Mike Tyson Talks Evolution As a Performer

Mike Tyson arrived at the premiere of "Draft Day" on Monday, April 7 in Los Angeles. –Matt Sayles/Invision/Associated Press

Former boxing heavyweight champion Mike Tyson has made a career out of reinventing himself.

Known for his myriad of controversies both inside and outside of the ring, “Iron Mike’’ has mellowed out considerably in recent years, replacing his notoriously violent outbursts with laughter and a big smile.

While the legendary pugilist is still involved in boxing, albeit as the promoter and president of Iron Mike Productions, he’s remained relevant in the world of pop culture for his often hilarious cameos in movies such as “The Hangover,’’ as well as with his critically acclaimed one-man show, “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth,’’ which director Spike Lee brought to Broadway in 2012.


During a media conference call last week to promote his latest boxing event, which will air June 6 on ESPN2, Tyson revealed that he’s really taken to performing and acting over the past few years.

“I’ve gotten more comfortable and it comes from me being a fighter and being comfortable in front of crowds,’’ Tyson told Boston.com during the May 16 conference call. “When I went on stage, I took to it right away. It was just like being in the ring. I was getting live, instant gratification, being on stage, and it all stems from boxing, from being in front of large crowds.’’

The boxer turned performer has a slew of projects in the works, including an animated series called “Mike Tyson Mysteries,’’ which will air on Adult Swim in the fall. The bizarre, half-hour show will team the former champion up with a pigeon in order to solve mysteries (that’s seriously the plot).

While the animated series will be another addition to Tyson’s comedic resume, the legendary fighter is also rumored to be involved in Werner Herzog’s upcoming drama, “Vernon God Little,’’ opposite Russell Brand and Pamela Anderson. Based on the 2003 novel of the same name by DBC Pierre, the film follows Vernon Little (played by Austin Abrams), a Texas teenager who gets in trouble with the law after his best friend goes on a shooting spree in a schoolyard.


Tyson is in talks to play LaSalle, an ax murderer Vernon meets in jail, who bestows upon him the moniker of “God.’’

It will be interesting to see if the former boxer’s acting chops will hold up in a more serious role. Tyson will likely draw a lot upon his experiences with drug and alcohol abuse, something that has plagued him for years.

Only recently has Tyson been able to maintain his sobriety, as he revealed during a media call last year that he was still struggling with substance abuse.

Nowadays, Tyson is taking it one day at a time in order to keep himself on the straight and narrow.

“I’ve been sober since my last discussion about it,’’ Tyson told the media during lat week’s call. “It’s a struggle, but as of now, I’m winning. I can only deal with the moment. At this moment, I’m doing really well.’’

As for how the former champ hopes to be remembered in the history books, Tyson says that it’s not up to him to decide.

“I can’t write that book,’’ Tyson said. “That’s for the fans to write.’’

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