A little late to this book, given it was released in 2013, I was truly excited to get stuck in to Mike Tyson’s much lauded autobiography. Landing with much fanfare, and published by HarperCollins, I truly believed this was the coming together of both house and subject that is heavy weight in every sense of the word (no really, every sense.)
How wrong one can be.
I won’t make this blog post one long negative diatribe, but I will start by declaring unequivocally that I was hugely disappointed by this book. And, given it is rather large, these are eighteen odd reading hours I’m never going to get back.
I was looking for a book that would reflect and analyse Tyson’s incredible contribution to boxing, bringing together an awesome life with an excellent writer. I believed we would get a genuine glimpse into a sporting genius (or a maverick, but either way, a glimpse of SOMETHING.) Instead, the book moves through a series of clichéd controversies with mere fleeting references to boxing. I kid you not.
I also thought this book would have resonance and importance to a sports fan and reader such as I. Something to take forward with me and share with others. I thought I’d be a changed woman after the final chapter. Err, FAIL. The only takeaway from this book is ‘avoid the same book project management that conjured up Mike Tyson’s book’.
A man with as much pugnacity as Mike Tyson would obviously bring huge entertainment and a natural default setting of ‘edge of the seat’ for much of this book, right? Wrong. The linear approach – the book goes from birth all the way through to the present day – it keeps it simple, becomes a movement from one drug fuelled episode to the next. Meandering passages almost take on a stream of consciousness feel (except they really are not that interesting), and sometimes Tyson takes up a position on religion, or politics, or substance abuse, and then contradicts himself half way through the same paragraph! I was craving writing that would take us to the heart of the glitz and faux-glamour of Fight Night Vegas, or even the rough and ready feel of a boxing gym. Well, that last sentence I wrote would bring you closer to those environs than this book, which is shockingly low on entertainment points.
You can’t deny that Mike Tyson’s legacy in boxing and sport will live on, but this book does nothing to contribute to that. Aside from passages about drugs (having a bag of cocaine and having a straw literally coming out of it, and carrying that around publically, that’s supposed to be interesting), and a few about women (yup, Mike Tyson has slept with a lot of women. I’ve told you, you don’t need to read the book.), the focus of this man’s life, i.e. boxing, is a mere mention and conspicuously absent. It is perhaps the most crushing disappointment of this offering.
If you are in the mood for jaw dropping controversy, go for it – but the vice is mainly just down to illegal drug use, and there are many other books out there that can satiate that (rather bizarre) literary appetite.
As for me, I will never quite view Mike Tyson the same way. I’ll always see him now as a guy that wrote a not very good book, and who has had a chequered history with drugs and sex; what a shame that his Undisputed Truth didn’t allow us readers to get truly lost in boxing, with all its colour and flair, and instead simply took us down a flaccid path of chronological misdemeanours.