A Movie A Day #205: Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth (2013, directed by Spike Lee)


Somewhere in New York, former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson stands on a stage, wearing a white suit and talking about his life.

Or, I should say, he talks about parts of his life.  Mike Tyson’s one-man show, which shared the name of his then-just published autobiography, was both insightful and frustrating.  Tyson spends a good deal of time on some topics while skipping over others entirely.  When Tyson talks about his difficult childhood and the experience of literally being adopted by the legendary Cus D’Amato, it provides a rare glimpse into the background of the man who, at his peak, was one of the most fearsome champions in the history of boxing.  When Tyson talks about his fights, especially his battles with Mitch Green, he is as engaging and charismatic as I have ever seen him.  In fact, there are times when Tyson came across as being so likable that I had to remind myself that Tyson is also a convicted rapist who, after returning to the ring, won a series of fights against weak opponents and then bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear.  I was disappointed that Tyson did not devote any time to discussing his fight with Peter McNeeley.  If Tyson has devoted two seconds to every second of the McNeeley fight, that still would have just taken up 3 minutes of screentime.  That’s less time than Iron Mike spent talking about Brad Pitt fucking Robin Givens or doing his Don King impersonation.

I had mixed feelings about Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth, largely because I have mixed feelings about Mike Tyson himself.  When it comes to ranking the heavyweight champions, Mike Tyson is definitely a contender for the top spot.  That Tyson was a great boxer cannot be denied and when he throws a few punches during Undisputed Truth, he still looks he could get in the ring and win.  (At least he does until he has to stop to catch his breath.)  Tyson may not be the most articulate speaker but occasionally, he shows some hints that he is smarter than he is given credit for.  He also tells some truly terrible jokes.  Tyson was a great boxer but as a stand-up comedian, he leaves something to be desired.  At the same time, Tyson is open about his emotional and mental difficulties and his history of violence.  Every time I started to like Tyson too much, he would say something that would snap me back to reality.  No sooner had he won my sympathy by talking about how much the death of Cus D’Amato affected him than Tyson lost it by verbally attacking the woman that he was convicted of raping.   By the end of his one man show, Tyson represents both everything good and everything bad about boxing.  Boxing saved Tyson from the streets but it also thrust him into a world that he was not emotionally mature enough to handle.  Tyson was barely 20 years old when he became champion and, with Cus D’Amato having died a year before, Tyson no longer had anyone looking out for his interests and protecting him from those who wanted to take advantage of him.  Toss Don King into the mix and both Tyson’s rise and eventual fall feel predestined.

Undisputed Truth ends with Tyson declaring that he has finally found peace.  I hope he has.

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