By Thomas Gerbasi
If it seems like there’s been more talk about Mike Tyson in the last few years than when he was in his heyday as world heavyweight champion, that may not be completely accurate, but it’s pretty close.
Since his last fight in 2005 against Kevin McBride, the world has remained fascinated with the story of the Brooklyn-born Hall of Famer. And where the focus used to be on his harrowing childhood, his relationship with trainer Cus D’Amato, his fighting career, his rape conviction and other out of the ring issues, or his biting of Evander Holyfield, depending on the time, these days everyone is zeroing on the redemption of Mike Tyson.
And make no mistake about it, it is a compelling narrative, seeing Tyson struggle to let go of the past while trying to begin a new, more positive existence with his wife Kiki and their children. Yet while the acclaimed 2008 James Toback documentary Tyson and Iron Mike’s own one man show, Undisputed Truth, have given honest looks into the psyche of the former “Baddest Man on The Planet,” FOX Sports’ new six-part series, Being: Mike Tyson, may be the most revealing portrait of the 2013 version of Tyson yet.
Premiering on FOX this Sunday, September 22 and then moving to a regular Tuesday slot on FOX Sports 1 for the rest of the series on September 24, the series isn’t just about hearing brutally honest talk from Tyson about his life and his career, though that’s all there. Instead, viewers are flies on the wall as he revisits key moments in his life while interacting with those as intimate as his family, and as iconic as Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown.
Through it all, you get to witness someone who is both man and superhero, depending on the situation. Whenever Tyson is in public, the looks on the faces of the people who meet him speak countless volumes. He may be 47 years old and far removed from his fighting prime, but that doesn’t matter to those who grew up on him, saw the fight videos, or just saw him on television. To them, he’s still “Kid Dynamite,” and he always will be. You would think seeing that kind of adulation would get old by now, but it really doesn’t, especially in a segment when you see UFC fighter after UFC fighter greet him after a weigh in day meeting, faces beaming and phone cameras flashing.
Yet behind closed doors and away from the public may be where the series is at its best, as you watch Tyson in the Catskill gym where he learned his craft, in a bowling alley with his kids, at Jack Johnson’s grave, and even in a visit to the prison in Indianapolis where he served time. It’s in these instances where the silence almost speaks louder than Tyson’s words.
That’s the beauty of the series, its ability to take you to places you have never seen Tyson in before and teach you something about someone you assumed you knew everything about. Believe me, as someone who grew up on Tyson and devoured any stories and documentaries about him, Being: Mike Tyson unveiled new chapters to a book I believed already had been written and read.
And while the theme throughout is of a man coming to grips with a new chapter in his life while still embracing what has come before him, you can’t forget the initial reason why everyone was captivated by Tyson, and that’s because of his boxing. So the series doesn’t short sell his career and relationship with the sport, with a particular highlight being the episode where Tyson meets up with Holyfield, a man he will likely be linked to forever. The two not only discuss the infamous bite fight of 1997 (which is fascinating in itself), but they also watch Holyfield’s son box in an amateur fight, a segment which shows Tyson’s love for the sport at its purest level and also produces one of the series’ most memorable interview segments, as the former heavyweight champ speaks of meeting Sugar Ray Robinson and running ten miles afterward simply because he wanted to be like him.
After relating the story, Tyson is asked “Do you think those kids have the same feeling after meeting you?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “I have no idea.”
Here’s guessing those kids ran some miles after their brush with boxing royalty, something Tyson will always be.