At one time he was the baddest man on the planet, a heavyweight champion who terrorised anyone who got in his way, inside the ring or out. More recently he’s unburdened himself as perhaps the most tortured soul on earth, with a one-man show on Broadway.
It turns out that Tyson didn’t tell us everything. Not to worry, because he’s taken care of that in a hefty autobiography that might be the most soul-baring book of its genre ever written.
The title is “Undisputed Truth,” and the truth is that Mike Tyson is one messed up dude. He’s desperate to put his demons to rest, but the book needed an extra epilogue written just before printing to talk about him falling off the sobriety wagon once again.
And though things might be better these days in Tyson’s world, he constantly warns that he’s not far from slipping off the edge, or slipping back into a strip club to party with drugs and women.
“Sometimes I just fantasise about blowing somebody’s brains out so I can go to prison for the rest of my life,” he writes. “Working on this book makes me think that my whole life has been a joke.”
If so, Tyson has yet to figure out the punch line. Though he has reinvented himself in recent years as a family man and vegan with enough comedic talent to act in movies, he says he lives daily with the dark past of a junkie who loved to snort cocaine and drink and was constantly preoccupied with finding women to bed.
The sex is detailed in almost clinical terms, and the many women in Tyson’s life flow in and out of the pages like they did in his life. One big exception is Desiree Washington, the beauty pageant contestant who Tyson was convicted of raping in Indianapolis - a charge he heatedly denies - and spent three years in prison.
“How do you rape someone when they come to your hotel room at two in the morning?” he asks.
Even in prison he got his fill, he says, first with visitors and then with a prison drug counsellor who suddenly became available after Tyson had $10,000 sent to her home to fix her roof.
“I was having so much sex that I was too tired to even to go the gym and work out,” Tyson wrote. “I’d just stay in my cell all day.”
The book, in Tyson’s voice but written by Larry Sloman, offers a fascinating look into a life that up until now had already been well chronicled. It’s raw, and so profane that Tyson needs to explain some of the terms he uses for women and blacks in a separate chapter at the end.
But it is also quite funny in parts, like the time Tyson forgot about a suitcase that contained $1 million in cash, only to have one of his minions find it a week later.
“I had had a rough night in the city and had forgotten where I left it,” Tyson said.
Or when Monica Turner finally tired of his ways and filed for divorce.
“I guess she had had enough of my fooling around because I sure did a lot of it,” Tyson said. “Calling to tell her I had AIDS probably didn’t help either.”
Tyson is brutal on himself throughout the book, despairing of his lack of self-control and feelings of inadequacy. But he’s equally brutal about the people around him in a career that made him more than $300 million, yet left him so broke today that he says he will never be able to pay off his tax debts.
He calls first wife Robin Givens a manipulative shrew who made him act like a trained puppy, says Evander Holyfield was a serial head-butter with ties to steroids, and claims the late referee Mitch Halpern was drunk in the ring during his first fight with Holyfield in 1996.
And while he tells an epic tale of beating up British promoter Frank Warren in a London hotel room in 2000 for not paying his $800,000 jewellery bill, he saves special venom for the havoc Don King wreaked in his life.
Tyson was an equal opportunity fighter when it came to beating up promoters, detailing several times he bloodied King, including once on a Miami highway when he tried to strangle him in the car from behind.
“When I think about all the horrific things that Don has done to me over the years I still feel like killing him,” Tyson said.
There’s more, much more. Tyson knows how to tell a story, and he tells them about people you don’t expect, like the day he found actor Brad Pitt at Givens’ house. When Tyson confronted them, he said Pitt begged, “Dude, don’t stroke me. Don’t stroke me. We were just going over some lines.”
He talks about money as dispassionately as he does about sex, though it was difficult for him to hold on to any of it. When he fired everyone and got new accountants in 2000 they prepared a statement showing he started the year $3.3 million in the hole but made $65.7 million.
“The problem was that I spent $62 million that year,” Tyson said, including $2.1 million on cars.
And the Maori tattoo he got on his face? It was supposed to be some little hearts instead, but the tattoo artist talked him out of it.
By the time his career ended with a loss to journeyman Kevin McBride in 2005, Tyson was fat and more interested in partying than fighting. He would go on to bloat up to 380 pounds (173 kilograms) and continue to drink, smoke and snort his way through strip clubs and bars.
“I just said to myself, Wow, this is over. Now I can go out and really have fun.”
The book was supposed to have a happy ending, with Tyson slim and happy in his new life with wife Kiki, who he credits for his attempt at sobriety. But Tyson had to write a new epilogue after acknowledging in August that he had gone out drinking again.
He’s back in Alcoholics Anonymous and he’s trying to stay sober, he says. But life for Tyson has always been a constant struggle.
“I desperately want to get well,” he says. “I have a lot of pain and I just want to heal. And I’m going to do my best to do just that. One day at a time.”