Mike Tyson has worn many titles over his career.
Undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Iron Mike. The Baddest Man on the Planet. Madman. Convicted felon.
But in all that time, “master stage thespian” was never on the list – until now. The former boxing champ and public lightning rod brings his one-man show, “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth,” to Stockton’s Bob Hope Theatre on Thursday.
The production was directed by Spike Lee and played on Broadway before touring nationally last year. In it, Tyson, 48, sits (and stands and paces) onstage, telling the “undisputed” story of his life. He is accompanied by images of his past that help paint the picture of this complex and often troubled man.
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The idea for the show came after Tyson saw another autobiographical one-man show.
“This is just setting the record straight. I saw Chazz Palminteri do ‘A Bronx Tale’ on stage in Las Vegas. And you know, you could hear every word he said,” Tyson said to The Bee in a teleconference from Pittsburgh recently. “All the respect, you could hear a mouse piss on cotton, everybody was so quiet. So I said, man, I told my wife, I want to do that, I think I can do that.”
Tyson’s wife, Lakiha “Kiki” Spicer, wrote his show, which is essentially a personal monologue. Oscar-nominated “Do the Right Thing” director Lee directed the piece, which was turned into an HBO special last November.
It traces Tyson’s escape from a world of strife – where he famously was arrested 38 times by the time he was 12 – to become the youngest man to reach the apex of boxing and then his crushing fall.
The New Yorker reviewed his Broadway debut and called Tyson “incapable of dullness.” Variety called the subsequent HBO special “messy, energetic, muscular” – much like Tyson himself.
His Stockton performance is part of a limited tour of the production this year, and came at the request of his longtime friend and former training partner Tom Patti. The Stockton businessman brought Tyson into the Central Valley city last year for a fundraising event and to stop by a boxing gym.
“Mike has reached out in our community locally and we’ve seen some real positive impacts from him reaching out,” Patti said. “I had a man who saw him last year say he couldn’t stand next to Mike without crying. That is how excited Stockton is about being part of his resurgence. We appreciate Mike coming back and showing that support for our town.”
The past year has been a busy one for Tyson. Besides his one-man show, Tyson released a best-selling autobiography with the same name. He also has ventured into boxing promotion with his company, Iron Mike Productions. And he has a new cartoon series, “Mike Tyson Mysteries,” in which he voices himself, debuting this fall on the Adult Swim network.
But flashes of the old Mike, the Baddest Man on the Planet, who took a chunk out of Evander Holyfield’s ear in 1997, continue to break through, despite his successful return to the spotlight thanks to cameos in movies including “The Hangover.” Earlier this month, he lashed out verbally at a Canadian news anchor who brought up his 1992 rape conviction, for which he served three years in prison.
The clip went viral and put him in the headlines again. In his show, Tyson only briefly mentions the charges that he sexually assaulted a beauty pageant contestant in an Indianapolis hotel. Despite his high-profile ups and downs, Tyson said he doesn’t dwell on his past.
“You can’t have regrets. I don’t have any regrets or resentments, that’s why I was able to break out of that ugly little nasty little bubble I was in,” he said. “I let all that stuff go. You are as sick as your secrets, so I got rid of my resentments. I’m not mad at anyone.”
Tyson still credits the lessons he learned from his first trainer and surrogate father, Cus D’Amato, for his triumphs past and present. His fondest memories of his boxing career revolve around D’Amato.
“I think about Cus a lot when I think about my boxing career. Not (as) much with my champion fights and everything,” Tyson said. “His dedication. He was totally dedicated to his craft and that was developing people to be the best they could possibly be.”
After a series of tumultuous relationships, Tyson has been married to his third wife, Kiki, since 2009. The couple have two children together, 5-year-old daughter Milan and 3-year-old son Morocco. Tyson has five other children from previous relationships. Daughter Exodus died in a household accident in 2009.
These days, Tyson said he no longer considers himself the Baddest Man on the Planet, nor recognizes what the title purportedly celebrated.
“Not at all, because that was just conversation. That had nothing to do with being the Baddest Man on the Planet. The Baddest Man on the Planet is not about what you can dish out, it’s about what you can endure. It’s about the adversity you can overcome more than about beating people up and always being successful,” he said.
The reinvented Tyson says he is a different man: “It’s just growing up. Before, you act childish in childish situations. Now I’m dealing with adult situations and I’m dealing with them well.”
Still, he isn’t too worried about what title history ends up calling him in the end.
“I am just happy to be remembered,” he said.