Mike Tyson's Undisputed Truth Is an Intense Self-Portrait of a Complex Character

In his one man show Undisputed Truth, Mike Tyson compares himself to Medea in a photo at the height of his coke addiction, refers to his facial Maori tattoo as a "tramp stamp," and sings Minnie Ripperton's "Lovin' You Is Easy Cause You're Beautiful" in a strained falsetto. 

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Like many people outside of New York, our first introduction to Undisputed Truth was a short but totally entrancing Rolling Stone article. Though originally a Vegas show, Spike Lee directed the Broadway production. And with Nina Simone singing and romantic still shots decorating the screen behind Tyson, visually and aurally, it really is a Spike Lee creation. 

This weekend, Tyson stood on the stage at the Seminole Coconut Creek Casino and spilled out his guts, danced like a dork, and held the attention of a drinking crowd of mostly male boxing fans. 

The former heavyweight champion touched on just about every big news aspect of his life. He started with his biological mother, who, like Tyson, was an addict. He spoke poetically about addiction, returning to the topic throughout the night. He said softly, it's always there, to "creep up on me in my darkest night to steal my brightest day." 

He spoke of his pigeons -- which he raised growing up in Brooklyn -- his early days as a born fighter kicking ass around his neighborhood, spending more time in the juvenile detention center than out, even referring to it as his "Cheers." 

A trip from Muhammad Ali to one of the facilities stuck with him as did the introduction to his boxing mentor Cus D'Amato, whose name garnered a huge applause. He joked that at first, he thought the old white man was a pervert, not used to trusting anyone. But D'Amato told him his destiny, and brought him there: The world's youngest heavyweight champion. It seemed though that after the prediction became reality, Tyson didn't have a roadmap to direct him anywhere. 

To see if Tyson would really hit anyone and everyone, D'Amato had asked him "Are you scared of white people?" And on the screen behind him flashed a photo of Mitt Romney with those same words written next to his head. The audience ate it up. Tyson attributed this to Lee, calling it his idea. 

Oddly enough, this isn't just a story of little Mike grown into big Mike. Undisputed Truth demonstrates racial nuances of a time and place and a society. Tyson hasn't lived any kind of "typical" life, taken in its entirety, but the fact that he was raised in such poverty and was removed from it at a relatively early age, allows him unique observations. Here, he recounted his contrasting experiences as a rough black kid in the inner-city and then in the white life of upstate New York. He's given the opportunity to speak as both an insider and outsider in both realms. Spike Lee's imagery and songs really accent the depth and intensity of Tyson's, not so much struggle, but observations. And they're reflective of our society in its do-gooder ways, extreme violence, racial inequities, celebrity worship and condemnation. 

Tyson's words were at times muffled, as he's not the most verbally articulate man, but he was a ham and goof onstage and definitely hard to look away from. 

Two moments were particularly awkward. At one point, in the middle of a dramatic turn of the head, he lost his mic. Someone yelled "You lost your mic, Mike." The audience really didn't know how to be an audience. During a seriously sad story about his mother dying and Tyson regretting not telling her he loved her enough, some dude yelled out: "She knows now, Mike!" And Tyson, rightfully pointed to the guy and said, "I work alone brother, chill." He went from serious to funny with ease, at one point mopping his head with a handkerchief saying, "I'm sweating like a pimp with one hoe." 

He got into it with Robin Givens and made everyone chuckle talking about finding her with Brad Pitt. He danced around the stage and shook his ass to "Gold Digger." On biting Evander Holyfield's ear, he said simply, "It was a bad day," and joked that someone in the mental ward was juggling buggers in the corner. Doesn't get much better than that, friends.  

He's more self-reflective that most people you'll meet in a year. He pointed to his low self esteem and big ego, talked of an Oprah "Aha" moment. It seemed the thing that held the mirror up to his actions was the death of his four-year-old daughter, something he spoke about emotionally onstage. This was the turning point in a life of extreme torment and violence. From stories we've heard, it doesn't seem like Tyson was ever a bad seed entirely, but at this point, he's dedicated to peeling back any of that rotten pod and planting himself into a vegan, charity-opening, stage-acting soil where the real Mike Tyson might fully take form. 

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