Seven Questions With Mike Tyson

The legendary boxer on learning how to love himself

Photo by Jerry Metellus

Photo by Jerry Metellus

Your show Undisputed Truth Live On Stage has changed in direction and tone from when it first debuted in 2012 . It is much more intimate and lighthearted. Is this a direction you wanted to take for a while?

My wife took me in that direction. It’s like a stand-up comedian [vibe]. She said, “Now’s your chance” and it was awesome. She said “wing it and let’s make a show out of it”—and that’s what we did, we made new shows.

Do you change out the stories within the show?

Absolutely. That’s what happened to the [original] show we did. The first time we did this it was two and a half hours long, and no one was sleeping, they were all listening. I was dripping with sweat after it, so we cut it down and made a show out of it. That’s how we got to this one.

What’s your favorite part of being in front of a live audience?

It’s really all about testing yourself. Are you really funny? Are you intriguing? Do you really want to hear what you have to say? I don’t, but people do.

Your cartoon, Mike Tyson Mysteries, has been a major success. Between the show and everything else, did you ever imagine you’d be a cartoon character?

No. Mike Tyson, the worst man on the planet, heavyweight champ, $35 million a fight, the cartoon wouldn’t touch me with a hundred-foot pole. Wouldn’t come near me.

You have to go through growing stages in your life. Being the richest athlete and with everything going for me, the cartoon touched me. It’s so bizarre. The perception has changed. It feels uncomfortable that everybody appears to be, “Hey, we love you,” when it was the reverse before. You have to work on accepting this love and loving yourself. It’s a process!

The American public—they love you, hate you the next moment, and then love you again. How does that feel?

It is a vicious cycle. The cycle gets really tyrannical. You’re only as strong as your last breakdown. This guy is strong, he’s been hanging out for 30 years, he’s not going to break, but he broke because he’s been fighting too long. Only the strong survive, and that’s the vicious cycle. We’re all strong, but we’re going to break if we’re fighting too long.

If 50-year-old Mike could talk to 20-year-old Mike, what would he say?

I’m just very grateful. I got old too fast, and smart too late. I’m still alive. Most people aren’t alive who endured what I endured. I’m very lucky. Luck is my greatest exponent.

What is the most surprising thing about the journey you’ve gone through since you started telling your life story on stage?

It didn’t start easy. It was gritty and hard, and dark. I said, “I don’t know who my father is,” and the audience laughed. Boom! My baby says, “They’re laughing. Keep going out there; it’s a good show.” It went from a hard, tough guy show to a comedy stand-up [show]. Sometimes the hardest things in life end up the funniest.