Mike Tyson’s Undisputed Truth ends tonight

April 18, 2012 No Comments

Back in 1988, photographer Jeff Haynes of Getty Images took this photo of the 22 year-old “Iron” Mike Tyson, the World Heavyweight Champion. At the time, his record was 34 wins 0 losses, with 29 wins coming by way of knockout. He was unbeatable.

This could be your last chance to see if Mike Tyson can pull on your heart strings and you only have to pay $99 plus taxes and a handling fee for the privilege. That’s still a whole lot cheaper than blowing $1,552.50 to be in the seats for the Floyd Mayweather Jr. versus Miguel Cotto fight.

The final show of Tyson’s: Live on Stage, Undisputed Truth – Meet and Greet at the Hollywood Theatre inside the MGM Grand is tonight. According to the platitudes of the hotel’s PR staff, “Tyson is the world’s most illustrious boxer.”

Once again, we see the freewheeling with semantics. The use of “illustrious” to describe Tyson is a stretch, since illustrious means the most distinguished, prominent, influential, renowned, celebrated, esteemed, honored, respected, venerable, highly regarded, well-thought-of, brilliant, glorious, stellar or possibly all of the above.

Which portion of Tyson’s “illustrious” life haven’t we been exposed to? 

The youngest heavyweight champion in boxing history is also one of the sport’s most notorious. After a troubled childhood, he landed at a correctional facility in upstate New York where his skills as a fighter were first recognized. The physical education teacher at the school introduced him to Cus D’Amato, a boxing manager and trainer, who took the youngster under his wing and became his legal guardian.

Under D’Amato’s tutelage, Tyson blossomed as a fighter. After clobbering his first opponent with a first round knockout in 1985, Tyson finished his first year with a record of 15-0, winning a majority of fights even before his opponents could throw their first punch. Take note, D’Amato, his father figure, passed away on November 4, 1985.

In the following year, Tyson added 13 more wins, which included his WBC World Title fight against Trevor Berbick. That one ended with a second round TKO to make the 20-year old the youngest heavyweight champion in history.

November 22, 1986: At the age of 20 years, 5 months and 22 days, Mike Tyson became the youngest Heavyweight Champion ever after knocking Trevor Berbick out at 2:35 of the second round in their match at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas. In the post-fight interview with Larry Merchant, Tyson told the millions watching on HBO: "My record will last for immortality. It will never be broken." For over 25 years, that boast or shall we say assumption remains true.

The whirlwind of events happened so quickly, it was like a dream. The first sign of any slippage came with the Mitch Green fight, not the first one in the ring, but the second one on the street.

In the first fight, Tyson, mad as hell, came to the center of the ring literally foaming at the mouth. The ever cocky Green, who always came to the ring sporting a toothpick in the corner of his mouth, harangued Tyson with insults. The action in the bout proved to be anti-climatic with Tyson forever moving forward, but getting repeatedly tied up by the 6’5″ hugger. Tyson’s most effective display of offense came in the third round when he landed a blow to Green’s jaw with such force that it dislodge a section of bridge work. The dental implant went flying several feet to the ring apron. Through it all, “Blood” managed to survive the fight, with Tyson being the clear winner.

Fast forward to August 23, 1988 when “Iron” and “Blood” met again. In the early morning hours, Tyson stopped by Dapper Dans, a Harlem clothing store frequented by a clientele from rap stars to pimps. He was there to pick up a custom-made jacket. Green just happened to be in the area and an argument ensued in which Green threw the first punch. Tyson responded with a straight right to the bridge of Green’s nose requiring five stitches. In this altercation, Tyson suffered a fracture of his hand causing a postponement of his scheduled first fight with Frank Bruno.

The hands of a boxer are like the legs of a thoroughbred race horse. Damaging the tools of your trade can affect a boxer in very consequential ways.

After an eight month layoff, Tyson returned to the ring to fight Bruno who wobbled Tyson in the first round with a left hook. Tyson had never been wobbled before. He was also warned about a headbutt in round four. The two developments were manifestations that this was not the same fighter. He was no longer the invincible warrior.  He fought once more in ’89, a quick, one minute and 33 second destruction of Carl “the Truth” Williams.

Having time off from work was not good for the young champion who began to change trainers and become less disciplined. Over his career Tyson changed trainers eight times.

Women Trouble

Legally married three times, Tyson has eight children with several women. His first marriage was to actress Robin Givens. The couple’s marriage lasted just over a year and was marred by allegations of violence, spousal abuse and mental instability.

After Tyson’s divorce, his life continued the downward spiral. In 1991, he was arrested for the rape of 18-year-old beauty queen, Desiree Washington. During the trial, the boxer denied claims he had misled Washington. The jury sided with Washington and Tyson was given a 10-year sentence.

The comeback bid

In 1995, released from prison, Tyson returned to boxing. After four quick KO wins (not one got passed the third round), he lost a WBA-title defense to Evander Holyfield. Their rematch on June 28, 1997, became one of the most bizarre events in modern sports, when an aggravated Tyson bit off a piece of Holyfield’s ear. In the third round, the ear-biting happened again, and the fight was stopped. Tyson was disqualified.

At this point in his life, Mike Tyson (L) had become a madman, especially after biting off a piece of Evander Holyfield's ear.

