Photography by Xavier LeBlanc
After promoting his latest boxing venture In Chicago, this time outside the ring, legendary boxing icon Mike Tyson arrived in Hammond, Indiana. There to present a one man stage show at the The Venue inside the Horseshoe Casino, a location which in past times could have easily held the former fighter's infamous matches. Aptly titled 'The Undisputed Truth', the new show proposed to enlighten and entertain respective audiences on the exciting and often times controversial life of 'Iron Mike' himself. Professionally known to decimate opponents inside the ropes while living unpredictably in his personal life. Prison sentences, addiction, fight disqualifications and more have marred the popular boxing figure's life.
This has changed much in recent years and for audiences at his latest show, they are there to witness the positive transformation firsthand.
Before Tyson makes his way to the stage, those attending are greeted by a luxurious wide open auditorium space filled with a sleekly designed layout and state of the art lights highlighting the modern stage. Guests eagerly take their seat as they await with anticipation for the show to begin. Turning to each other as they express their expectations for Tyson's performance and their thoughts. Its clear they are curious and anxious.
The lights dim down and suddenly a figure appears onto the stage, not quite clear but everyone seems to know who this person is before any announcement or word is made. Walking across the stage to an audibly thunderous enthusiastic reception, styled in a firm fitting fashionable suit, Tyson looks upon the audience with a humble smile. A great contrast from the Tyson most were accustomed to years before.
Exhibiting a charismatic yet humorous demeanor he begins by recounting origins of his Brooklyn, New York upbringing. Detailing stories of his mother as her vintage photograph appears on a large screen behind him. Then discussing an absent unknown father and how they both left a lasting impact on him, although not necessarily a positive one. "I came from the gutter, a place where dreams are broken and memories are better forgotten" said Tyson retrospectively. We begin to envision a fallible boy navigating the streets surviving as best he can.
Tales of early brawls and troubled directions lay the track for his eventual passion. Fighting. It was not long before he found direction in boxing trainer Cus D'Amato who was to become detrimental to his life and eventual career. Seeming to fulfill a father-like role for Tyson which was previously left vacant.
Tyson would become the youngest boxer to win the WBC, WBA and IBF heavyweight titles at 20 years, 4 months, and 22 days old. He won his first 19 matches, two thirds of them by knockout. He briefly reenacts moves that were taught to him but signs of exhaustion are soon evident. He is no longer that same fighter, although still physically imposing.
Though inevitable controversies and damaging events of his life begin to loom in. He describes the events surrounding the court case that would result in his conviction after being accused of rape by Desiree Washington. His account of the night the act was reported to have taken place however is absent. “I did not rape Desiree Washington, and that’s all I’m going to say".
He also blames promoter Don King for much of his misfortune including appointing an inexperienced attorney, Tyson's bankruptcy and underhanded business practices. "Charged me $8,000 for towels" cited Tyson as example.
Tyson also became very animated as he described the divorce of his former wife Robin Givens and finding her with none other than superstar Brad Pitt. He also touches upon the infamous incident where he bit Evander Holyfield's ear during a match for which he was disqualified. Though he claimed they are now "good friends" as he shared photos of the two together on the large screen on stage.
Before the show ends the audience has laughed, become tense, smiled again and even shed tears after Tyson sadly tells of the loss of his young daughter. "Iron Mike" seems to no longer be the hardened unapologetic man of past and has expressed great growth. "My older kid will need more time to forgive my absence and relapse but I just want 'em to know I love them and will be there for them" he says in a way that appears heartfelt. With a new wife and family to look after he has evolved from the dangerous reckless image he once portrayed.
"This is my story, my mistakes, my heartaches, my joy, my sorrow, my gift, my life, my undisputed truth."
Tyson delivers on these words. The crowd has been through a proverbial roller coaster throughout the performance and may even view the boxing icon in a manner previously not thought possible to many. He paints a flawed but sympathetic picture of himself that is difficult not to feel. For fans of Tyson the show proves to be a must see.
He also heads to additional cities on his nationwide tour after leaving the always entertaining Horseshoe Casino for those wanting to see the show in person.