Five minutes with: Mike Tyson 

We put the tough questions to the heavyweight champ ahead of his Dubai show
By Salma Awwad
Tue 05 Nov 2013 11:56 AM

Q: Congratulations on the show – what doubts did you have when first launched it?  

A: Thank you.  I didn't have any doubts about doing the show.  This was something I wanted to do and was inspired to do so after watching Chaz Palminteri's one-man show "A Bronx Tale".  It was a challenge though, being so open about my life on stage.  But I love a challenge and I'm glad I did this.   I love performing at this stage in my life.

Q: When you were younger, what did you think Mike Tyson would end up doing?  Did you have career aspirations? What were they?  

A: I thought I would be dead before 20.  Where I come from (Brownsville) young black men don't make it too far.  They are either murdered or in prison.  95% of my childhood friends from my old neighborhood either have life sentences in prison or are dead.  I just thought I would be a criminal because that is all I was ever taught.  Then when I went to reform school I was introduced to boxing.  From that point on, I only wanted to be a boxer.  If I wasn't boxing, I would have been dead or in prison.  Boxing saved me.

Q: The addictions (the drugs and the drinking), how and when did that all begin and when did you realise it was a problem? What prompted you to get help and how is that ongoing battle for sobriety going?  

A: My drug and drinking issues started to spiral out of control after I retired from boxing.  Boxing was the only real structure in my life at that time and without it I just lived a life of extremes.  I finally got tired of it.  I knew if I didn't change my life that I would die.  So I went to rehab for a year and then I had some relapses.  I got married and Kiki and I had a daughter, Milan and I wanted to be a better father.  So having the structure of a wife and children to raise helped me finally grow up.  I was over four years clean and sober and had a relapse with alcohol so it's like starting all over again.  The one relapse wipes out all of the sober years I have had.  This disease is that powerful.  However, I'm now over 70 days totally sober and have no desire to ever pick up a drink again.

Q: A lot of people see public speaking like this as a form of therapy – is that how you approach it?  

A: I don't approach it as therapy but I certainly see the benefits of it.  I have always been an open book.  Perhaps that is why I have stirred up so much raw emotion and at times controversy because I have never been afraid to speak my mind.  However, this is the first time I personally speak about the headlines that would shape peoples opinion about me for the good or the bad.  I never took control in this kind of format and told people what I thought about the headlines.  No one has heard my undisputed truth directly from me.  There is something therapeutic about this process I suppose.  

Q: Many of our readers are Muslim. Can you tell us a little about your reversion to Islam – how that came about and what the religion gave/gives to you, personally?  

A: Islam has given me a sense of stability.  It has helped me gain some serenity and understanding of who I am as a person.  I was introduced to Islam over two decades ago.  I made my hajj two years ago.  I am not professing to be a good Muslim or the poster boy for Islam.  My relationship with Allah is my own person relationship and how I grow in my religion is my journey alone.  I'm just trying to work on myself and grow as a person and love all of Allah's creations.

Q: What can your fans in the UAE expect from your show? And how do you feel about bringing your story to these shores?  

A: I am beyond grateful to do my show in Dubai.  I am just really looking forward to giving a good performance.  Expect to see a knockout performance.  It's a roller coaster ride of emotions.  One minute you will want to cry and then they next you  are bellied over with laughter.

Q: What's the hardest thing to talk about in the show?  

A: The death of my daughter Exodus.  It's just something I will never be at ease with talking about but she deserves for the world to know about her. 

Q: And what gets the biggest laughs?

A: Oh, wow, there are a lot of big laughs.  My life plays out in a lot of funny scenarios.  You just have to come and see it and tell me what you thought was the funniest part.  The Mitch Green stories are pretty funny though.

Q: If people are undecided on whether to come, what's your knock out blow to convince them?  

A: So many people that have come to my show have later told me that they hadn't a clue what to expect and it was nothing like what they expected.  They thought they were going to see a cliche' rendition of a boxer trying to be a performer.  But they left with feeling like they saw a true performance.  My story is touching, telling and funny.  Whether you love boxing or hate it, you will love my show.  It's not just for the men.  Women love the show.  There is something very identifiable about my stories that transcends gender and age.

'The Undisputed Truth' will be at the Dubai World Trade Centre on November 7 & 8, with two shows each day.

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Last Updated: Thu 26 Jan 2017 01:27 PM GST

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