Iron Mike shows his softer side as boxing legend

 boxing legend reveals his friendship with Holyfield

It seems like an age ago now. And probably even more so if you’re stuck inside what appears to Liberace’s Rest Home For The Past It & Unknown.

Yet it is only a week-and-a-half since a befuddled Evander Holyfield found himself shackled to a woman who came second in The Apprentice and shoved down the rabbit hole of Celebrity Big Brother.

Evander Holyfield is evicted from the Celebrity Big Brother house

Evander Holyfield is evicted from the Celebrity Big Brother house

 

Iron Mike: Last Wednesday on Fox, the series Being: Mike Tyson began its four-week run

Iron Mike: Last Wednesday on Fox, the series Being: Mike Tyson began its four-week run

And in the first 24 hours or so of his time there, things didn’t go too badly for The Real Deal. Granted, that was probably because he was still too much in a state of shock to speak. And of course when he did open his mouth, his foot found its way straight into it.

However, before Evander hit the ropes, he did make one particularly interesting comment. He told a small gathering of housemates that Mike Tyson ‘wasn’t as mean as people think’. Which actually caused an awestruck Lee Ryan to tell Holyfield that he too ‘could have been a boxer’.

Well, I suppose he did end up in the Blue corner.

But this talk of Tyson proved most timely. As last Wednesday on Fox, the series Being: Mike Tyson began its four-week run. This is a documentary series set around Tyson’s time preparing for and going on the road with his one man show The Undisputed Truth.

And it immediately became clear in this intense, emotional and sometimes awkwardly raw series that that title would have served just as well for the TV show.

Last year Gazza put himself out there for a documentary in similar circumstances. But for our tragic fallen idol, it was a tightrope walk of a programme on which he was already tripping and falling before he took a first, tentative step.

In Being: Mike Tyson, this is not the case. Not least of which, because Tyson seems to have a remarkable sense of self. And a simple, but elegant way of expressing it.

‘Iron Mike is dead, really, and I’m doing something else now’, he told us in the opening episode Quiet Before The Storm. In which he visited the prison he spent time in, in Indiana, and hugged his old warden – ‘a kind, warm man’. ‘I wanted (him) to like me’, he said in the car on leaving. ‘Because he’s seen me ugly’.

This level of openness carried ceaselessly on into episode two, The Real Deal. Which meant it was time for a rematch. But for anyone who might have been expecting some kind of awkward posturing, or even pious confessional, would have been very surprised how the episode unfolded.

Because in spite of the moralising and pontificating that may well still be going on around both men and their infamous second fight, between the two of them they’re, well, best buddies. Simple as that.

This episode was free of the nerves that going on the road with his one man show and going back to prison had been generated in Tyson.

Instead we saw a relaxed, friendly relationship that, as Tyson put it, has ‘come full circle – I support him, he supports me’.

History: In one of the most bizarre fights in boxing history in 2007, Tyson bit off part of Holyfield's ear and was disqualified from the WBA heavyweight title fight

This first manifested itself when he surprised Holyfield promoting his Real Deal BBQ sauce at a supermarket.

It then moved to a hotel room in Atlanta where the pair talked openly, honestly and without a hint of malice about that fight.

At one point, Holyfield got to surprise Tyson back when he told him he bit him for the second time on the left ear. ‘It wasn’t the same one?’, exclaimed Mike.

Back then: Holyfield (left) and Tyson (right) were once huge rivals, but have now become pals

Back then: Holyfield (left) and Tyson (right) were once huge rivals, but have now become pals

 

Luisa Zissman and Evander Holyfield entering the house at the start of Celebrity Big Brother 2014

Luisa Zissman and Evander Holyfield entering the house at the start of Celebrity Big Brother 2014

Holyfield then went on to say how people still talk to him about how he should feel about Tyson. ‘He didn’t bite you!’ is how he said he responds. Which felt about as good a line as you could want to draw under it.

But the real treat was when Holyfield took his old foe to watch his teenage son in his first amateur fight in a small gym in the city. This was priceless stuff as the dad sat passively studying the fight, while his guest screamed, hid his face behind his hands with nerves, and leapt up between rounds to offer the kid advice. Tyson himself was a boy again.

Running as a thread throughout the various set pieces is perhaps the most striking element of the series. 

Opening up: Gascoigne's documentary allowed viewers to see the former England star's private life, including him receive anti-wrinkle jabs

Opening up: Gascoigne’s documentary allowed viewers to see the former England star’s private life, including him receive anti-wrinkle jabs

Troubles: Last year Gazza put himself in the public eye further in his documentary 'Being Paul Gascoigne'

Troubles: Last year Gazza put himself in the public eye further in his documentary ‘Being Paul Gascoigne’

 

It is Tyson in tight close up, framed in black, talking straight to camera. And regardless of whether you think him a person to be lauded, reviled, feared, or pitied, what these moments provide is an honesty that would be difficult to question.

After we heard him tell the victorious young Holyfield ‘fighting those feelings – that’s better than winning’, we saw Mike back in that stark tight shot.

‘I shook Sugar Ray Robinson’s hand when I was seventeen’, he recalled, his eyes beginning to water. ‘And I ran ten miles because I’d met him’. And he started to cry. This is a man who has been on a tumultuous journey. And Being: Mike Tyson is a series that brings it brilliantly, vividly back to life.

Episodes 3 and 4 can be seen at 10pm on the next two Wednesdays on Fox

 

 

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