Sold out Vancouver show confirms Mike Tyson's global appeal

March 19, 2013

Vancouver -- Say what you want about the man born Michael Gerard Tyson, but he can still effortlessly bring a crowd to its feet, roaring with either approval, howls of laughter, or gasps of disbelief, seemingly all at the same time.

Whereas Tyson once captured the world's imagination as the youngest heavyweight champion and self-proclaimed "Baddest Man on the Planet" in the ring with his fists, on this night Iron Mike didn't harm a soul, as he treated a capacity Canadian crowd to his critically-acclaimed one-man show simply entitled, "The Undisputed Truth."

The Saturday show was the only stop outside of the United States on Tyson's multi-city tour across North America. That in itself was surprising, considering his international appeal.

Over the years, Tyson's outlandish comments and run-ins with the law have made him a polarizing figure in America, with the battle often drawn along race and class lines. Although a personal tragedy and some recent movie cameos have softened his image, those battle lines still seem to exist somewhat, at least in the U.S.

Overseas, however, the admiration for Tyson is much more universal, as he often has been welcomed with open arms by his international fans and the foreign press.

This contrasting treatment is nothing new in the world of sports, as seen by how Muhammad Ali's stance against the Vietnam War divided America into separate camps, but only grew Ali's appeal in Europe, Africa, and throughout the world.

So with Tyson performing at the River Rock Casino in Vancouver, there was a certain curiosity as to how he would be perceived by his Canadian audience. Especially considering that seemingly nobody in the crowd had any noticeable similarities with the famed pugilist.

From the moment he turned and peered at the big screen image of his birth certificate, and incredulously posed the crass, but hilarious rhetorical question about the biological father listed on the document -- "Who the [expletive] is that [expletive]" -- Tyson was met with the animated roars of laughter that established an undeniable connection with the audience that would last throughout the show.

Although Mr. Tyson is not a natural or particularly accomplished personal speaker, he nevertheless carried the stage with his undeniable charisma, awkward dancing, outrageous boasts, tales of drug-fueled sexual trysts, and self-deprecating humor, all delivered in his trademark childlike lisp.

No small feat, considering that Mike maintained a solid, thoroughly entertaining running monologue for nearly two hours.

In the show, Tyson takes fans on a ride through the entire spectrum of his stranger-than-fiction existence beginning with a brief, yet heartfelt tribute to his deceased mother, Lorna Smith.

In previous published interviews with other media outlets, Tyson had typically painted her in a negative, albeit sympathetic light, characterizing his mother as a "hopelessly alcoholic drunk" and "prolifically promiscuous woman" who "slept with anybody who would give her a dollar."

However, on this particular night, Lorna Smith was depicted as a quiet, loving woman who had a life-long dream of being an elementary school teacher. This wasn't alone among the many interesting revelations made by Tyson throughout the night.

A few other noteworthy highlights included Tyson's captivating stories and hilarious, spot-on impressions of a number of men who influenced him along the way, such as:

  • Mike recalling one of his visits back home to his old Brownsville neighborhood after moving up to the idyllic and lily-white Catskills, when a small-time stick-up kid and old friend named "Bokem" told him between tokes of marijuana that he would not allow Mike to join them on a break-and-entry foray for fear that such a life of crime would place his suddenly bright future in jeopardy. Mike ended this anecdote by simply saying that a week later this same friend was subsequently murdered.

  • The oft-forgotten corrections officer from Tryon Juvenile Detention Center named Bobby Stewart who was instrumental in Mike's initial involvement in pursuing the Sweet Science, as he affectionately recalled the man he dubbed "an Irish Hillbilly" telling him that "all the [expletive] in here" wanted to become fighters, but if Mike could be one of the "few knuckleheads to keep his nose clean," then he could join Stewart's burgeoning boxing team.

  • Tyson described a series of events that led to another of his former Catskills trainers, the outspoken Teddy Atlas, putting an unloaded gun to his head and then pulling the trigger. What made this notable was not the rehashing of this infamous last encounter between the two, but the fact that Mike said he was admittedly wrong to have grabbed Atlas' daughter-in-law at the time. Also interesting was that after Atlas' attempt to scare him straight, it was Teddy, and not the spooked teenager, who ran away, fleeing the scene.

  • Tyson hilariously recalled his unexpected late-night surprise encounters with Mitch "Blood" Green and a young Brad Pitt, the latter of whom Mike said he couldn't decide whether to fight, or "forcibly fornicate."

  • The effects of gentrification on his old haunts in Brownsville, Brooklyn, chastising friend and show director Spike Lee for using a recent picture of his old building on Amboy Street, and not the graffiti-stained and feces-covered version that he remembered from his youth.

Moreover, Mike expertly strayed from the script in dealing with unsolicited outbursts from the audience on a number of occasions in hilariously and efficiently quieting the rambunctious shouts from the crowd that belied his relative novice status as a paid public speaker.

But most impressive was Tyson's willingness to truly bare his soul and present his past actions and transgressions to the audience unabridged and unedited for their eager consumption.

In a day and age when so many athletes are primarily concerned with their corporate marketing appeal and protecting their "brand," it was uniquely refreshing to see a long-since retired icon and true living legend possess enough self-assuredness, humility, and good sense to know that having gone through the fire -- or as he so eloquently put it "gone from hell and back, just to wind up in the depths of the Devil's toilet" -- and still being alive to tell his story, his fans would have a greater appreciation for him being so brutally honest.

If his Canadian audience's enthusiasm and applause were any indication, Mike Tyson still remains the Undisputed Champ, even if just for being brave enough to present to them what was unquestionably his "Undisputed Truth."

Who would have ever thought that Iron Mike could still wow a crowd and knock entire audiences out, without having to connect on a single punch?

By Kweku Turkson
Staff Reporter for The Daily Sports Herald

No comments:

Post a Comment

We encourage all intelligent, passionate comments. Please refrain from any ignorant, racist, or offensive rants.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...