Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Boxing [Print without images]

Thursday, December 20, 2012
Again, Mike Tyson's world a stage

By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com

Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson, once tangled in drug and alcohol use, says he now gets his high from performing on stage.

Let the Mike Tyson road show begin.

The former heavyweight champ and International Boxing Hall of Famer starred in a limited run of his stage show "Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth" earlier this year at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The show, in which Tyson riffs on his many ups and downs and tells some of the wild and sobering stories from his life, was successful enough that renowned director Spike Lee spruced it up and took it to Broadway in New York for another limited run.

Now Tyson is ready for a national tour, which will kick off Feb. 12 and 13 with a pair of shows in, of all places, Indianapolis. That, famously, is the city where Tyson, in a life filled with troubles, found the worst of them. Indianapolis is where he was tried and convicted for raping a beauty pageant contestant in a hotel room in 1991. He eventually served nearly three years in prison for the crime, which he steadfastly denies committing.

Spike Lee, Mike Tyson
Director Spike Lee helped Mike Tyson take his stage show to another level -- Broadway -- before the former heavyweight champ decided to tour nationally.

Tyson, calm and seemingly content with his life now, said that kicking off the tour in Indianapolis, the first stop of a 10-week run that will take him to more than 30 cities, was merely a coincidence.

"We do have disagreements in what happened in the case. That was the person then and this is the person now," Tyson said on a recent teleconference to discuss his show, along with many other subjects that were thrown his way. "It is going to be so awesome, and I hope my lawyer comes, who was invited. Even with the trials and tribulations I had in Indianapolis, I have a great deal of friends there. I'm not going to be one that worries about the past."

Tyson may not be worrying about the past, but he discusses it in great detail in his show -- which was written primarily by his wife, Kiki.

Tyson, who hopes to eventually take the show on an international tour, has been working on raising money for his newly founded Mike Tyson Cares Foundation, which he says is designed to give "homeless kids a fighting chance in life."

The night before the Juan Manuel Marquez-Manny Pacquiao fight in Las Vegas earlier this month, Tyson hosted a party and charity auction at a nightclub at the MGM Grand to benefit the foundation. He said he would like to have similar events around each of his shows to help raise funds for the organization.

"This is something I have embarked on, and [I'm] going full speed ahead in the most cautious way I can, because there is so much satisfaction in helping these people," Tyson said. "Just like I needed the help. I was one of these kids. Whoever thought a kid like that could become Mike Tyson, that people all over the world know?"

Some of it does really hurt. The stuff that hurts the most, the crowd laughs at. It takes me back, and I don't know how to deal with that. I think, 'That's funny?' They are the turning points in my life that destroyed me, and that's funny?

-- Mike Tyson, on his feelings about discussing his life experiences in front of an audience at his one-man show, "Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth"

Tyson said the organization has "groups that give school supplies and medical supplies to over 7,000 homeless children, and I think it is just awesome. Our society gives up on kids so quickly and we send them to prison and spend taxpayers' money on them. Many of us are just happy to get our check, not caring what is going on in our society -- it's not good."

That attitude seems a long way from the one associated with the Tyson of old, who was known as "the baddest man on the planet" when he was at his ruthless best.

Tyson has battled drugs and alcohol but claims he is clean now, instead getting his kicks from being on stage in front of an audience.

"The stage gets me high. The fans get me high. That's the high I was looking for when I did drugs and could never receive it," Tyson said. "Now it's back, and I'm back here doing what I love to do and giving them the perspective of who I am."

He describes the show as "like a roller coaster of emotions, my life. I hope they understand the story -- it's not about loss, it's about victories and triumphs, mistakes, heartbreak. It's what you have to go through to be a complete human being."

There are comparisons, Tyson said, to doing a live show and going into a fight.

"The doubt and the fear of being a failure is there. Not succeeding is there," he said. "The only thing that's different is I don't have to go to the hospital afterwards."

Tyson has taken his lumps, though, including being heckled on more than one occasion.

How did the man who once bit off a chunk of Evander Holyfield's ear deal with that?

"It depends on what mood I am in," Tyson joked.

Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson delves into an array of experiences during his show, including the death of his daughter, which he says is "kind of not a pretty sight" on stage.

During the show, Tyson talks about all sorts of the famous and not-so-famous incidents in his life, including topics most would find difficult to talk about at all, much less in front of a crowd.

"I speak about my daughter towards the end of the show, and that's kind of not a pretty sight," Tyson said of his daughter, Exodus, who died in 2009 at age 4 in a freak home accident. "I talk about everything that everyone knows about. They have seen them in the press, [but] they don't know the underlying factors. I am expressing that.

"I do feel the memories and I think about some, and every now and then I get a pain and I try to be very objective. Some of this stuff does hurt. Some of it does really hurt. The stuff that hurts the most, the crowd laughs at. It takes me back, and I don't know how to deal with that. I think, 'That's funny?' They are the turning points in my life that destroyed me, and that's funny?

"I really learned a lot by expressing myself, that I am an interesting guy, you know? I can conform with society. I want to entertain people and I don't know if that comes from my frustrations, from wanting to accomplish things, my goals? I don't know, it just comes from a lot of things. I didn't want to be a failure in life, I want to leave a good legacy from a missionary perspective, caring for people like myself when I was a young kid, and that's what is on my mind now.

"I want to be a champion in that rather than a champion as a so-called celebrity guy, because I never realized that giving would give me so much fulfillment. That's why I am so dedicated to this Mike Tyson Cares Foundation, to give kids a fighting chance. That's what I'm about now."

Tyson also touched on various other topics:

• Revealing that he has never played the famed boxing video game that carries his name: "Holy moley, not once. I caught on late to video games. I am a video game junkie now. I caught on in 2006 and I can't stop now. I am doing the Black Ops thing right now. I am killing the zombies right now."

• On what he would change in his life: "Maybe I wouldn't have slept with as many women as I did."

• On Hector Camacho Sr.'s recent shooting death, in which packets of cocaine were found in the car he was in: "My initial reaction was, 'Damn, I just saw the guy.' I thought, that could easily be me if I hadn't had these life-changing decisions."

• On the recent death of trainer Emanuel Steward, whom Tyson knew for years: "He changed the game. I think Manny was one of the last old-school trainers. He had all the great champions and he had them all in the same gym. His amateur team was always the best amateur team in the world because he had them boxing the great fighters. They were magnificent, with a magnificent trainer -- he was just the man."

• On having his win against Andrew Golota changed to a no contest because of a positive marijuana test: "Did you see how Golota looked? I was nervous. I had to relax, man. Do you remember? He looked crazy, man."

• On whether he thought he would make it to age 46: "I didn't think I would make it to 25. God blessed me that I went to prison that time. I was just crazy. I was so out of control. I didn't know how out of control I was until I was in prison. I took that as a blessing."

Tyson last fought in 2005, when he was stopped by Kevin McBride in Washington, D.C., his third loss in his final four fights. But Tyson said that his late trainer, mentor and adoptive father, Cus D'Amato, who died a year before Tyson won his first world title in 1986, would say he should still be boxing.

"Cus would say I should be fighting. 'You're still healthy, you're still strong. You lost because you didn't have the interest no more,'" Tyson said. "He would have my sons fighting. He would have my daughters boxing. That's just how he is. He would be happy I am taking care of my family. That's No. 1. He would love that. But he would say my sons should be fighting and the girls should be fighting. That's just who he is. I am 46 years old, and Cus would still have me fighting. That's not going to happen."