Monthly Archive for: ‘March, 2013’

Ex-champ Mike Tyson shadowboxes his life on stage

The tattooed Mike Tyson.

I went to “Undisputed Truth,” ex-heavyweight champ Mike Tyson’s one-man show, expecting to find a human version of a car wreck by the side of a highway.

Or a five-legged fuming bull.

I got what I’d anticipated — and much more.

His performance at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco confirms he’s still misogynistic and an egocentric bully — and that he’s still in denial about raping a beauty contestant (“I was convicted before the trial”), despite spending three years in prison for it.

He skirts no major details of his bad-boy history, though he excuses biting off a chunk of Evander Holyfield’s right ear because his foe head-butted him in a previous bout, and he justifies bashing his first wife, actress Robin Givens, because she and her mother “jumped on my wallet like the wild dogs of Africa.”

To me, that particular rant feels as brutal and painful as their yearlong marriage must have been.

The 46-year-old does, however, evoke sympathy and forgiveness from having been the son of a prostitute and a pimp, for conquering his drug and booze addictions (“I’ve been clean and sober for four years”), and for enduring the deaths of his mother, sister and 4-year-old daughter.

His troubled environment and childhood (“I was arrested 30 times by age 12”) and financially ripped-off adulthood (fight promoter Don King allegedly charged him $8,000 a week for towels) also draw compassion and a touch of pity.

In addition to a big box-office, “Undisputed Truth” clearly seeks an influx of forgiveness and love.

Spike Lee directed the show and indisputably helps Tyson obtain those two elements (while taking a break from his films and his courtside seats at N.Y. Knicks basketball games).

And Kiki Tyson, the ex-boxer’s third and current wife, aided the quest by scripting a 100-minute show peppered with tons of self-deprecating humor and a modicum of pathos (not to mention a torrent of rhythmic f-bombs and n-words).

Tyson does comedy set pieces particularly well.

For example, he evokes heavy laughter from his exaggerations of polite white speech patterns (which he juxtaposes with the rough ‘n’ tumble phrases that pour off the tongues of street hoodlums of color).

He claims, in context, that he would have preferred his show be called “Boxing, Bitches and Lawsuits.”

At Thursday night’s opening of the ultra-brief, three-day SHN engagement, Tyson’s fans and cheerleaders virtually packed the 2,200 seats. They made up an audience unlike most theater throngs — younger (mostly 20- to 40-year-olds), more ethnically diverse (lots of Hispanics and African-Americans), and less well attired (sneakers and jeans, with a smattering of baseball caps, some worn backwards).

More like a crowd I’d expect at ringside.

His devotees cheered and laughed enthusiastically and often, even when Tyson was recounting past behaviors that had brought him almost universal disfavor.

None seemed bothered by the ex-champion’s speech impediment or occasional mumbles. And no one visibly winced when he talked about becoming “tired of ripping off my prostitute girlfriend and waking up next to people I never saw before.”

The so-called “baddest man on the planet” drew extra sympathy by relating he went from banking $400 million to bankruptcy, finding himself “ho-less and homeless,” and suffering through rehab before hitting an emotional growth spurt in prison resulting in transformation.

The change didn’t hold, unfortunately.

So he continues to shadowbox his demons — and his life — onstage.

Though he skips it in the show, which is definitely not for the squeamish, Tyson has confessed to being on cocaine while filming a cameo appearance in the movie comedy “The Hangover.”

That altered state probably didn’t matter much: His meager acting chops are as evident here as they were there (as well as in the sequel that featured a replica of his facial tattoo more than it did his bigger-than-life persona).

Last December, Time magazine quoted Tyson as claiming he gets a high, despite constant nagging doubts, from going on stage — a similar high to the one he used to derive climbing into a boxing ring.

The opening night’s crowd, which proffered Tyson a standing ovation, apparently got its own high from the solo showcase.

Its excitement was palpable, even to the minority who weren’t disciples.

“Undisputed Truth” runs at the Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., San Francisco, through March 2. Performances tonight and tomorrow, 8 p.m. Tickets: $50 to $310. Information: (888) 746-1799 or

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