Boxing: undisputed truth

Mike Tyson took part in a Monday conference call to hype his nationwide one-man stage show, "Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth." The ex-heavyweight champion and baddest man in the planet, once destined to burn out and fade away, is today a stunning tour de force of redemption.

He has a new charity aimed at helping kids who fall in between the cracks, and will spread the word about his newfound stability and sobriety and humility starting Feb. 12, when the 10-week, 36-city tour kicks off in Indianapolis. Tyson did a dry run in NYC, on Broadway, in late summer, and reviews for the show, co-crafted with Spike Lee, were almost uniformly positive.

The most stunning revelation for me during the call occurred when the ex-fighter, age 46, admitted he'd never played the "Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!" video game, because he took up gaming years after that game came out.

Humility and candor are what Tyson is about these days. When asked for one thing he might do differently if he could hit the life rewind button, he said, "I maybe wouldn't sleep with as many women." The recent shooting death of Hector "Macho" Camacho touched him, and had him shaking his head, wondering why he hadn't met the same fate, back when he was so reckless and surly that he'd get drugs from dealers and then refuse to pay them.

There were glimpses of the "old" badass: Tyson said that he does get heckled, and who knows, one night, depending on his mood, he might leap into the crowd and greet the heckler.

Mike Tyson, on Broadway

June, 18, 2012

Mike Tyson, the man who once bit off a portion of his foe's ear during a fight, is doing a one-man show on Broadway, to be directed by Spike Lee.

Richard Nixon must be sitting straight up in his grave.

What does it say about this age that a man can go from walking tabloid headline to convicted sex offender to the toast of Broadway in a matter of a couple decades? Have we really made such strides in the area of forgiveness? (Nixon would certainly marvel at this development and wonder why he wasn't born later -- or hadn't lived longer -- so that he could've enjoyed a triumphant comeback tour).

Or have we reached a level of permissiveness that too easily allows rogues an indefinite period of atonement, a self-prescribed humility quarantine to reinvent themselves and fairly seamlessly enter into a lucrative redemption tour?

Not to be a hater -- I have rooted for Tyson since he burst on the scene as a wrecking ball of fury who also had a contemplative and humble side, which he trotted out right after he finished applying the finishing touches to another cerebrum-rattling KO -- but I do sometimes wonder what Desiree Washington, the woman Tyson was convicted of raping, thinks about this transformation.

Is it totally legit? Is a backslide inevitable? Has he served enough penance? Should he have to serve any at all?

I admit, I am looking forward to taking in a performance of "Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth" live on Broadway (July 31-Aug. 5) at the Longacre Theatre in NYC, and seeing if the most interesting athlete of his era will help me process and clarify my complicated and ever-shifting take on his fascinating life.