Mike Tyson Inspires Ballplayers; Can He Inspire Box Office Again?


by Charles Jay

Mike Tyson is in the news, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. The former heavyweight champion recently dropped in on a practice session for the UNLV basketball team and gave a speech that was termed “emotional” by the Las Vegas Sun.

Tyson lives in Henderson, the principal suburb of Las Vegas, and it is not all that unusual for Las Vegas residents to get caught up with the Rebels, who are the ‘big league” franchise in town, so to speak. They are currently preparing for the Mountain West Conference tournament, with an eventual entry into the NCAA Tournament as “March Madness” gets into full swing.

There is nothing wrong with Tyson’s message – that as long as you are going to undertake something, you should have the attitude that you’ll accept nothing less than to be a champion.

Say what you want about Tyson on a personal level, but one thing you cannot question is that, for the most part, he put forth the necessary commitment to be a champion. This was especially true during his formative years, working under Cus D’Amato. It can be argued that very few fighters in recent history have been as prepared to go into the pro ranks and make an impact as Tyson was.

And few people will ever know what he had to navigate around the stay committed. There has always been talk of the distractions that perhaps caused him to be in less than perfect shape against Buster Douglas, but it is unimaginable to most of us that much about his life, beyond the moment he won the heavyweight title (WBC version) from Trevor Berbick would be conducive to total focus on preparation and training. And we simply couldn’t put ourselves in his shoes.

Nonetheless, there was certainly a lot of life experience to be gained by all of that, both good and bad, and if he is able to inspire some 20-year-old athletes, then there is something to applaud.

Well, will they be applauding when Tyson does his one-man show on the Las Vegas Strip? That’s right. Tyson is going to be “performing” in a series of “live reality” appearances, said to be at the MGM Grand. There are reportedly going to be “confessions” made during these events, interspersed with highlights of Tyson’s career and history outside of the ring. It’s called “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth — Live on Stage,” and it takes place from April 13-18.

Right away you’re probably thinking Charlie Sheen and the “Winning!” tour. This will probably not be a whole lot different, and it wouldn’t be surprising if this venture was inspired by Sheen’s road show. Like Sheen, Tyson doesn’t need a whole lot of pre-selling; he’s controversial and unpredictable, and he is also still close to the limelight; in fact, he has been seen in one of the most phenomenally successful motion picture franchises of recent years (“The Hangover”) and is signed on for Part Three of that series.

That movie did quite a bit better than the documentary directed by James Toback that was released four years ago. “Tyson” grossed less than a million dollars domestically, though it should be noted that it was widely praised by critics, because Tyson held very little back.

That will be the spirit of this live stage show as well.

In the words of someone that is close to Tyson, “Nothing will be held back.”

That means don’t bring the kids, if you don’t want them to hear the language.

Tyson promises that he’ll be more accessible than he’s ever been before. He’s even going to answer questions from the audience at the end, and he’ll sign autographs as well. Okay, he’ll sign autographs and offer merchandise to those who pony up the $499.99 package price. Regular seating for the show is priced at $99.99.

Undoubtedly this could be interesting, because there is always the possibility that Tyson could say something every night to raise a few eyebrows, and it may also have a nostalgic effect on those who aren’t that old. After all, let’s face it – whether he was winning or losing, being a nice guy or a bad boy, Tyson brought excitement and curiosity about the sport. He got the attention of the public at-large, and there hasn’t been a heavyweight who has done that since. While the Klitschko brothers sequester themselves in Europe, dominating a thin division in “who cares” matches that can’t generate any appreciable audience in the U.S., Mike Tyson had all eyes on him when he stepped into the ring.

He transcended boxing, and that is something in short supply these days.

If he brings big box office, he could be invading a town near you.

Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing; well, we’ll leave that up to your judgment.

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