Iron Mike bares all in film

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:12 AM ET

Director James Toback ends his film Tyson with the former heavyweight champion of the world glaring into the camera, with only the sound of his deep breathing as they fade to black.

Sort of like a horror movie.

Which, in a way, it is.

Under normal circumstances, one would be sceptical of a documentary that features, almost exclusively, the subject talking about himself, without any counter-balance.

Which is the case with Tyson. For an hour and a half, Mike Tyson, the former heavyweight champion of the world, speaks into the camera and laments on the life and bizarre times of Mike Tyson. There are no interviews to support or contradict his claims or observations. Toback doesn't talk to former trainers, managers, prison guards, opponents, childhood friends, etc.

But it largely works. Tyson comes across as brutally honest in taking stock of his life. He talks about the chaos of the brain, the multiple voices fighting each other.

The fighter holds nothing back, acknowledging that, in a nutshell, that he is a violent, obsessive junkie. The only time it seems that Iron Mike is not being truthful is when he discusses his 1991 rape of Miss Black America contestant Desiree Washington. Tyson was convicted of the crime and spent three years in prison. The evidence from the trial left little doubt that Tyson raped the young woman in a Indianapolis hotel room, but he continues to deny that Washington wasn't complicit in the act, calling her "that wretched swine of a woman."

"I may have took advantage of women before," he said. "But I never took advantage of her."

"That was an absolute railroad fraud," Toback said last night, of Tyson's rape trial. "This is Indiana, the home of the Ku Klux Klan, with a white judge, with a white prosecutor, who's a friend of the judge, and Tyson's represented by a tax lawyer from Washington, D.C. Who on earth is going to get an out-of-state tax lawyer in a rape case with no connections with the legal system in that state?"

Apparently, Tyson's promoter, Don King.

Women are a prevailing theme in Tyson's tormented psyche, and his violent obsession towards them is a key ingredient in his descent -- the Washington rape, his disastrous marriage to TV actress Robin Givens. Tyson claims that one of the reasons why he lost his world title to unheralded James (Buster) Douglas -- one of the biggest upsets in boxing history -- on Feb. 11, 1990, was because he had spent more time in the company of women than training.

Tyson is a fascinating study into the mind of one of sport's great, controversial figures, but offers few surprises, although there are some, such as Tyson admitting that he had fought and defeated Canadian Trevor Berbick for the world title early in his career despite contracting gonorrhea.

Another is when he admitted laying a beating on King outside the Beverly Hills Hotel. Of course, Tyson isn't the only boxer who had turned against, and subsequently sued King. Tyson refers to King as "just a wretched, slimy, Reptilian ...

"This was supposed to be my black brother," Tyson says. "(But) he's just a bad man. He would kill his mother for a dollar."

Tyson also talks about how vulnerable he was throughout his career, how "scared to death" he was climbing into the ring, even though he was considered one of the most intimidating fighters in the history of boxing. He also speaks of his love for his former trainer and, later legal guardian, Cus D'Amato. In fact, the only time Tyson demonstrates profound emotions is when he quietly sobs talking about D'Amato.

The film ends with Tyson expressing hope that he lives out his days as a decent human being, and lives to see his children married and his desire of becoming a grandfather.

But one gets the impression that Tyson still is a powder keg waiting to explode.


Videos

Photos