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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. 

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Liz has her master’s degree in religion from Florida State University. She has since written for publications and outlets such as Miami New Times, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Ocean Drive, the Huffington Post, NBC Miami, Time Out Miami, Insomniac, the Daily Dot, and the Atlantic. Liz spent three years as New Times Broward-Palm Beach’s music editor, was the weekend news editor at Inverse, and is currently the managing editor at Tom Tom Magazine.
Contact: Liz Tracy

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