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Interview with Mike Tyson: The legendary boxer talks about his life and current one-man show

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[ed. note: this show was canceled in Richmond]

Boxer Mike Tyson retired a long time ago, but now he's sparring with his final foe – his past, in a national tour. At the suggestion of his wife, Tyson began collecting stories from his glory days as the heavyweight champion of the world and starred in a one-man show the opened in Vegas. The boxer's show later moved to Broadway, under the auspices of film director Spike Lee.

Tyson's audiences can expect hear about the devastating events of his life, from his own perspective. Such as his infamous street altercation with Mitch “Blood” Green, his imprisonment after a rape conviction and that time he caught Brad Pitt with his then-wife Robin Givens. Recently, Tyson talked to a group of reporters about his struggles and victories in and outside of the ring and his one-man show.

How is doing your show changed your understanding of yourself?

I really learned a lot, expressing myself and I realized that I am an interesting guy, you know? I want to entertain people. I don't know where that comes from. That comes from my frustrations, that comes from my want to accomplish things, my goals, I don't know, it just comes from a lot of things. Not wanting to be a failure in life, wanting to lead a good legacy as far as from missionary perspective, caring for people, like myself when I was a young kid. That's basically what's on my mind now, I want to champion in that, more so than being a champion so-called celebrity guy. 'Cause I never realized that giving would give you so much fulfillment. That's why I'm so dedicated to this Mike Tyson Cares Foundation, helping kids get a fighting chance. That's just what I'm about now.

Do other memories bubble up as you do the show?

Yeah, when I do some of the memories and I think about some of them, every now and then I get one of those pains, but I just go through it and I try to be very objective. But it's true some of this stuff does hurt, some of this stuff does really hurt. And the stuff that hurts the most, the crowd laughs at and it takes me back. I don't know. I don't know how to deal with that. I go through the show, but I say “Wow, they think that's funny? That was a turning point in my life that destroyed me. That's funny to you?” (laughs)

If there was one person you had to credit for the transformation you've gone through, who was the one person you'd give that credit to?

Aw, man. A lot of it has to go to my wife, but there would be other people as well, you know? I'm like Frankenstein, it took a lot people to put me together. A lot of people contribute stuff, you know? In the time of tragedy, it all came into play.

What food do you miss the most since you've become a vegan?

I don't miss anything that I used to eat, 'cause if I missed it I would be eating it.

How has being a vegan changed you physically and mentally?

I don’t gain weight as fast as I did when I ate meat and processed stuff and it just who I am, it makes me want to be a better person. It makes me want to do the right thing. I know it sounds weird but it makes me want to live life on life’s terms, but from a positive perspective. You run into brick walls anyway in life, but you look at it in positive perspective and keep moving forward.

Have their been any talks to make your performances into a concert film? Hey, I don't know anything about that. Only thing I want to do is entertain the fans and hopefully we can participate in more charities. I’m not looking at it from an ambitious point of view to gain any kind of power or status, just giving and being of service.

Does preparing for your show compare with getting ready for fight night? One hundred percent, no doubt about it. The doubt and the fear of being a failure is there, not succeeding is there and uh, only thing that is different is I don't have to go to the hospital afterwards.

The recent death of Hector Camacho. What was your initial reaction?

My first initial reaction was like, “Goddamn. I just saw the guy in Vegas.” And I was saying to myself, “God, that could easily be me. If I didn't have these life changes, decisions in my life, you know? I don't know what his decisions is, people say it was over some rivalry stuff, but I can remember being in a state where I'm not going to pay the drug guy. I'm tired of payin'. All of sudden I'm a tough guy, you know? I can just remember I said, “God damn, that's me right there.” Somebody scared to fight you, and he sees you when you're not expecting 'cause your guard is down and that's what happens. I'm not sayin' that's what happened to Hector, [that was] my situation, the way I lived my life, out there like that, before I changed my lifestyle.

Did you think you'd make it to 46?

Hey, I didn't think I would make it to 25. God just blessed me that I went to prison that time. I was just crazy. I know everyone says “They robbed you of your time, They robbed you of your time.” Whoa, man. I was just so out of control, I didn't know how out of control I was 'till I was in prison. And I just took that as blessing.

“Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth” comes to the Warner Theater in Washington, D.C., on Friday April 26 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $45-$90. For more information call (202) 783-4000.

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