Three million dollars was withheld from Tyson’s $30-million purse by the Nevada State Boxing Commission. Tyson issued a statement of apology to Holyfield and asked not to be banned for life over the incident. A month later, Tyson’s boxing license was revoked. Though the revocation was not permanent, the boxer continued to be plagued by legal problems and in 1999 served a year for an assault.

After losing three of four matches in 2004-2005, he stunned the boxing world by quitting, stating he no longer had “the fighting guts or heart anymore.”

Along comes the 2006 Exhibition Tour

On September 28, 2006, “Mike Tyson’s World Tour” was announced. Tyson had hoped to fight 100 four-round exhibitions throughout the world over the course of one year.

On October 21, 2006, he made the first and only stop in Youngstown, Ohio to box Corey Sanders for four two-and-a-half minute rounds. Out of shape, both men wore t-shirts, and Sanders headgear. Tyson weighed 241.5 lbs., while Sanders weighed 292.5 lbs. Tyson dropped Sanders in the first round and it appeared to some ringside observers that he had to hold Sanders up later in the round after landing a second punch.

In 2007, he served 24 hours in the Maricopa County Jail and 360 hours of community service for possession of cocaine and driving under the influence.

After his boxing career ended, Tyson managed to stay in the limelight by promoting various websites, companies, along with being cast in television and film roles. In 2008, the documentary Tyson premiered at the annual Cannes Film Festival in France. The film was a montage of current interviews with Tyson plus footage from past fights and his personal life.

After rising to the top of his profession and then crashing to the very bottom, Tyson has spent the last few years re-focusing his energies with the help of his third wife, Lakiha ‘Kiki’ Tyson.

(L-R) Former boxers Sugar Ray Leonard and Mike Tyson and CNN host Piers Morgan posed for a photo at the grand opening of Tyson's one-man show 'Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth - Live on Stage' at the Hollywood Theatre at the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino April 14, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Most of the show's reviewers stated they enjoyed Iron Mike Tyson's presentation. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Below are excerpts from Tim Dahlberg, AP Sports’ review of Tyson’s one man show:

“The urge (to run up on stage and give him a big hug) struck me about halfway through Mike Tyson’s latest adventure. Just after he told the audience about how his mother loved the bottle more than she loved him. Or maybe it was when the big video screens showed a young Tyson serving as a pallbearer for Cus D’Amato, the man who molded his boxing career and the only man he really loved.

On Saturday, April 14, 2012, Lakiha 'Kiki' Tyson (L) and her husband Mike Tyson pose for a photo at the grand opening of his one-man show 'Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth - Live on Stage' at the MGM Grand Hotel. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The message he brings in a show that runs nearly two hours is one of redemption and forgiveness.

That he’s still alive … after all that (wild) living is remarkable enough, a fact Tyson himself acknowledged. Any combination of the women, the fights, the drinking and the heavy cocaine use could have done him in at any time.

That he’s transformed himself into something far different than his former fearsome self is even more remarkable. He’s now America’s Guest, a comedian/actor/storyteller who finds it both therapeutic and financially lucrative to talk about a time gone by, when he mesmerized the world with his wild and crazy ways.

“When I first met Don (King) I didn’t realize I was meeting the (expletive) devil,” Tyson said. “But Don and I made peace. Forgiveness is my new motto. I hope it works for me.”

Forgiveness goes only so far. The people in Indiana who put him in prison for three years for rape apparently don’t merit it, even as Tyson acknowledges the lockup may have saved his life.

“There’s a lot of things I could have gone to jail for and I deserved to go to jail for,” said Tyson. “But this wasn’t one of them. I didn’t do it and I will never admit doing it.”

Strangely enough, the show barely touches on the biggest moments in Tyson’s career. There’s no footage of him knocking out Trevor Berbick to become the youngest heavyweight champion ever, and nothing on his 91-second destruction of Michael Spinks.

The only fights he really talks about were among the lowest moments in his life … getting knocked out by Douglas, and biting Evander Holyfield’s ear.

He explains the Douglas loss to the fact he was cavorting with Japanese prostitutes instead of training. The ear biting, he says, was mostly Holyfield’s fault for head butting and the fact referee Mills Lane “hated my guts.”

This show is more about feelings than punches … at the end when the band played “Bridge Over Troubled Water” Tyson added a voiceover of his troubled life.

The audience … was a loving one, with one woman shouting out “You’re doing great, Mike” as he paused during one particularly bleak story. They gave him a standing ovation when he took the stage, and many did the same when he finally left it two hours later.”

Entertainer Rosie O'Donnell attended the grand opening of Mike Tyson's one-man show. It's a good thing she wasn't fighting during that same period. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Attendees at Tyson’s show included: Former boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, CNN host Piers Morgan, singer/songwriter Melissa Manchester, singer Eddie Levert of The O’Jays, recording artists Al B. Sure!, Paula Abdul, actress Rasheda Ali, Actor/Comedians Andrew Dice Clay and George Lopez, comedian Carrot Top, Michael Jackson’s dad, Joe Jackson, TV personalities Rosie O’Donnell, Michelle Money, ESPN columnist Rick Reilly and Don “Magic” Juan, who brought one of his custom pimp cups for Tyson.

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