The team behind Oscar-nominated feature I, Tonya have reunited for a limited-series based on the turbulent life of former heavyweight champion boxer Mike Tyson.
Streaming now on Disney Plus, the show is only the second ever take on Tyson's eventful life following a 1995 TV movie starring Michael Jai White in the titular role.
In Mike, Moonlight star Trevante Rhodes laces up as the Baddest Man on the Planet and is supported by a cast including Harvey Keitel as trainer Cus D’Amato, Laura Harrier as Tyson’s ex-wife Robin Givens and Russell Hornsby as nefarious promoter Don King.
Read on for everything you need to know about the true story behind Mike.
How true is Mike?
Across eight episodes, Mike will explore Tyson’s early life and in a criss-crossing narrative, follow his rise to being the youngest heavyweight world champion in boxing history. It also delves into a fall that saw him convicted of rape and later filing for bankruptcy. It’s a comprehensive dive into the man and the myth.
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It’s worth noting that Tyson himself has denounced the series, accusing the producers of "stealing" his story and calling the show a "slave master take" on his life. He also made reference to the series using his stage show as a framing device, tweeting: "Hulu used my Undisputed Truth show as the back drop for their Unauthorized Truth series about my life."
Tyson also criticised the makers for not having him involved in the series: "Don’t let Hulu fool you. I don’t support their story about my life. They stole my life story and didn’t pay me."
The move to make a biopic without the person’s involvement is a contrast to recent true stories such as Elvis, Bohemian Rhapsody and Straight Outta Compton, which were all made with the blessings of the respective estates.
The former heavyweight champion, who once threatened to eat Lennox Lewis's children in the build-up to the pair's 2002 fight, had already hit out at the series when it was announced in early 2021.
He said: "This announcement on the heels of social disparities in our country is a prime example of how Hulu’s corporate greed led to this tone-deaf cultural misappropriation of the Tyson life story. To make this announcement during Black History Month only confirms Hulu’s concern for dollars over respect for Black story rights.
"Hollywood needs to be more sensitive to Black experiences especially after all that has transpired in 2020."
Karen Gist, the showrunner of Mike, defended the series against Tyson’s accusations, saying recently: "We just wanted to tell an unbiased story and have the audience decide what they think or feel. Challenging what people think they know about Mike and hoping that they come away from the series with something else to think about.
"Whether you like him or hate him, does the story make you question how complicit society has been?"
Trevante Rhodes also said he attempted to reach out to Tyson to try and ease his anger at the production: "I reached out. I tried to make some type of connection via Instagram, and it didn’t work. But, you know, you try. I did my best…I’m sure I’ll see him, hopefully."
While not based on any particular book about Tyson, the series draws on a huge amount of available material about the boxer’s life to tell it with accurate detail, with the producers saying they relied upon "extensive research of factual accounts, interviews and footage of real-life events".
The series goes to painstaking lengths to accurately recreate certain events from Tyson’s life, most notably his infamous TV interview with Barbara Walters where he was accompanied by his then-wife Robin Givens.
During the interview, Givens publicly accuses Tyson of domestic abuse; the moment is stark in its stripping of the Tyson myth, which he has successfully embellished in his post-retirement years through cameo appearances in films such as The Hangover and spoken word tour entitled Undisputed Truth.
There is also an episode dedicated to Tyson’s 1992 rape conviction, over which he denies any wrongdoing, but the show tells the event from the viewpoint of the woman who accused him, Desiree Washington.
Mike flows through Tyson’s career highs (the one round knockout of Michael Spinks to become undisputed champion) and lows (his first loss to the unheralded Buster Douglas in Tokyo) and everything in between.
These days, Tyson can be seen endorsing longtime friend Donald Trump for President, and recently returned to the ring for an exhibition bout against Roy Jones Jr.
In recent years, Tyson has also made a number of cameo appearances in action movies such as Ip Man 3, Kickboxer: Retaliation and Vendetta, which he starred in alongside Bruce Willis.
While Tyson has taken umbrage with this depiction of his life story, he is connected to a different one as a producer, along with his current wife Kiki.
Set to star Jamie Foxx as the fearsome puncher, Training Day’s Antoine Fuqua is attached to direct with Martin Scorsese also on board as a producer. Like Mike, this limited series is set to span the boxer’s entire life but it has not yet been sold to a network.
Mike is available to stream on Disney Plus now. You can sign up to Disney Plus for £7.99 a month or £79.90 a year now.
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