The six-part reality television series Being Mike Tyson: The Real Deal premiered Sunday on FOX. The show’s debut immediately boxed me into a corner and will force me to tune in for the second round of the retired fighter’s intriguing docudrama.
The initial episode lived up to its title. The iconic lead character Mike Tyson truly personified the real deal; i.e. engaging, childlike, fragile, likeable and complex.
It’s only fitting that the conflicted Tyson appears as much unrefined and ineloquent as he is compelling and genuine before the camera. The former heavyweight champ, and once mega-rich athlete, unwittingly captivates viewers with raw, entertaining and guileless recollections. Tyson’s honesty is evident, especially in his reunion with former foe Evander Holyfield. Still, the series still begs for the former champ to reveal much more to an expectant FOX audience in the five remaining episodes.
The new FOX series closely parallels the former champ’s one man Broadway show, Undisputed Truth, produced by Spike Lee. While on stage, Tyson demonstrated the same odd brilliance and awkward comedic talent that he carries into the new reality series.
Recalling Tyson’s telling line from Undisputed Truth resonated for me. It reveals the unadulterated motivation he displays in Being Mike Tyson: The Real Deal. Tyson is quoted, “I wanted to kill everybody in the theater…with my performance!”
Tyson acknowledges that he’s made mistakes in the past, confesses to feeling desperate and irate, and admits that he’s learned what NOT to do in life that he can share with others. It’s evident that Iron Mike’s painful miscues have afflicted him emotionally with the same force as the brutal punches he levied on opponents in the ring.
Because of how he’s been personally affected outside the ring, Tyson hopes to use his larger-than-life persona outside the ropes. Today, he’d like to impact those who remember him as the heavyweight champ of the world and choose to forget his reckless mistakes of the past.
A poignant moment from Being Mike Tyson: The Real Deal captures the time a teenage Tyson shook Sugar Ray Robinson’s hand and proceeded to run 10 miles because he was so inspired by his boxing idol. It appears the now torn and fragmented fighter desires to pay forward that defining motivational moment he experienced as a youth.
However, in the premier, only passing comments were mentioned about the demons from Tyson’s past that have haunted him. Interested viewers like me look forward to a very real Mike Tyson expounding upon his battles with his true opponents in life: alcohol addiction; an acrimonious relationship with boxing promoter Don King; his painful time in prison for a rape conviction; his colossal personal bankruptcy; and the unending, unfathomable pressure of living under a microscope as one of the sports world’s wealthiest and most recognized athletes.
Unlike Floyd Mayweather, Jr, Iron Mike is no pretty boy; he’s not the least bit full of himself. The once ferocious fighter shows a tender side and even sheds a tear before the camera, and metaphorically, as he faces his dogged public and personal struggles head on.
After watching only one episode of Being Mike Tyson: The Real Deal, I’m in Tyson’s corner. Here’s hoping Iron Mike knocks out his own personal demons once and for all.
Sure, Tyson’s raw. But that’s expected. However, he’s entertaining and his noticeable lisp, a more evident eye tattoo and his honesty about a ponderous lifetime of baggage proves that Mike Tyson is real. Very real.
MIKE – aka Mike Raffone – thee ultimate talking head on sports!