WILKES-BARRE — Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get ready to — chat?
Former heavyweight boxing champion — the youngest to ever hold the title — “Iron” Mike Tyson is coming to Wilkes-Barre this week to present his critically acclaimed one-man autobiographical show: “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth,” which is directed by filmmaker Spike Lee. The show is set for Wednesday at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts.
In a telephone interview with The Times Leader, Tyson said the show is his story and he discusses his life in detail.
The show’s promotional flier says Tyson’s performance is “a rare, personal look inside the life and mind of one of the most feared men ever to wear the heavyweight crown — a theatrical knockout.”
Tyson, 46, had a storied career — he was one of the world’s most recognized athletes in the 1980s and 1990s — and a troubled life that included a prison stint for rape, financial problems and two failed marriages.
The idea for the play came, Tyson said, when he and third wife, Kiki, were watching “A Bronx Tale,” Chazz Palminteri’s story about a father who worries when a local gangster befriends his son in the Bronx in the 1960s.
“I said to my wife, I think I can do this,” Tyson said. “I can talk about my life from an artistic point of view.”
Tyson’s show sold out for two weeks in Las Vegas and two more on Broadway. His 10-week tour includes 36 cities, including Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston and Washington, D.C.
During the interview, Tyson asked where Wilkes-Barre was. When he learned it was near Scranton, he spoke fondly about his years as an amateur boxer in Scranton and Jessup and his friendship with Joe Munley, a former sparring partner.
“Joe Munley is a good friend,” he said. “The Munleys are great people. Scranton people are real people, man. They’re hard workers. I love that area.”
Munley, 58, a real estate investor, has seen Tyson’s show three times in New York City.
“It’s excellent,” Munley said. “He’s true-blue and he talked about everything — from when he was a kid growing up robbing old ladies to get money to eat to his boxing to his time in prison to how he blew millions of dollars.”
Munley said Tyson was always kind to him and his family. The ex-champ has settled down, said Munley, having lost more than 100 pounds to get down to his former fighting weight of 220 pounds.
“He wants to be a good husband and father,” Munley said.
Munley said he would wear a steel helmet and protective gear when he sparred with Tyson some 25 years ago.
“He still broke my ribs,” he said. “He is the most devastating puncher I’ve ever been in the ring with — I never took a punch as vicious as Mike Tyson’s.”
Munley faced Jerry Quarry, Duane Bobick, Mitch “Blood” Green and other top heavyweights, he said.
Munley said Tyson spent his 20th birthday in Scranton. Munley was in the room when ABC-TV’s Barbara Walters interviewed Tyson, and he has been to Tyson’s home many times. “After he knocked out Marvis Frasier in the first round, we came back to Scranton and I took him to Farley’s for dinner,” Munley said. “He’s also been to The Woodlands and other places, and people always mobbed him.”
During his amateur career, Tyson fought several times in Lackawanna County. Munley said one opponent — he can’t remember his name — gave Tyson a good battle.
“I’ve been everywhere with him,” Munley said. “I’m glad to see him the way he is now. He’s always been good-hearted.”
Here is a 10-round blow-by-blow interview with Tyson:
TL: What’s your biggest regret?
Tyson: “There aren’t too many regrets. Maybe I should have saved my money or picked better friends. But if I didn’t make mistakes, I wouldn’t have learned anything. Maybe I had a little too much in life; I wasn’t used to all the attention and having a lot of money. At this moment, I’m content. I want more, but I’m happy with my life as it is.”
TL: What’s your biggest accomplishment?
Tyson: “Getting off of drugs and getting away from a lifestyle that wasn’t good for me. Getting out of prison was big too. And I’m not humiliating my family anymore.”
TL: Talk about Cus D’Amato
Tyson: He was the best thing that ever happened to me. He gave me the idea that I had the ability to be great. He never held me back. He always encouraged me. He was my stage dad. He pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed. He was intense.”
TL: What happened in the Evander Holyfield fight to make you bite a piece of his ear off?
Tyson: “Awww, it was the heat of the moment, man. It happened. Look, we’re human beings; no wait, we’re animals taught to be human beings. We make mistakes and we learn.”
TL: How’s your personal/family life?
Tyson: “Right now this is the closest I’ve ever been with my kids. If it doesn’t get any better, I’m OK. But I want it to get better; I talk to them all the time, as much as I can.”
TL: What about Don King?
Tyson: “What about him? Hey look, I’m not mad at nobody. Bygones are bygones.”
TL: Other than Cus, who has influenced you the most?
Tyson: “A lot of people have done a lot for me. They’ve worked with me; unsung heroes. Like the drug rehab people and counselors. They really helped me.”
TL: What advice would you offer young people today?
Tyson: “Find somebody you admire and respect and look up to them. Make sure they have good moral standards and a compassion for kids and their well-being. Too many kids have no hope for a better life. Look at the kids in Chicago killing each other. If they had hope, they would do better with their lives.”
TL: Ever been to Northeastern Pennsylvania before?
Tyson: “Scranton, man, and Jessup. I fought there as an amateur. Scranton people are my kind of people; they’re real people, hard workers.”
TL: Why should people go to your show?
Tyson: “It’s a great show. I give it my all. People will like what I have to say.”