Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I’m a pretty big sports fan and a huge boxing fan so I’ve followed the somewhat star-crossed career of Mike Tyson pretty closely. If you know boxing you know the Heavyweight Division is the sports flagship and when the Heavyweights are strong then boxing is strong. I’m bit too young to have appreciated the heyday of Muhammad Ali with the first Ali fight I saw live was when he got beat up by Larry Holmes, but of course I’ve seen all of his great fights replayed over and over again thanks to Classic Sports. Larry Holmes was a great champion but he was not a very charismatic one and then when he lost two fights to Michael Spinks, and the words he said afterwards, his legacy was somewhat stained. The point is in the years after Ali with the Tony Tubbs, Tony Tuckers, Mike Weavers, Trevor Burbicks and Jerry Cooney’s of the division who held one or more of the myriad of Heavyweight belts… boxing needed somebody to clean this mess up. Hello Mike Tyson! This is what James Toback’s new documentary ‘Tyson’ centers on as we sit and visit with Iron Mike and hear his story in his own words.

Tyson’s story is pretty much well known I would think by most because he was almost impossible to avoid during the mid eighties through the mid nineties. The main reason for his popularity is that he knocked people out. Plain and simple. When Tyson dropped Trevor Burbick three times with one punch to win one of those heavyweight belts, his legend was pretty much sealed. In the story Tyson talks about his suspect childhood and his life as a stickup kid until he caught the attention of legendary trainer Cus D’Amato. D’Amato took the troubled boy under his wing, recognized his talent and built a heavyweight champion though sadly D’Amato wouldn’t live to see the boy hold any of his belts.

The rest of Tyson’s life is fairly well documented as he comments on how D’Amato’s death had such a negative effect on him, his doomed marriage to Robin Givens – who

he still speaks fondly of to some degree even today, though he’s still pissed off about that Barbara Walters interview, his spectacular knockouts, his eventual losing the championship and his rape conviction… Somewhere Mike Tyson has a voodoo doll with Desiree Washington’s face on it. He goes on to talk about the delicacy that is Evander Holyfield’s left ear, his desire to eat Lennox Lewis’ yet to be born children and eventually his final loss to some guy I’ve never heard of which I believe is the one Tyson fight that I’ve never seen since he became champ back in 1986. He pretty much covers it all, including stomping a corn in Don King’s ass in front of that Beverly Hills hotel and the fact that he made many a person rich who didn’t take punch the first.

Tyson has provided me personally with my biggest high and deepest low as a sports fan with that low coming when he fought Michael Spinks. This fight was big deal in St. Louis since Spinks is from the area and I was in a room with a hundred people completely caught up in the hype. 91-seconds later time to go home. I didn’t even get a chance to finish the beer I just popped open. Spinks Jinx my ass. The reason Iron Mike getting KTFO’d by Buster Douglas was the high was because it was so completely unexpected. Me and my college roommate went to this guys house to watch the fight because this cat actually could afford HBO and we were only watching it because it was a Tyson fight and we wanted to see how spectacular this dude who calls himself ‘Buster’, which where we’re from is like using the words ‘Catastrophic Loser’ as your nickname, was about to get knocked out. After the fourth round I turn to my roommate and say ‘Will, I think Tyson is about to lose this fight.’ He doubted me, and truth be told I doubted it too until Iron Mike was crawling on the canvas trying to find his mouthpiece. Man, I felt like one of those old time reporters running to phone to call anybody I knew to tell them what we had just saw. You see nobody except the most feverish boxing fan even bothered to watch the fight in the first place.

I’ve never been a big Mike Tyson fan though it’s hard to resist a guy who can drop a guy with one punch anywhere at any time… and I might I say that while he had no business biting off Evander Holyfield’s ear, Evander head-butted himself to victory in those fights. And Toback’s documentary while very entertaining didn’t tell me much about Tyson that I didn’t already know, with the exception that he had gonorrhea before he knocked out Trevor Burbick. Nope, wasn’t aware of that. But right about now boxing is in desperate need of another Mike Tyson. Those lightweight champions are cool and all, but we need a heavyweight with charisma who can knock people out and hopefully one who might be a tad bit on the saner side of things. Love him or hate him, Mike Tyson during his career and in this documentary is hard to look away from.

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