Within the 5-foot-10-inch herculean frame of boxing’s self-proclaimed “baddest man on the planet” is an oversensitive momma’s boy whose low self-esteem led to a life of crime, drugs and unprecedented fame. Or so Mike Tyson claims in his memoir “The Undisputed Truth,” co-written with Larry Sloman.
It is a patchwork of self-pitying stories that are both exhausting and mind-blowing. Sloppy at times, Tyson’s autobiography is the embodiment of how power and fortune can corrupts even the most successful athletes.
Tyson’s aggression is traced back to his childhood in the poverty-stricken Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn. Watching his mother sell her body for food money numbed Tyson, stating “there is nothing you wouldn’t do to survive.” Her descent into drugs correlated with Tyson’s increased involvement in street fighting and crime.
“Guys would bring their guys to fight me and they’d bet money on the outcome,” Tyson says, adding “Even if I lost, the guys who beat me would say ‘F*ck! You’re only eleven?’ That’s how everybody started knowing me in Brooklyn.” Under the tutelage of manager and trainer Cus D’Amato, he learned to harness his pent up anger into legal boxing matches.
As a teenager, Tyson went through a psychological transformation. The resentment he felt for his mother along with a childhood of bullying and deprivation was unleashed on his opponents. Admittedly, Tyson let D’Amato brainwash him, saying “Cus wanted the meanest fighter that God ever created, someone that scared the life out of people before they even entered the ring. He trained me to be totally ferocious, in the ring and out. At the time, I needed that.”
Following D’Amato’s death, Tyson evolved (or devolved) into “Iron Mike,” a monster of a fighter whose biggest battle was with loneliness and self-worth. His outlet would be in splurging on gifts, snorting cocaine and hooking up with women.
His superiority complex seeped out of the boxing ring and into his personal life. Tyson says that he did not rape Desiree Washington in 1991, but that “I was so arrogant in the courtroom during the trial that they were never going to give me a break.” He would party and have multiple girlfriends long after the desire to box left his body. His lifestyle would not change until the death of his 4-year-old daughter in 2009.
Tyson claims “You can’t blame things on society,” which readers may deem contradictory since emphasis is put on his troubled Brownsville upbringing. If Tyson did indeed have an epiphany following his daughter’s death, this book would be an example of a man reflecting on life. “The Undisputed Truth” is an introspective look into what Tyson considers to be the truth. In his mind, his arrogant, womanizing ways are a means to an end and blame is placed squarely on his shoulders.
“If you want to be a better person you have to look within and overcome that,” Tyson opines, “You are your own worst enemy. I know I am my own worst enemy. The only guy that wants to kill me is me.”