Mike Tyson is a walking, talking anomaly. People fitting the pedigree of the former heavyweight champion of the world rarely get to tell their side of the story. Their lives and tragic deaths are usually cautionary tales whispered by school teachers, guidance counselors and group-home workers to children in need of “straightening out.” At one time, he was the most feared boxer in the world, then he became the most hated man in America. More recently, his tale was one of the hottest tickets on Broadway. They’ve said he is the product of an environment from which nothing of substance ever came, Brownsville (never ran, never will), Brooklyn, N.Y. But he is indeed the rarest of anomalies.
You see, despite all of the things that happened to Mike, and all the things that have been said about Mike, the former pugilist is getting the last laugh. Readers are likely already aware of just about every negative, borderline sociopathic tale of Mike Tyson that has ever been published. Unlike most other individuals whose physical dimensions, educational background, early childhood and record of substance abuse matches that of Tyson, Iron Mike gets to tell the story and, as any great writer will tell you, the formula to a good story is always in the telling.
Tyson has been telling the good story for sometime now with his Undisputed Truth show. Initially, his one-man show opened in Las Vegas, but director Spike Lee was intrigued and inspired enough to bring this fellow Brooklynite’s tale to the bright lights of Broadway, and directed its entire run. Tyson and Lee teamed up to bring the one-man show to HBO as a documentary, set to premiere Saturday, Nov. 16. The great thing about the show is that Tyson gives you the unfiltered realness behind any of the many calamitous circumstances that he ever found himself in.
Some of the tales are so outlandishly hysterical that they border on unbelievable, while others are so heartbreaking that even those with the most callous-ridden exterior cannot help but succumb to the sheer humanity of it. There is a tale in which Mike recalls drinking beer with actors Alfonso Ribero and Ricky Schroeder when Rick James pulls up. I burst into spastic laughter merely at the set-up. I knew the tale would only culminate after Rick James put his hands on somebody, and surely he did.
There is also a tale in which he describes how he abused cocaine and circumvented professional boxing’s drug-testing methods by using a fake penis filled with someone else’s urine on days he was tested. Part of the magic of Tyson’s offering is the timeliness of some of the material. Recently he admitted to being high on cocaine on the set of the comedy Hangover. Mike Tyson, like most of us, is a work in progress. But unlike you or I, Mike’s blueprint is available to all who wish to survey, and I believe he would have it no other way.
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