Posted: 05/03/2009



by Elaine Hegwood Bowen

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Tyson, which is a first-person account of Mike Tyson’s life, is spellbinding and keeps its audience entertained, waiting on the next riveting account of the ex-heavyweight boxer’s tormented personal and professional lives.
In a heart-breaking and tear-jerking commentary, Tyson spills his guts for the entire world to see and judge after so many years of media hype and awkward public displays. To his credit, Tyson takes the opportunity to share many aspects of his life—not to just try and make himself out as a martyr but he shows where he was the villain, also. And it’s darn good moviemaking.
Tyson reveals a very candid account of the boxer’s childhood, career, self-described sexual addiction, drug abuse and financial missteps. He’s as brutally honest in his interviews as he was brutally successful in the boxing ring during a career that spanned 20 years.
Tyson grew up as a tortured, chubby kid in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York, who was regularly bullied by the neighhorhood kids.
In his words, Tyson never saw the sense of fighting and wondered how people could be so cruel until the day someone snapped the neck of one of the pigeons to whom he had become attached. He then smelled blood and beat the bully senseless. Afterward, he reasoned that fighting had a proper place.
For all purposes, Tyson grew up fatherless, and he turned to gangbanging and crime as a pre-teen. This activity landed him in juvenile confinement once in New York City, and then again in upstate New York.
He eventually was introduced to Gus D’Amato, who would become his longtime trainer. D’Amato took Tyson into his home and taught him discipline and respect for the art of boxing.
Tyson prospered and thrived under D’Amato’s tutelage, which paved the way for his pugilistic fame (the youngest heavyweight at age 20). This achievement came hard and fast at a young age—almost as hard and fast as Tyson threw jabs in the ring.
That was the key to his boxing success—hard, fast hitting. But D’Amato taught Tyson more than boxing, he taught him how to be a man and provided the father-figure image that Tyson never had. Tyson admits his mother was a promiscuous woman and that he was exposed to many things that shaped his views about sex and women while living with her.
Tyson says that under D’Amato, he adapted a spiritual warrior attitude, which taught him that boxing as a profession was fine, and this revelation gave him a license to beat a guy to a pulp.
Tyson enjoyed a great career, and his first loss came after the devastating death of his mentor D’Amato in 1985, and he subsequently ignored his advice to abstain from sex while in training. Tyson had gone too far with partying and women, and he was also suffering from a case of untreated gonorrhea when he lost to Buster Douglas in 1990.
After D’Amato’s death, boxing promoter Don King managed Tyson, but this seems to have been more of an opportunistic marriage that benefitted King more than it did Tyson. In the documentary, Tyson refers to King as a “wretched, slimy reptilian.”
Tyson says he’s always had more love to give than he’s received, and he shared insights into his romantic liaisons.
He admits that his marriage to actress Robin Givens was a mistake, given that the couple was too young. But he also concedes that his thoughts during the highly anticipated 1998 Barbara Walters interview were if he were the monster that Givens described, he could have easily knocked her in the head during the taping. He figures he could have attributed it to the many blackouts he has suffered and to which he refers often in Tyson.
Tyson also discussed the rape conviction he received after allegedly assaulting 1991 Miss Black America contestant Desiree Washington. Choking back tears at times, Tyson admits that he’s always loved women too hard (he has six children), but he eventually found solace in another woman, ex-wife Monica Turner, who gave him two children. The two are divorced, but they remain good friends.
Nearly four years ago, Tyson had his last fight, which he lost to Kevin McBride. Afterward, Tyson said he wouldn’t fight anymore and that he had agreed to the fight, because he needed money to pay bills. He seemed filled with grief when he reconciled that he didn’t want to disrespect the sport that he loved.
Tyson reportedly earned more than $300 million during his career, but declared bankruptcy in 2003.
No matter what the media has said about Tyson—even overlooking the sweet nibbles to the ear that he gave Evander Holyfield in 1997—in this tell-all documentary, Tyson comes off as a sweet, lonely, misunderstood soul, longing for love and comfort from anyone, as opposed to people in his entourage being “leeches,” as he described them. The nearly 90-minute film primarily focuses on Tyson interviews and footage of his life events.
Tyson reveals that he’s glad to be on the mend at age 40, after years of alcohol and drug abuse, and the audience can’t help but believe hm. You sort of just want to stroke the tattoo on his face and assure him that everything’s going to be just fine.
Tyson is now playing in limited release.

Elaine Hegwood Bowen is a veteran public relations and journalism professional and former journalism professor. She’s publicist for her daughter, Hip-Hop artist Psalm One. A native Chicago South Sider, Elaine was a recent University of Maryland Bio Ethics, Health Disparities & Clinical Trials Fellow and winner of a Black Press Messenger Award.

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