into a human cockfight and should be banned from the sport for life. I was not alone.
But if there is one thing I never should have forgotten, and I am reminded of in these latest developments, it is that Tyson, no matter his history of horrible behavior, is one of us.
No one should have to suffer what Tyson has put others through, particularly the countless women -- in nightclubs and restaurants and, most famously next to Washington, an attendant in a parking lot -- to whom he's exercised loutish and anti-social aggressive sexual behavior. And no one should have to suffer the latest tragedy that just befell Tyson along with the mother and 7-year-old brother of the little girl believed to be the youngest of Tyson's six children. I remember hearing an NPR piece some years ago on executions at the Texas death house in Huntsville, Texas, and one of men who witnessed many of them over the years said the one thing that haunted him was hearing the mothers of the condemned scream.
No one who has buried their child has ever gotten over it, those who've suffered doing so have said. You never forget the details. Your life becomes reorganized as what happened before your child died and what happens afterward. And when it is an accident, like that which killed Tyson's daughter, you are always wondering what you could have done differently and should have done differently in your responsibility as a parent. I can't imagine a heavier burden to carry.
Part of the idea behind the film Tyson was for Tyson and his newest handlers to recast him to the public, yet again, this time as some sort of character who the rest of us could find acceptable. There was a memoir being written on his already well-documented hard, fatherless upbringing that ultimately led him down the troubled and tragic path he seemed only to veer off but never escape.
Everhip.com recently asked the Tyson filmmaker Toback about Tyson's current and future life.
"He's spending a lot of time with his kids, with his girlfriend, and he has a new daughter," Toback told Everhip.com. "I think what he says at the end [of the film] is the real answer to that question, which is the 'Past is history, the future's a mystery.'"
They won't be any longer.