It’s absolutely no secret that Mike Tyson can pack a punch.
The now retired professional boxer made a name for himself, and a spectacle of the sport, when he went on record as the youngest boxer to simultaneously possess the World Boxing Council (WBC), World Boxing Association (WBA), and International Boxing Federation (IBF) heavyweight titles at a mere 20 years of age in 1987.
But, Tyson is no longer using his fists to make an impression; he’s moved on to words.
The Brooklyn-born athlete, who is also known by the moniker “Iron Mike,” recently embarked on a one-man show, “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth,” which comes to the F.M. Kirby Center tonight. Tyson takes to the stage to get personal, telling stories of his triumphs and failures, his great knockouts and knockdowns.
Tyson is first and foremost known for his athletic prowess and being former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, but other factors that involve jail time, a lack of money, and some rash words and actions (like the infamous ear biting incident in 1997 during a fight against Evander Holyfield) have crept in to define who he is, and it seems that, for the first time, he’s not shying away from it.
Though he lowered his gloves for the final time with his retirement in 2006, he is still very much all about the sport, and how could he not be? It defined his life, and, to him, it is something that goes hand in hand with the way the world works.
“It’s a hard game,” he told The Weekender when asked what advice he would give anyone hoping to break into the boxing realm. “You gotta be ready to take a punch, not just throw them. Boxing is a metaphor for life.”
Interest in fighting hasn’t measured up to the frenzied peak it hit when Tyson was in the ring, but he foresees an upswing for the sport.
“I am very much interested in the sport of boxing again, in a way that I never have been,” Tyson said. “I’m looking at the business of boxing and what my place is in this business modular. I am ready to give back to the sport that has done so much for me. I believe we are a few short years away from a good heavyweight division. In order to dominate the boxing world, it takes a great heavyweight. Not to take away from the other divisions, but there is just something about watching a great heavyweight bout.”
The sport may be his passion, but the 46-year-old’s personal forays have also been a major point of focus in the media for years.
Tyson has served time in jail, including three years on the conviction of rape of an 18-year-old girl and three months after assaulting two motorists after a traffic accident. He filed bankruptcy in 2003, has had scrapes with drug and alcohol problems, and endured plenty of drama in the romance department.
It’s been continuous ups and downs for Tyson, who was quoted by USA Today in 2005 as saying, “My whole life has been a waste. I’ve been a failure.” It seems his thought process has changed, however, and he has a more positive outlook on not only his past, but present and future.
“I can’t live my life with regrets,” Tyson replied when asked if, given the chance, he would do things differently. “Every mistake and heartache was an experience I had to go through to make me into the strong person standing tall here today. I don’t live in the past, nor do I choose to revisit it. Forward!”
Today, Tyson resides in Las Vegas with his wife Lakiha “Kiki” Spicer, and he has become a pop culture icon in addition to his status in the athletic world. It seems that the 1987 Nintendo release of popular pixilated game “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!” was only the beginning of the boxer shifting towards the entertainment industry.
People have taken to the “Baddest Man on the Planet,” raving about him in roles in films such as “The Hangover” and “The Hangover: Part II” and watching him move to the small screen in an Animal Planet television series “Taking on Tyson.” Tyson himself is a little shocked that this is where he ended up after hanging up his gloves.
“Never in a million years did I think I would become an actor,” he said. “I am so grateful for still having some relevance in the world. What a humbling experience.”
He seems to be in a good place, finally comfortable with who he was and is. And, like his movements in the ring, he is in constant motion and alert to every punch thrown his way, working through each with grace.
That’s the reason for “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth,” directed by Academy Award nominee Spike Lee. It would seem that such a personal endeavor, one that tears open old wounds time and again, would be a hardship, but Tyson doesn’t look at it that way at all.
“I am at a time in my life where I am very happy. I felt emotionally ready to embark on this journey. I wanted people to hear my voice.”
The world was a frenzy for Tyson at age 20 when he gained such popularity. From there, things just kept getting crazier both personally and professionally for Iron Mike. Here’s a look at some of the more notable points in his life.
1986 – Defeats Trevor Berbick by a TKO in the second round to win WBC title.
1987 – Defeats James Smith and Tony Tucker for the WBA and IBF titles.
1988 – Becomes lineal champion after knocking out Michael Spinks in 91 seconds.
1996 - Won the WBC and WBA titles after defeating Frank Bruno and Bruce Seldon by knockout.
1996 – Loses WBA crown to Evander Holyfield.
1997 – Disqualified in match against Holyfield when Tyson bites his ear.
1999 – Arrested for the rape of 18-year-old Desiree Washington and later convicted in 1992, resulting in three years jail time.
2003 – Files for bankruptcy.
2003 – Named No. 16 of the “100 Greatest Punchers of All Time” by “Ring Magazine.”
2006 – Arrested in Arizona on suspicion of DUI and felony drug possession.
2006 – Retires from professional boxing.
2011 – Inducted into both the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the World Boxing Hall of Fame.
2012 – Launches the Mike Tyson Cares Foundation.