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The truth about "Tyson"?

Mike_tyson3_medium I don't generally like to discuss Mike Tyson very much. There are several reasons for this. For one, I barely consider him a boxer at this point. The man is a history lesson more than anything. And for another thing, he's just such a hot button topic, with rabid supporters that I don't understand and rabid haters that I also don't understand. He is what he is; he was not in any way a good man for many points of his life, but there are worse people both in and out of boxing.

That said, Ron Borges at The Sweet Science has an interesting post up on the new documentary Tyson, which debuted at Cannes to some pretty solid acclaim and will be released in theaters (I'd guess on a limited scale) later this year.

From the SS post, which centers on former Tyson assistant manager Steve Lott's viewing of the film:

"It’s easier for Mike to say he has demons, that he was a thug, that he was crazy, than it is to say he got conned by the people he allowed into his life."

...

"It was unbelievable. It was bad under King and worse under Finkel but Mike comes down on King, gives Robin a pass and there’s not a mention of Finkel in the documentary. The only thing Shelly did that was brilliant was keep Mike surrounded with all those cretins who were in his life."

...

"Regarding the documentary itself, I spoke with Toback last year, warning him that Mike would not have the courage to tell the truth about his career. Mike wants the world to think that he was destroyed by his demons. Where were those demons when he was a world-wide hero with Cayton and Jacobs for year after year? Toback just told me Mike was going to tell his story."

Lott's contention, as you may be able to tell through just these snippets, is that Tyson is simply not telling the truth about a large portion of his life, and is more interested in blaming things or his psyche than taking responsibility for anything; or maybe not even so much that as just not placing the blame where it deserves to be placed.

I do not know Mike Tyson. I don't know Steve Lott. I don't know who's more right, or if anyone is particularly correct. But it amazes me (well, not really) that a film that a week ago was almost universally praised is already getting flamed by informed viewers.

It's really no surprise, if you think about it. Everything Mike Tyson touches turns into an event. Everyone has an opinion. People that probably haven't talked to Mike for a decade or more are suddenly the world's foremost Tyson expert.

My opinion? Nobody really knows the real Mike Tyson. Mike Tyson doesn't know the real Mike Tyson. There IS no real Mike Tyson. "Mike Tyson" is a brand name, not a person. The last two and a half decades of his life, Mike has been bought and sold, sent to prison, had personal ups and downs, gone broke, and seen a career that was once on top of the entire world wind up going down in pretty embarrassing fashion. Can you imagine having been Mike Tyson for the last 25 years? I can't fathom it.

In the past, I've been quick to form personal opinions about Mike, as most anyone does. But when I really sat down and thought about Mike's life, I have no idea how anyone could have dealt with all of that and stayed a "regular person" in any way. There's not really a boxer in history whose story compares to Tyson's.

But I will say this: I can't blame Don King the way so many pre-King Tyson advisors/managers/confidantes/etc. are so quick to do. It's such an easy scapegoat, but let's be serious here. Don King has been the promoter for a lot of fighters, and this isn't a reoccuring story. You can't throw this at the doorstep of Don King and be done with it. It requires a lot more than that. It probably, in most ways, requires a mirror for Mike Tyson.

That's not to say he wasn't poorly influenced, but Don King was not his father or his keeper or anything like that. At some point, an adult has to take responsibility of his own life. Why should Don King or Shelly Finkel or anyone have slapped Mike's hand out of the cookie jar, if that is indeed the way Steve Lott or anyone else sees it?

I'm not speaking for Mr. Lott or Mr. Tyson or Mr. King or anyone else -- it's not my place to, obviously. I'm just talking about Tyson, because I so rarely really will. If nothing else, he's a fascinating man.

And even after saying all of that, what Lott seems to miss is that this is a film, which reportedly shows Tyson contradicting himself several times. This is a documentary film about Mike Tyson, from Mike Tyson's point of view. If he lies, then he lies. And it might not be a lie to him, anyway.

I wish it was easier to remember the great moments of Mike Tyson's life and career.