Mike Tyson is currently baring his soul to the world in an HBO special and a new memoir, both titled "Undisputed Truth." He's just not sure how he'll explain his shocking life story to his children.
"This is really what I'm worried about the most," said Tyson, 47. "It's gonna be very interesting how I'm gonna talk to them about how I was as a kid. I come from an extremely poor [background], like a slum dweller. My parents couldn't feed us. And wow, that's pretty interesting when you really think about that. You know, your parents can't feed you."
The former heavyweight champion has two young children with his third wife, Kiki (who wrote the stage show filmed by Spike Lee), as well as five older children who attend private schools, Georgetown University and Parsons. He says they all have sheltered lives and will never have to struggle the way he did growing up in the tough Brownsville section of Brooklyn in the 1970s where he was arrested 30 some times before the age of 15.
"One day we're gonna have to have that talk," he said of his children. "They'll say, 'Dad, is something wrong with you dad? Are you OK? Were you all right back then?' That's gonna be pretty interesting. 'You robbed people, you shot at people Dad. What kind of person are you?'"
In his HBO Films special, Tyson tells entertaining anecdotes about his upbringing, how he got into boxing and his mentor, boxing trainer Cus D'Amato, as well as his troubles in the ring (the Evander Holyfield ear-biting incident) and out of it (his marriage to Robin Givens and his conviction and three-year incarceration for the rape of Desiree Washington-a crime he says he did not commit).
Tyson gets much darker in his hefty memoir written with Larry Sloman, opening up about the father he barely saw and his mother, who died when he was 16. He pulls no punches when discussing his own shortcomings, but is even more brutal on the people he says used him, including Givens and boxing promoter Don King.
In a recent phone interview, Tyson, who also works as a promoter for young boxers, talked about what motivated him to tell his story in so many venues, his continued struggles and who has punched him recently.
"Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth" can next be seen at 3:15 p.m. CST Nov. 24 on HBO with several more November and December airings on HBO and HBO2. Check hbo.com for air dates.
You've opened up in the one-man show, the HBO special and your memoir. Why share so many personal details of your life?
Hey listen, we were planning to do [the book] two years ago, but when my ghost writer was talking to me he asked me some questions about my life, especially about Don King and Robin [Givens]. It just evoked some really nasty feelings and I just really didn't want to do it. So I avoided him for like a year and a half and it just came time to do it. I was in need of some money and I just sat down and became really honest with him.
The book has even more details than the stage show.
Oh, absolutely. The book is over 500 pages and it's only 90 minutes on stage. The book is really interesting. It's really kind of gut wrenching. You have to know I come from a very dark place in life, really dark and at the end of the book you see some light.
I felt that way in your show, too.
Oh, but that's nothing. That's nothing--the book is really dark. It talks about my mother, my father. And I really never knew my father until I got older. I just had a glimpse of him and very short interactions with him.
When this whole process started, did you feel a need to share stories of your life?
Oh, not at all. Not at all. Not at all. My writer thought it would be awesome. My wife thought it would be awesome. They thought I had something to tell. I just thought I had nothing but shame in my life. I never knew how poor I was, you know? I was watching one of those shows, "Being Mike Tyson," and it shows how 1972 and '73 Brownsville was like--they called it the slum dwellers. We were like below the starvation level. And that's just wild to think, "How can a guy like that make it? That guy's almost like a third world country."
Were these projects helpful for you to move on?
I don't know. I haven't reached that place in life yet. I'm just waiting for people to read the book and see what happens. It's really crazy; I just can't believe I did this stuff.
With the HBO special and stage show, did you enjoy doing it for the entertainment value of it?
I like the entertaining more than anything. We don't really get much money from that stuff, but I just love being onstage. This is what I like doing.
When was the last time someone tried to punch you?
[Laughs.] My son punched me in the head the other day.
But that's OK, right?
Yeah, he's two years old.
That’s funny. The special was written/produced by your wife, Kiki.
Well, I told her about the stuff and she wrote it.