He'd entered the ring with a respectable 16-1 record, seven of which were by knockout. But despite a six-inch reach advantage against his opponent and the genetic predisposition of a former heavyweight champion, Marvis Frazier was likely the only person inside Glens Falls Civic Center on July 26, 1988, who actually thought he stood a chance against a 24-0 "Iron" Mike Tyson.
"It is not a matter of if Mike Tyson knocks out Marvis Frazier," opined boxing commentator Alex Wallau before the fight. "It's just a matter of when."
Tyson went on to earn his 25th victory that night, landing a ferocious uppercut some 20-odd seconds into the bout.
"I knew deep down in my blood that I was going to stop him in the first round," he said with a menacing straight face after the fight. "I'm confident I can beat any fighter in the world."
He almost did.
Tyson lost just six professional matches to five opponents before retiring in 2005 and embarking on a very public roller-coaster ride of personal growth and discovery. He's now a vegan, regularly spoofs himself on film (The Hangover, The Hangover Part II), and has even appeared on Celebrity Wife Swap.
"I still got issues with myself," Tyson tells New Times. "But [I am] 100 percent more comfortable with myself now than I was back then."
Now 46 years old, the former heavyweight champion is traveling across the country and sharing his life story in a one-man show, Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth, which stops at the Adrienne Arsht Center Tuesday, April 16.
Written by his wife, Kiki Tyson, Undisputed Truth features the champ speaking openly and honestly about everything from his 1992 rape conviction to the infamous Evander Holyfield ear-biting incident, from failed marriages and financial woes to the tragic death of his 4-year-old daughter in 2009.
"I told [Kiki] my life story, and then she took it from there," he says. "We're very open. I'm very open. I think, from experience, that it doesn't matter how much you love somebody; if you have secrets, it never works."
In fact, Tyson says Undisputed Truth has strengthened his marriage, admitting that the couple's relationship is built on a strong foundation of honesty.
"She'd say, 'You did what?' and laugh, but wouldn't give me a dirty look or anything like that. We're married now. I already did it, so what?"
But forgiving himself for, and learning from, his negative past is something Tyson says he works hard toward every day. And he credits his "awesome family" and "support system" for helping him through some of his darkest times.
"It didn't take me only a few years to become the way I am, and it's not going to take me a few years to unwind," he says. "It's a day-to-day process of learning who I want to be and how I want to go out about becoming that person.
"The reason people were always afraid of me was because I was afraid of people. I didn't know how to interact. But as I got older and went through different experiences, I felt like I wanted a different lifestyle. I wanted to change my life to have a better outlook where I could be more of service to people."
Last year, Tyson launched the Mike Tyson Cares Foundation, a nonprofit organization that "gives kids like myself, who were homeless and underprivileged, a fighting chance at a better life," Tyson says.
"We all find that moment in life where we feel helpless, that we don't have hope for a better life to live. I don't care if you're sick, you have cancer, or you have AIDS... Keep loving life and loving the life you have left to live. Don't give up."
Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth. Tuesday, April 16, at 8 p.m. at Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-949-6722. Tickets cost $35 to $500 via arshtcenter.org.
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