James Toback’s 2008 documentary Tyson isn’t a documentary in the true sense of the word.
For 90 minutes, viewers get to hear Mike Tyson’s story as told by Iron Mike himself. Through Tyson’s uniquely high-pitched lisp, we hear about how he was the the fat kid who got picked on in grade school, the misguided teenager who spent his free time participating in home invasions, and the older teen who, under the direction of boxing legend Cus D’amato, channeled his anger into his boxing training. All of these stories are complimented with photographs and video clips.
We also get to hear about “the leeches” that Mike surrounded himself with: Tyson briefly talks about Desiree Washington (the 18-year-old he was convicted of raping) and his ex-wife Robin Givens, while saving his most biting criticism for former promoter Don King.
Who we don’t hear from is, well, anybody else. We never get to hear from Washington, Givens, King, or anyone else from Tyson’s past. We don’t hear much about the $300 million dollars Tyson squandered, or his series of arrests due to DUIs and drug possession. To hear Mike tell it, he was the greatest fighter of all time who only lost fights because he spent the previous night having sex, and reigned until he got tired of the sport and quit.
Tyson sets out to paint the infamous boxer as a life-long victim while downplaying his own victims. If you want to hear Mike Tyson’s version of history from his own lips, this documentary delivers. If you’re looking for a more fair and balanced view of historical events, you might keep looking. If nothing, Tyson gives viewers a look at how Mike Tyson perceives the world. While Mike’s story may be depressing, his view of history is probably the saddest thing of all.