Iron Mike: Undisputed Truth
“Undisputed Truth ” was a controversial one man play performed on stage by former world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson this past spring. An adaptation of the play has now been released in hard cover. Having read “Fallen Champ: The Untold Story of Mike Tyson” in the early 1990’s, I am curious to to see what the ” the baddest man on the planet” has to say 20 years later.
“Many thought this was my first time in Brooklyn.” I was arrested on the same block,” Tyson stated after the unveiling of this sold out show that played for six nights only. The streets of Brooklyn have come full circle in Tyson’s life which he recognizes and acknowledges. Tyson is a product of Brooklyn and his father was a known gambler who left Mike, his mother Lorna, and his two siblings around the time that Mike was born.
Ironically, he has Brooklyn to thank as well for Cus D’Amato. D’Amato came into Tyson’s life initially as a surrogate father and ultimately as his coach, lifelong mentor, and eventually his legal guardian after Tyson’s mother died. The Bronx born trainer was truly the only father figure that Tyson ever had.
D’ Amato made his mark in boxing by his distinct technique known as the peek-a-boo style of boxing, whereby a boxer’s movements become elusive as he simultaneously protects his face with his gloves while enabling him to deliver resounding jabs and punches. D’Amato helped famed boxers Floyd Paterson, Jose Torres and Rocky Graziano mold themselves into champions with his slipping and weaving style. D’Amato, a product of the Bronx, never made it past the eighth grade, yet he had the smarts to see a future champion in Tyson.
Once Tyson was taken under D’Amato’s wing, the rest was history. Tyson failed to make the Olympic team in 1984 yet boxing history was forever changed on November 22, 1986. Iron Mike , having lost to fighter Trevor Berbick years earlier, avenged that loss and pulverized Berbick in just two rounds. He was only twenty years old. That moment in time was bittersweet for Tyson because Cus D’Amato was not there to witness his protege finally win the coveted heavyweight belt. D’Amato had died the previous November after battling pneumonia at the age of 77 years old.
Many have said that Tyson never recovered from the death of his beloved D’Amato. His skills, physical stamina, and mental drive were all but erased. By the late 1980’s, there were evident cracks in Tyson’s life outside of the ring. His boxing style had changed as well,. The fear he had once instilled in opponents was gone, and Tyson spiraled downward. He spent three years in prison for a 1992 rape conviction involving Desiree Washington, a 1986 Miss Black America contestant from Rhode Island His name was synonymous with the infamous ” Bite Fight ” involving ponderous opponent Evander Holyfield at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas in 1986. He was involved with illegal substances, excessive drinking, and was nothing short of a train wreck. He was on the verge of financial ruin largely in part to wiry haired promotor Don King who had a questionable track record in the industry.
If D’Amato had lived would Tyson have embarked on such a self destructive lifestyle inflicting pain not just on himself but on others as well? Promoters, sponsors and the public never knew which Tyson would show up.
Many have suggested that Tyson’s greatest boxing feat was his knockout of Michael Spinks in the first round of a June 1988 fight lasting a mere 91 seconds. Despite Tyson’s feats and ruthless intimidation of opponents within the ring, he continued to spar with personal demons out side of it. That fight continues to this day.” Undisputed Truth” is a form of public therapy for Tyson, which Tyson needs and craves. In the eyes of the boxing world it is long overdue.
“Never run, never will ” is a truism that Tyson has echoed from his tough upbringing in Brooklyn. I am curious to see if this book brings a knockout punch in terms of delivery and if Tyson’s actions speak louder than words. Lascivious details are leaking out about the man whom opponents feared as a frightening speciman of a human being. At 47 years old, perhaps Tyson is finally recognizing that his own inner strife and subsequent behavior led to his undoing inside and outside of the ring.