Ex-champ talks about his post-fight life
Ever since he hung up the gloves in 2006, Mike Tyson has made the most of retirement. In a quest to pay the bills and support his family, the former heavyweight champ has kept the bill collectors at bay by appearing in numerous entertainment projects. In the process, he’s become a pop-culture phenomenon whose name will mean something different depending on who you’re talking with. Boxing fans immediately know you’re talking about one of the best heavyweights of all time who’s been inducted into the International and the World Boxing Halls of Fame.
Gamers may have gotten their introduction to Tyson’s first career via the vintage arcade/video game Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out. Film buffs will recount his exploits with the Wolf Pack of Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms in both Hangover films or the 2008 James Toback-directed documentary Tyson. And that’s not even including Spike Lee’s 2013 version of the one-man show Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth, which got its start on Broadway. But the most surreal turn in the world of this Brooklyn native was when Cartoon Network decided to animate Iron Mike for a program that became Mike Tyson Mysteries and debuted on the Adult Swim segment of the channel in October 2014.
Styled after an array of vintage crime-solving cartoons including Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?, Mister T and another show featuring a cartoon pugilist, I Am the Greatest: The Adventures of Muhammed Ali, Tyson’s cartoon is also an ensemble affair. Helping out with the heavy lifting are his adopted daughter Yung Hee Tyson, the ghost of the Marquess of Queensberry (voiced by Jim Rash of Community) and an alcoholic pigeon (voiced by comedian Norm Macdonald). And while its success has led to Adult Swim renewing it for a second season that kicked off on Nov. 1 of last year, Tyson had his doubts about the project’s viability when he was first approached with it.
“These people came to my house with these Warner Brothers executives and I didn’t know who they were. They decided to do a cartoon and when [the creators] came up with it, I didn’t think it was a good idea,” he admitted. “The executives didn’t think so either and told them to go back into the studio. They did and then it turned out pretty hot.”
A fan of various cartoon characters including the Super Friends, Bugs Bunny, Space Ghost, Scooby Doo and Felix the Cat, Tyson is okay with the way the Tyson Mysteries creators portray his animated persona. He’s eccentric to the point of confusing a chess Grandmaster with the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, eating junk food without realizing he’s on a diet or taking an oatmeal bath with cooked oatmeal. They even have him owning a grizzly bear, a tip of the cap to the tiger he once kept as a pet for a dozen years until he had to get rid of it once he had babies in the house.
“They tried to base everything around the reality of my life. Then there are some scenes with me driving, and everyone knows that I’m not a very equipped driver and we had an episode about that,” he explained. “So there are things about my life and what people are familiar with.”
One of those real-life connections includes a pigeon as part of the cast. A lifelong lover of these birds, Tyson gushes when he talks about a hobby that has him keeping birds in both his Las Vegas home and in his old Brooklyn neighborhood.
“I’ve been [keeping pigeons] all my life, ever since I’m nine-years-old. That’s all I know,” he excitedly said. “Besides this entertainment stuff, all I know is pigeons. In Las Vegas, I have 265, but I have to cut down. I [still] fly birds in Brooklyn with my friends.”
With a number of projects on the horizon that include the Mike Epps movie Meet the Blacks and a major part in a martial arts film sequel called Ip Man 3, Tyson has still kept up with what’s going on in boxing. Among the fighters he’s high on are middle weights Triple G [Gennady Gennadyetich Golovkin], Saul Alvarez and WBO featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko. And while Tyson is a fiend for the sport’s history and legacy, his advice to other fighters working their way up is to forget the past and focus on the present.
“You can’t worry about whether you’re better than this guy or that guy. All you have to worry about is whether you’re better than the guy you’re fighting now. It doesn’t matter if you can beat Ali or Tyson. Can you beat the guys that are fighting now?,” he explained. “It’s all about what you’re doing now.”