MIKE TYSON: UNDISPUTED TRUTH (TV)

Summary

A television film version of former boxer Mike Tyson’s one-man stage show, recorded at the Imperial Theatre in New York City.

Tyson begins by welcoming the audience into his “living room,” stating that the purpose of his show is to convey his life story and the lessons he’s learned from it. Tyson recounts that he was born on June 30th, 1966 in Cumberland Hospital in Brooklyn and talks about his childhood memories of his mother, and confusion over the identity of his father. He notes that his mother fell into prostitution and alcoholism, and he traces his own struggles with addiction back to her. He gives specific recollections of his old neighborhood in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and his home at 178 Amboy Street, including his time as a juvenile delinquent with his gang, whom he says was like a family to him. He notes that by the age of twelve he had been arrested almost 40 times, and that the juvenile detention center became something of a second home for him. He also recounts his first fight between himself and an older kid who killed his pet pigeon. He soon gains a reputation as a street fighter, becoming the center of a minor betting ring featuring fights between himself and kids from other neighborhoods. Tyson recalls being locked up at Spofford Juvenile Detention Center when legendary boxer Muhammad Ali comes to visit, inspiring Tyson to take up training as a boxer.

He recounts attempting to get training from boxer Bobby Stewart, who ran a program at the center, and meeting the man who become his mentor, boxing manager Cus D’Amato. D’Amato believes that Tyson is destined for greatness and Tyson agrees to be trained by him; he likens the two of them as “pirates” on a “great adventure.” He describes his early training exercises devised by D’Amato, and fighting in “smokers,” small unsanctioned boxing venues which were highly illegal and dangerous. Eventually he experiences success in the national circuit by the age of fourteen. He describes D’Amato as “intimidating” in spite of his advanced age and diminutive stature, and recounts how D’Amato taught him to read and write and the importance of not getting discouraged and “fight[ing] your demons.” During his teenage years he lives alongside white people, much to the surprise of his friends back in Brooklyn. He also recounts some of his naysayers during these times, such as trainer Teddy Atlas. He recounts his interactions with Atlas’s sister-in-law, his first boyhood crush, and how an ill-timed romantic advance prompted Atlas’s ire; he threatens Tyson with a gun and fires it adjacent to his ear. Around this time Tyson’s mother dies from cancer, and he notes that he was not aware of the extent of her illness until it was too late; he recounts attending her funeral and being saddened by the poor circumstances of her burial; years later when he starts to become financially successful he has her body exhumed and reburies her in better surroundings.

D’Amato continues to train Tyson, referring to him as a “god of war.” His health deteriorates, although he refuses to see doctors as he believes he can recover on his own. However he eventually dies, leaving Tyson “directionless.” Tyson accomplishes his dream of becoming the youngest heavyweight champion of the world, but in the wake of D’Amato’s death his earnings are set upon by accountants and lawyers in what he calls a “masterful deception.” In the wake of his financial success he tries to find love in his marriage to Robin Givens, although it falls apart due to her claims that Tyson abused her. He claims that they maintained a sexual relationship even during their separation, although he claims that at one point he caught her driving with Brad Pitt. He blames his youth and inexperience for the dissolution of his marriage to Givens, along with what he views as “gold-digging” on her part, as well as interference from her mother. He also recounts his fights with boxer Mitch Green, who in a video clip is seen insulting Tyson and calling him a “homo,” and the much-publicized street fight between the two of them; this serves as an “epiphany” to Tyson about the conflict between his nature and his desire to fit in to the “white world” of his sponsors and fans. Tyson claims that Green was high on angel dust at the time, which gave him an unusual amount of endurance. The fight becomes quite protracted, including a number of attacks on both sides and Green vandalizing Tyson’s car.

Following the street fight and his divorce from Givens, Tyson signs a deal with Don King, which he refers to as a “deal with the devil.” Soon he suffers the first knockout of his career to James “Buster” Douglas in a bout in Tokyo. This loss, coupled with the sudden death of his sister Denise from a heart attack, sends Tyson into depression, particularly as Denise served a maternal role in his life after the death of his mother. Tyson discusses attending the Indiana Black Expo in 1991, where he is arrested after being accused of raping Desiree Washington, one of the contestants of the Miss Black America contest. He claims innocence and believes that the justice system would not convict him, but is surprised that his sentence was relatively light. He notes that he is tired of carrying the label of sex offender with him and wishes that he had “better answers” for his inquisitive children. He also notes that Washington claimed to have been raped by another individual a short time before his arrest; Tyson flat-out states that he did not rape her. He describes his experiences in prison, where he was able for the first time in his life to be “still.” He notes that a number of celebrities came to visit him in prison, including one notable encounter with Florence Henderson. Eventually he emerges from prison with a measure of “peace,” including converting to Islam, which he did in the hopes of gaining a “calm demeanor.”

After his release from prison, Tyson describes his falling-out with King and the financial issues between the two of them. An investigation reveals some illegal practices King perpetuated in order to bilk Tyson out of his money. Tyson breaks things off with King, but at that point his financial woes are sufficient to force Tyson to file for bankruptcy. He also recounts the infamous incident in which he bit the ear of his boxing opponent Evander Holyfield, claiming that he “snapped” and that he deeply regrets the incident, particularly since it cost him his boxing license. In the years since then, Holyfield has forgiven Tyson and they have become friends. He also discusses his facial tattoo and its significance to him, as well as his retirement from boxing and the beginnings of his addiction to cocaine. In 2006 he is arrested for hitting a police car, eventually landing him in rehab. He believes that this is the point when his life began to recover, along with his marriage to his longtime girlfriend Kiki Spicer in 2009 and his conversion to veganism to address his obesity. He claims he is now sober and is attempting to become a better person, hoping that he can forge better emotional connections between himself and his children; he speaks about the accidental death of his young daughter Exodus and how it has motivated him to become a better parent.

Details

  • NETWORK:
  • DATE: 8:00 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 1:26:08
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: 121839
  • GENRE: Specials
  • SUBJECT HEADING: African-American Collection - Sports
  • SERIES RUN: HBO - TV, 2013
  • COMMERCIALS:

CREDITS

    • Spike Lee … Executive Producer, Director
    • Kiki Tyson … Executive Producer, Writer
    • Mike Tyson … Executive Producer
    • Jon Kilik … Executive Producer
    • James L. Nederlander … Executive Producer
    • Emily Cohen … Producer
    • Mike Tyson … Performer
    • DJ Clark Kent … Performer
    • Muhammad Ali
    • Teddy Atlas
    • Cus D'Amato
    • James "Buster" Douglas
    • Robin Givens
    • Mitch Green
    • Florence Henderson
    • Evander Holyfield
    • Don King
    • Brad Pitt
    • Bobby Stewart
    • Exodus Tyson
    • Denise Annette Tyson-Anderson
    • Desiree Washington