During the summer of 1988, before in-home pay-per-view boxing was the norm, fight fans had to plunk down cash money at local pubs or arenas to watch important heavy-weight boxing matches. Attending Mike Tyson vs. Michael Spinks at the Huntington Civic Center cost me $20 for 91 seconds of boxing.
And it remains the best $20 bucks I've ever spent on a sporting event.
The drama of this particular fight was high. Tyson was at the pinnacle of his career, and was so good he frightened other fighters. Spinks was scared; the audience could see it when he met Tyson in the middle of the ring for pre-bout rules. Spinks was scared to death, and he knew he was gonna lose. Tyson was ferocious, and fought like a monster. 91 seconds after the bell sounded, Tyson was the winner. Spinks never fought again.
That is what I think of when I think of Mike Tyson.
Tyson, written and directed by James Toback, gives an older, broken Mike Tyson the opportunity to reflect on his life and explain his decisions, and his actions. "Iron Mike" gives great detail about his childhood and those years he spent around trainer and father figure Cus D'Amato. Hearing Tyson explain the importance of D'Amato in his life is riviting, and emotionally moving. It's clear D'Amato was more than a boxing coach to Tyson, who grew up fearful and distrustful of everyone in his life. D'Amato helped Tyson learn to trust others, and develop some confidence in himself.
And then D'Amato died.
Tyson has difficulty describing his life after the death of D'Amato. Events happened in a whirlwind; he chose women, money, drugs, power and fame too often, and his career suffered for it. D'Amato, who seemed to serve as Tyson's focus, was gone. Without that focus, Tyson was lost.
And from comments made in the documentary, he still is.
The audience doesn't learn much new information from watching Tyson. Fans already knew he was a fat kid with a lisp who led a criminal lifestyle and was imprisoned by age 12. Fans knew of the troublesome marriage to Robin Givens, and the rape charge for which Tyson served jail time. Fans knew Iron Mike's career went to hell after his loss to Buster Douglas, and that he bit off part of Evander Holyfield's ear. What we didn't know was if Mike Tyson realized how much he let slip through his fingers, and whether or not he had regrets.
Toback's film answers that for us. The Tyson of today seems broken, and emotionally battered. And he's in stark contrast to the Iron Mike Tyson I plunked down twenty bucks to see back in the day.