Ring LeaderBy David Jenison
There are two types of performers that a smart ass is better off not heckling: comedians and ear-biting boxing champs. Nevertheless, the so-called “Baddest Man on the Planet” has had a few such moments with his new one-man show, Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth.
“I was on stage and someone started talking, and I didn’t know what it was,” recalls boxing icon Mike Tyson. “It was someone saying, ‘I’m going to kill you.’ That was on Broadway.”
Iron Mike has not had to deliver any Michael Spinks-like takedowns as of yet, but it doesn’t mean he won’t.
“It depends on what mood I am in and how I woke up that day,” he laughs. “I might do one of those rock ’n ‘ roll dives out into the audience. You never know.”
In reality, a Tyson 2.0 has emerged that seems more inclined to avoid conflict. In recent years, the notorious fighter has returned to the spotlight with appearances in The Hangover movies, Entourage and the Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen, among others. Upon seeing Chazz Palminteri’s acclaimed one-man production of A Bronx Tale, Tyson found his new calling. He wanted to emulate that same format but with his own larger-than-life tale.
The autobiographical Undisputed Truth debuted last April with a six-day run at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and followed with a Broadway production in August. His wife Kiki Tyson wrote the show, and Spike Lee directed it. Following these two successful runs, a national tour was announced.
“It is going to be a rollercoaster of emotions, my life, when I explain the story,” says Tyson of Undisputed Truth. “I am sure people understand about loss and victory and triumphs and mistakes and heartbreak—everything you have to experience to be a complete human being and to function in this world.”
Tyson also made sure the show didn’t gloss over any of his worst moments.
He continues, “My wife, who wrote it, tried to sugarcoat it at first. I had to explain that the people know this guy, not the guy you fell in love with. She had to write it down as I explained it to her, the kind of guy I was back then.”
Tyson even compares the one-man show to stepping into the ring.
“I have the same anxieties, the anxiety of failing,” says Tyson. “Whether it is a fighter or an entertainer, when his name gets announced, the only person he hears is the person who is not applauding. He does not hear the 50,000 who are. The doubt, the fear of being a failure is there.”
Mike Tyson racked up an impressive 50 professional wins, but it would have been 51 if the boxer didn’t test positive for cannabis following his TKO of Andrew Golota. During the conversation, Tyson says he had smoked to calm his nerves before the Detroit-area fight in 2000, admitting he did not expect Golota to quit after just two rounds. Tyson has a long history with cannabis, even saying in 2010 that his “biggest regret” was not smoking with old pal Tupac Shakur, who was murdered in 1996 after the Tyson-Bruce Seldon fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. When asked about a new Mike Tyson strain of medical marijuana, he even corrects the record by stating, “There has always been a strain called Mike Tyson, even when I was fighting in Baltimore.”