Mike Tyson had the perfect title for his autobiography, but the publisher didn’t think it was proper.
“I wanted to call it Boxing, B–ches and Lawsuits, Tyson said. “Because that’s what my life has been all about.’’
Instead, the book, which was released on Tuesday, is called Undisputed Truth by Mike Tyson.
It is an unvarnished, graphic and profane look at Tyson’s life – from growing up poor and desperate in Brownsville, to being molded into a boxing savant by Cus D’Amato in Catskill, N.Y., to becoming the youngest heavyweight champion ever, to disintegrating under a steady deluge of overindulgences with drugs, woman and materialism.
It is not for the squeamish or the faint at heart – pretty much the way Tyson’s life has played out the last three decades. I’m not sure the public is ready for it.
“I’m embarrassed about the book and I’m ashamed of the things that I’ve done,” Tyson said.
So why do the book?
“I’m working on not being a slave to my past,” Tyson said recently during a wide-ranging telephone conversation.
It is a cruel irony that a man who is trying not to be a slave to his past is a slave to his present financial situation. He said he owes the Internal Revenue Service an unspecific, but large amount of money for back taxes.
“These tax people are kicking my ass. They’re ripping me a new —hole,” Tyson said. “I’m never going to be out of debt. I’m going to be in debt for the rest of my life. I’m just trying to live my life, whatever little bit I have left. I’m happy to be alive. But I’m more of a bum than a big shot now.”
Tyson said that is one of the reasons he decided to do the autobiography and his one-man show, which will air as an HBO special on Saturday night.
“When the guy (writer Larry Sloman) came to us three years ago and wanted to write the book we sat down and he started asking me all these personal questions,” Tyson said. “I said, ‘Forget about that. I’m not going to tell you all that stuff.’ He came back two years later and I was like, ‘OK, let’s do it.’ We needed the money.”
It was important for Tyson to be honest in telling his life story because “there is always somebody out there who will know that you’re lying.”
He is not certain how his children, particularly his two oldest daughters who are 24 and 20, will react to the book, which is sexually graphic and loaded with profanity.
When they were growing up he was too busy being “The Baddest Man on the Planet’’ to be a parent. It is one of the more painful aspects of his past life.
“I was making all that money, hundreds of millions of dollars, but I couldn’t stay home with my kids for two days,” Tyson said. “I was running around, chasing (women), having fun, and doing crazy stuff. I had 45 girlfriends and I was taking care of all of them, but I couldn’t take time to take care of my kids. I couldn’t be a man with all that money.”
Tyson said most of his shame started early in his life, growing up in Brownsville, Brooklyn. All those memories came flooding back to him when he went back to his old neighborhood for the TV program Being Mike Tyson – another project to help pay the bills.
“I can’t believe me and my family lived like animals,” Tyson said. “We were living below the starvation level. How can human beings live like that in America? As I get older I can’t believe that people in this country still live like that. How do people live like that and keep their lives together? Me and my family lived in abandoned buildings in places worse than Third World countries.”
His criminal exploits as a juvenile landed him in the Catskills where he was plucked from reform school by trainer Cus D’Amato. Tyson said D’Amato tapped into all of his self-loathing and psychological anguish to make him a destructive force in the ring.
“That was something. I wouldn’t have succeed in boxing if I had another trainer,’’ Tyson said. “Cus would use all my pain. He harnessed my soul. He would tell me before I fought somebody, ‘This guy is taking away your dignity.’ Cus had a real psychology effect on me. I was almost like his slave. Anything he told me to do, I would do it. My goal in life was to please him.”
After he became the youngest heavyweight champion in history, his outlook on life didn’t change. His tastes just got more extravagant. The more money he earned, the most excessive his lifestyle became.
“It was about getting it all. All the pretty girls, all the houses, all the nice cars. I didn’t know anything at the time,” he said. “I didn’t think there’d be another stage of my life. I thought maybe if I lived that long I’d own a restaurant or a maybe a little store. I never thought I’d be real relevant after I stopped fighting. All this stuff I’m going through now is new to me.”
He said he is trying to lead a better life with his wife, Kiki, and his children. He said he is a dull person now, staying at home and playing with his kids. All the things that he never did when he had plenty of money. Now he has to reveal all types of embarrassing things about himself at a time when he’d just as soon leave it buried in the past.
“I don’t have a good psychological opinion of myself and if it wasn’t for financial reasons, I wouldn’t be doing all this stuff,” Tyson said. “But it all comes down to scoring some money.”
Photos by J. Countess-Getty Images; THE RING