Whether you know him as Kid Dynamite, Iron Mike or the Baddest Man on the Planet, Mike Tyson has continued to thrive as a crossover star in a way that few former athletes have ever achieved. From lending his likeness to video games to appearing the Hangover films and a reality TV series (Taking on Tyson) to launching his own charity for disadvantaged kids, today’s Mike Tyson is a champ in many other ways.
In 2012, Tyson came full circle by teaming up with director Spike Lee to bring Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth, his one-man show about his life, to Broadway for a successful run. In February he took the show on the road, and the current leg wraps up with dates at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia (May 2), the Wang Center for the Performing Arts in Boston (May 4), and the NYCB Theatre at Westbury in Long Island (May 5).
In this exclusive interview, Tyson reflects on the hardships he’s overcome, his journey from pugilist to philanthropist, and plans for his upcoming memoir.
We’re nearing the end of what’s been a big tour for you. How has the show developed since its Broadway debut?
So far it’s just been a national tour. We have plans to take it internationally at some point. The show has evolved since Broadway. As an entertainer, I’m much more comfortable and it transcends on stage. Plus, through trial and error, we cut some portions of the show down and added some other funny tidbits to make the storyline flow better.
Has anything been cut or added to the show on this tour based on audience reaction?
Nothing has been cut or added based particularly on audience reaction. Most cuts were done to keep time down. I have so many intriguing stories about my life that it was quite a challenge to make the decision to cut any of it.
Over a year ago you compared the anxiety about performing on stage with being in the ring. What’s changed since then?
It hasn’t changed much. An hour before my show, I am really in a zone and don’t like too many people around me. Ten minutes before my show you can find me backstage pacing back and forth, much like I did before a fight, but this time I’m dressed in suits and gearing up to give the crowd an amazing performance just like I did in the ring.
Without getting too personal, would you say there are other tough times you’ve overcome that are not in the show?
Absolutely. My whole life is about overcoming tragedy. I have endured through quite a lot. It’s not how many times you get knocked down that matters—it’s how many times you get back up. And I refuse to stay down.
You’ve said that you want to leave behind a legacy of caring with the Mike Tyson Cares Foundation. What effect does giving to those in need have on you?
My charity raises funds for other charities that share in our mission of helping to give children a fighting chance at a better life. We have raised money for two charities in Las Vegas that tend to homeless children and give out school supplies. In the future, we plan to do a lot more to help other established charities with their fundraising goals. It’s my obligation to do this. I have been blessed with a life that is unreal and my responsibility now is to give back.
If you weren’t a boxer growing up, what would you have most wanted to be?
I don’t know. I fear what I would have been without boxing. Boxing saved my life and got me off the streets. I don’t know what else I could have done.
If you could live to 102, what else do you want to achieve?
My life now is about moral accomplishments. I want to continue being a good husband and work on having better relationships with my children and, God willing, see them have their own families one day.
As a father, what lessons do you want your kids to learn?
I want them to be happy and to understand happiness is an internal struggle—it has nothing to do with material possessions. No one can make you happy but yourself. Happiness is a choice. I have learned that lesson later in life. However, I would like my children to understand this earlier than I did. I could save them a lot of misery.
You’ve said that you’d like to continue being an actor on stage. Do you have an entrepreneurial side as well—fashion, fragrances, T-shirts?
Yes, I have a few projects in the works. I’m all about being a businessman now. I have some amazing ventures in the works. I’ll be announcing them very soon. Stay tuned!
Because of the reaction to Undisputed Truth, do you have plans to write a book someday to tell the rest of your story?
I have been working on my memoir. It is supposed to be released before the end of the year.
For more on Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth, visit www.tysonontour.com. Visit Mike Tyson online at www.miketyson.com.
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