Text by Ben Hosley
“Iron” Mike Tyson is currently performing in a one-man show on Broadway (running till August 11 at Longacre Theatre). He has also receivied death threats on Twitter for a 'Aurora-style' attack and the NYPD have stepped up security (yeah thats right Mike Tyson is on a Broadway stage and twitter threats are being taken seriously. That's where we're at right now.) Directed by Spike Lee and written by Tyson’s third wife Kiki, ‘Undisputed Truth’ is an intimate look into the life of the champ; from his rough upbringing growing up in Brooklyn to his triumphs in the ring to his very public downfalls, Tyson sheds a light into his world as an American enigma.
Now first off what must be said is that Mr. Tyson is by no means an actor or real person. Honestly, one couldn’t help but feel like they were going to see some kind of surreal professionally coordinated freak show. What comes to mind when the average person thinks of Tyson: ear-biting-face-tattoo-having-convicted-rapist-high-pitch-voiced-crazy-mother-fucker. And ‘Undisputed’ definitely delivers for both devoted fans and those of us interested in watching a crackhead wandering about in high-speed traffic. Some kind of carnage.
When Tyson is at his best is when he reveals his raw nature and humor. An example of this being while at one point rambling about knocking dudes out like he was ”cleaning their colostomy bags” and discussing pussy being like a commodity, he abruptly cuts himself off (assuming backstage Spike Lee is yelling into Tyson’s headset to stop) and attempts to transition by reassuring the white people in the audience to not be scared that he will become unhinged come off the stage and hurt them. He also apologized to the front row for spiting on them.
The arc of the ‘Undisputed’ starts with Tyson discussing his early life. With a single mother struggling with substance abuse, Tyson fell in with a street crew of “stick-up kids from broken homes out of Brownsville.” He was actually arrested for mugging an elderly woman on the very same street he was now performing for a sold out audience. After being sent to juvenile detention over thirty times, there he was first introduced to boxing.
Honing his newly learned skills in street fights, Tyson was soon introduced to the trainer that would shape him into boxing’s youngest undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, Cus D’Amato. Here is where we find Mike really opening up, with tales of life lessons, the role that Cus played in his life as a father figure and pride he felt in pulling himself out of the hood.
“But woman were always a problem.” Actress Robin Givens, his first wife, is portrayed as a “money hungry bitch” that famously set Tyson up after they were separated: “we were still fucking and like a dumbass I flew to Toronto to see her. When I got off the plane there is all this press asking me about stalking Robin.” You could taste the hate in the air. When she brought home Brad Pitt and Tyson nearly “made him less pretty” or how she had lied about being pregnant and having a miscarriage to get more money from him – you start to understood why.
There was also the issue of the 18 year old local beauty queen that went on to accuse Tyson of rape: “Why would I rape her? I got millions of dollars - I could have any woman I want.”
Other highlights include discussing biting Evander Holyfield’s ear off - “yeah I bit the motherfucker.” (coooold bloooded) Don King stealing from him, “charged me six thousand dollars a month for fucking towels.” Getting into a street brawl with boxer Mitch Green after being repeatedly taunted, “I don't have to take this shit, I'm Mike Tyson.” And also revealing during his retirement he had a serious cocaine problem and had first started using when he was 12.
‘Undisputed’ is more than just entertainment, Tyson is part of our cultural history; known to the world as a ferocious fighter and unique personality, the audience leaves feeling like they know what it means to be an American. That anyone can make it out there. Anyone.