It’s been 10 years since Mike Tyson was in the boxing ring, but the images are indelible. So are the sounds: the roar of the crowd, the thud of gloves against flesh, the clang of the ringside bell and Tyson’s voice — oddly soft and high-pitched, yet snarling and angry.
The voice from his Las Vegas home remains distinctly Tyson’s, but the cacophony comes from his daughter, Milan, 7, and son, Morocco, 4, playing in the background.
“Rocco, hey, be nice,” Tyson said, turning briefly from the telephone. “Let’s love each other.”
Needless to say, retirement is a different type of match for the former undisputed world heavyweight champion. For those who want to reflect on Tyson’s days as one of the world’s most famous and feared athletes, his one-man stage show, “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth,” comes to Paragon Casino in Marksville at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23.
He has performed the show since early 2012, getting the idea after seeing Chazz Palminteri’s one-man show, “A Bronx Tale,” based on the movie in which Palminteri co-starred.
“He was better on stage than he was in the movie,” Tyson said. “We were all so mesmerized. You could hear a mouse piss on cotton. We were just overwhelmed. Our mouths were open. … I said, ‘I want to do that. I want to make people feel like that, the way I feel right now.’”
He created a show that ran two weeks in Las Vegas and was seen by an associate of movie director Spike Lee, who told his boss to take a look. Lee worked with Tyson, brought the show to Broadway, and it has toured the nation and several other countries.
In it, Tyson, 49, talks for about 100 minutes about his life. He said he’s not trying to change anyone’s mind about him.
“I’m just an entertainer that can do Mike Tyson better than anyone else,” he said. “I don’t get attached to the story. I just tell the story in my way.”
Like another famous performer who frequented Las Vegas, Tyson did things his way.
Even in a sport whose very essence is violence, Tyson’s primal fury stood apart. He was a thickly built tornado of punches. It wasn’t until his 20th pro fight that an opponent remained standing after 10 rounds. The others were knockouts, 12 of them in the first round. Ten consecutive fights didn’t get past the second round. Rarely has a boxer achieved such an aura of invincibility or evoked such a dreadful fascination.
Part of his ferocious image grew from his hard-as-nails background, a product of Brooklyn’s meanest streets who’d been arrested 38 times by age 12. The juvenile justice system, however, ultimately led him to Costantino “Cus” D’Amato, who’d trained Floyd Patterson to become the youngest world heavyweight champion in history. D’Amato told Tyson he could break that record. He would in 1986, but D’Amato wouldn’t see it, dying a year earlier. Tyson won his first 37 fights and 45 of his first 46.
But, as the song says: Regrets — he’s had a few.
His marriage to actress Robin Givens broke apart after a television interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters in which Givens, with Tyson sitting silently beside her, described her life with the boxer as a “pure hell.”
As a celebrity guest at the Miss Black America pageant in 1991, Tyson was accused, then convicted of raping Desiree Washington, one of the contestants, and was imprisoned for three years of a six-year sentence. He continues to proclaim his innocence.
Returning to the ring after prison, Tyson regained two boxing organizations’ world titles, but lost consecutive fights to Evander Holyfield, infamously getting disqualified for biting off a chunk of Holyfield’s right ear in the second fight.
Having won hundreds of millions of dollars, Tyson went bankrupt, which he blamed on being cheated by his flamboyant promoter, Don King. He became addicted to cocaine. A daughter from his second marriage died in 2009.
All of this comes up in his show, in which Tyson pulls no punches.
As rough as life has been, however, Tyson may have found a measure of peace he lacked during his boxing days. He married Lakiha Spicer in 2009. For the most part, refereeing his children’s disputes (“Hey, guys, we’ve got to share. Guys, can we please share? Rocco, can we please share?”) has replaced more public conflicts for Tyson.
“Hey, life, if it gets any better than this, man, when I die I’m going to have to write a check for being overpaid for life,” Tyson said. “I’m really feeling I was overpaid. I’m just enjoying it. I didn’t know how to enjoy it properly.”