Apr 24, 2011


Out of all Negro athletes in American history, I have always found heavyweight champion boxer Mike Tyson to be the most interesting. I would not say that I am exactly sympathetic towards Tyson’s personal struggles, but I appreciate his struggle as an urban hoodlum who was able to achieve (for better or for worse) exceptional notoriety. In the 2008 documentary Tyson directed by James Toback, Tyson gives a personal and intimate look at his turbulent life, as well as his notable boxing career. Jewish auteur James Toback has always had a glaringly odd obsession with Negro sexual potency (starting with his directorial debut Fingers) and urban thugs, so it is quite fitting that he would direct a documentary about convicted rapist Mike Tyson. While watching Tyson, it was apparent to me that James Toback was attempting present Tyson as a misunderstood individual whose reputation had been permanently blemished by unfair media portrayals, but I couldn’t help but notice that the boxer does a swell job incriminating himself in the documentary; saying things that would make most people suspect that he is a dangerous individual with an instable disposition. Of course, despite its failed attempt at presenting Mike Tyson in an angelic light, Tyson is a highly entertaining documentary worth anyone’s time.  After all, one can't help but take interest in an individual who once stated, "I want to fight, fight, fight and destruct the world."

Despite his blatant ambivalence towards whites in Tyson, Mike Tyson largely owes his success to Italian-American boxing manager and trainer Cus D’Amato; a man that provided the fatherless black youth with a father figure. In the documentary, Tyson admits that D’Amato trained him like a “slave” , thus conditioning the illiterate and impoverished boxer into the world heavyweight champion he would later become. When Cus D’Amato died in 1985 (the same year Tyson made his professional debut), Tyson was devastated. Many people have speculated that Tyson’s road to criminality and instability was a direct result of D’Amato’s death, despite the fact that Tyson starting committing crimes during early childhood. Still, it seems that D’Amato would have been able to at least control Tyson to a degree, as he was the man that “tamed the beast.” Although D’Amato speaks very lovingly of D’Amato, he does not hold back in admitting his utter contempt for former manager Don King. In Tyson, Tyson states in an agitated manner that he thought Don King was his “black brother” and that the eccentric white-afro-puff-sporting boxer manager would, “Kill his mother for a $1.00.” Tyson would later have his revenge against King (who swindled a lot of money out of the trusting boxer); beating him up at a hotel and eventually receiving around $20 million (which Tyson describes as a “small amount” of money) in court. While talking about his physical altercation with King in the documentary, Tyson mentions that “old decrepit white women” stared at him like he was a common thug, but this a minor offense when compared to Tyson’s verbal assault against a white spectator who yelled to the boxer that, “he needed to be put in a straight-jacket.” In response, Tyson elegantly retorted whilst grasping his crotch in a repellent animalistic manner, “"Put your mother in a straight-jacket you punk ass white boy. Come here and tell me that, I'll fuck you in your ass you punk white boy. You faggot. You can't touch me, you're not man enough. I'll eat your asshole alive, you bitch. C'mon anybody in here can't fuck with this. This is the ultimate, man. Fuck you, you ho. Come and say it to my face.... I'll fuck you in the ass in front of everybody. You bitch.... come on, you bitch. You're scared coward, you're not man enough to fuck with me. You can't last two minutes in my world, bitch. Look at you scared now, you ho.... scared like a little white pussy. Scared of the real man. I'll fuck you 'til you love me, faggot!" Although this incident is featured in Toback’s Tyson, many other controversial incidents are ignored in the documentary (after all, it is only 90 minutes in length).  Despite the homoerotic overtones of his emotional tirade against the white heckler, Tyson said the following about his sex life, "I may like fornicating more than other people. It's just who I am. I sacrifice so much of my life, can I at least get laid? Know what I mean? I been robbed of most of my money, can I at least get a blow job?

In Tyson, Mike Tyson also discusses his rape conviction and prison sentence(s). In 1991, Tyson was arrested for the rape of 18-year old Miss Black Rhode Island Desiree Washington. As he mentions in the documentary, Tyson denies to this day ever raping Washington. In Tyson, Tyson describes Washington as a “wretched woman” and blames her for causing him to lose his humanity. Despite claiming his innocence in regards to the rape of Desiree Washington, Tyson freely admits that he has abused women in the past. The boxer also bashes his ex-wife Robin Givens due to an episode during their marriage where she attacked Tyson on live television. In a clip featured in Tyson, Givens describes Tyson (who is sitting right next to her) as a “maniac depressive” who turned her life into a “pure hell.” While Givens is bashing Tyson on television, he sits speechless with a blank stare, as if everything his ex-wife is saying is going straight over his head (which it probably was).  During the documentary, Tyson - in an unintentionally hilarious (like many parts of the film) moment in the film - describes what qualities he looks for in an ideal woman. Apparently, Tyson likes strong and intelligent women (like CEOs) that he can “sexually dominant.” Considering Tyson’s father abandoned his family when the boxer was a youngster and his mother died when he was 16, it is no surprised that the former heavyweight champion is quite dysfunctional when it comes to family matters. As Tyson explains in Tyson, one of his daughters is on her way to college and he hopes to provide his younger children with the same opportunities; no doubt many gigantic steps away from his impoverished upbringing. 


Tyson director James Toback with Mike Tyson and his children

At the conclusion of Tyson, Mike Tyson states regarding the public's perception of him, “You can judge me, but never can understand me.”  I, for one, can find no common ground with Tyson. After all, I certainly cannot relate to a peculiar black man who went from being an impoverished criminal youth to a internationally renowned boxing champion that inevitably fell from grace. In the documentary, Tyson explains that it is a miracle that he lived long enough to be 40 years old, hence why he intemperately blows all of his money (which he describes as “paper blood”) and has met bankruptcy despite his millionaire status. Even with fame and fortune, Tyson managed to serve multiple prison sentences. To show his disgust with the United States government (or at least that is what he says), Tyson got two tattoos of communist revolutionary figures (Mao and Che Guevara), as well as the infamous tribal (apparently modeled after an ancient primitive warrior tribe) tattoo that so crudely covers the side of his face. After biting a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear off during their second much anticipated rival boxing match (dubbed "The Sound and The Fury"), Tyson went home and smoked some weed and drank some liquor as a way to relax. I believe that the manner in which Tyson dealt with the Holyfield ordeal it very symbolic of his character – as it shows that he is an emotionally unstable man whose struggles just to reach an equilibrium in mood. I think of Mike Tyson as a real-life (and black) Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando’s character from Elia Kazan’s 1954 On the Waterfront) – as both boxers became entangled as pawns in a corrupt industry that neither could understand. Like Malloy, Tyson also has a strange fetish for pigeons. Although Tyson’s boxing career is pretty much over, his legacy will indubitably live on.  During  Tyson, Mike Tyson unexpectedly recites a poem by Oscar Wilde; which sounds somewhat normal considering the boxer’s unfitting high-pitch voice and lisp. In a way (as his various hilarious quotes attest to), Mike Tyson is an illiterate street poet whose brutal poetic punches and verbal barbarism will go to inspire many generations of black youth to come. After all, Mike Tyson has achieved (and somewhat lost) the seemingly impossible (for someone of his less than privileged background) by obtaining the much desired American dream. After watching James Toback’s Tyson, my opinion of Tyson has not changed, yet I highly recommend the documentary as it is certainly better than a typical Hollywood bio-pic.  I will end this review with these words of wisdom from Mike Tyson regarding his way of dealing with tragedy,"I don't react to a tragic happening any more. I took so many bad things as a kid and some people think I don't care about anything. It's just too hard for me to get emotional. I can't cry no more."

-Ty E

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