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Tyson

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Tyson – Pulls No Punches In Revealing Documentary

Forget everything you think you know about former boxing champ Mike Tyson, because you are in for a surprise.  There is much more to this controversial figure than meets the eye.  As it turns out, Tyson is a very complex man who appears to be at war with himself. In this documentary, he bares his soul speaking candidly about his life and the turmoil that rages within him.

Director James Toback takes you up close and personal, getting inside the mind of Mike Tyson in a series of interviews in which, the disgraced boxer sits down in front of the camera and tells his story in his own words. With no holds barred, Tyson puts it on the line, drawing from his earliest memories and life experiences to the present.

Tyson’s monologue begins with his earliest experiences growing up in one of the worst, crime ridden neighborhoods in Brooklyn and describes the physical and emotional humiliation he endured as a child as the reason why he vowed to never let that happen again. While we can sympathize for his unfortunate start in life, the question is whether these factors works as an excuse for continual bad behavior that led to arrests and subsequent years behind bars, first for involvement in robberies during his early teens and years later in 1991 for a rape conviction, a charge that he has vehemently denied. Of course, we cannot forget the infamous episode in the ring when Tyson bit off a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear that has forever gone down as a part of boxing history. For the first time we get to hear all about these and other events, but from his side of the story.

An introduction to boxing during a stay at a juvenile detention center in upstate New York offered Tyson a means to channel his inner rage and offer empowerment.  But it took meeting Cus D’Amato, his manager, coach, mentor and father figure  who changed his life, built his confidence, taught him about discipline and character and caused him to believe in himself. It was Cus who gave him the motivation to go from robbing people to fighter and told Tyson he could be champion of the world.  In the ring was where Tyson was able to legally channel his inner fury, become a vicious animal and destroy his opponents.

Cus died when Tyson was only 19 and the blow was more devastating than anything he could ever feel in the ring. Based on Tyson’s emotionally charged recollections, Cus was probably the only person Tyson ever loved and who loved him, unconditionally, as if he was his own son.

In recalling his rise to fame and his downfalls, Tyson talks about studying the styles of old fighters in old reels and movies. Included are clips of his famous fights, his thought processes as he got ready for a fight, and the importance of psychologically intimidating his opponent.

Domination over his opponent kicks also into gear when it comes to women.  Although he abstained from sex for five years while concentrating on winning the title, his desire for sex, and the need to have total control over the opposite sex has consistently translated into disaster. One example was the rape conviction. Another involved the tumultuous relationship with first wife, actress Robin Givens.  Years ago, while Tyson sat silently at her side, Givens verbally broke him down, openly speaking about his cheating and the physical abuse she endured in her eight month marriage during a televised interview with Barbara Walters.

In going over other historical life events, Tyson discusses dealing with ruthless boxing promoter Don King, whom he describes as a “wretched, reptilian slime that would kill his mother for a dollar”; his conversion to Muslim while in prison (saying he used Islam because he was bitter to the world); the tattoo on his face (the sign of a New Zealand tribal warrior); and his travels to foreign countries where he was greeted by world leaders and parades, which swelled his ego.

Although his sentences are laced with foul words, in general, I found Mike Tyson to be surprisingly articulate except for his very funny misuse of a word when talking about the time he sexually gratified a woman in the bathroom of a nightclub.

I am not a boxing fan, nor a fan of Mike Tyson for his nasty behavior in and out of the ring.  In fact, I went into the screening expecting to detest this film since I am against the brutal sport that allows men to legally beat each other up.

The thing is you don’t have to be a boxing fan to find this film fascinating.  Mike Tyson admits being a troubled man and he talks about his ups and downs in such a raw and honest way that you can’t help but be drawn into his story.  The way I see it, getting the chance to speak freely and uncensored must have been a cathartic, and yes, self serving, experience. As for the audience, the film is nothing short of insightful and revealing and offers a better understanding of what makes Tyson tick. While the portrait painted isn‘t pretty, it is riveting.

Tyson is no longer a fighter in the ring, but Tyson, the documentary, delivers a knockout.

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