LONDON – The new book by Mike Tyson, the youngest man ever to win a world heavyweight title and to unify boxing’s mightiest championship, is cleverly entitled Undisputed Truth.
Not so fast.
Iron Mike’s version of events surrounding his second round KO of Julius Francis during a madcap visit to England is being disputed.
Frank Warren, who promoted that fight in Manchester almost 14 years ago, is serving notice of a potential libel claim against elements of Tyson’s account of their relationship.
Not that any event involving he who used to be known as The Baddest Man On The Planet would be the same without large helpings of controversy.
But as it happens, even though he admits there are still times when he would like to kill his long-time American promoter Don King, Tyson is more brutal about himself than any of the other Runyonesque characters in this weighty tome.
His book delves even deeper into his turbulent and troubled existence than his one-man stage show which has been packing in theatre audiences across America, from Las Vegas to New York.
Here are hitherto unplumbed depths of sexual gymnastics on an Olympian scale.
They include revelations of daily promiscuity behind bars, coupled with more detailed denial that he committed the rape of Desiree Washington for which he served three years in prison.
In fact he enjoyed so much sex in jail that he fantasises about shooting someone, anyone, in the head so that he can go back inside.
And despite his colossal efforts to reform, integrate into so-called normal society and become a devoted husband and father he still has to wrestle with the temptation to sink back into the sordid world of strip clubs and drug-fuelled romps with lap dancers.
Tyson’s scathing view of his catastrophic marriage to Robin Givens will chime with those of us who witnessed some of her goading performances, as well as many of his battles in the ring.
He is just as frank with opinions of his heavyweight rivals and confirms the long-held impression he has given that he only committed his scandalous biting of Evander Holyfield’s ear because he was being continually head-butted.
There is graphic admission of the drug abuse and the descent into a decadent lifestyle which led to his epic career petering out with a pair of unlikely, embarrassing defeats by English and Irish journeymen Danny Williams and Kevin McBride.
If a more visceral, self-flagellating autobiography has ever been written then I, for one, must have missed it.
Amid all the foul language, the most telling insight comes when he describes his tumultuous life simply as ‘a joke.’
Given the careless indulgence – but also the manic generosity – with which he squandered a $300 million fortune, many will agree with that self-assessment.
Perhaps this ultimate exposure of himself in all his naked torment will enable Tyson to finally rid himself of his demons.
Or maybe the astonished reaction will keep him revelling in his deliberately constructed reputation as a monster and his capacity to shock.
Such are the contradictions burning inside the boy from a New York ghetto who became the most feared and elemental force in the hardest game of all.
As his appearances on the Broadway stage have revealed to a wider audience, Tyson’s fundamental problem is that he is a near-genius who was denied the education which would have made sense of the multi-coloured kaleidoscope swirling inside his brain.
This book, like his obsessive reading of many of the great works of literature, is the latest stage of his ongoing struggle to make sense of his primitive youth and subsequent notoriety by imposing order on the fragmented pieces of his considerable intellect.
No easy task. Yet this is what continues to make Iron Mike one of the most intriguing personalities on earth.
Mr Tyson’s book is not only a searing self-expose but, in all its soul-searching anger, a highly relevant social document.
Whether or not it will be published here, given Britain’s more stringent libel laws, is likely to depend on a modifying of his more extreme reflections on Mr Warren. – Daily Mail