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Thu June 4, 2009
Practice . . .
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
I feared for my hand.
Two years ago at Hyde, an exclusive nightclub in Hollywood, I shook Mike Tyson's hand and wondered where mine went. The imposing, albeit short, former world champion boxer, was silently cruising the party, alone and predatory, an unsupervised missile if you would.
The documentary Tyson is a faithful rendition of my memory, a man driven by colossal strength, speed, and surprising talent, and yet as alone as anyone in that world could be. Most of this sometimes belabored and repetitive documentary is a talking Tyson head with intercut of bouts fascinating in their graphic recollection of his brutality. Indeed, opponents quiver anticipating his blows.
The drama spills over into his personal life, which he narrates with a candor that shows a little bullied boy turning into robbing punk, then with the help of trainer Cus D'Amato, into a boxing machine amassing trophies and world-renown. True to our understanding of the tragic arc in a few famous lives, Tyson admits his failures as he does time for rape and underestimates in pride the danger of Buster Douglas and Evander Holyfield. Biting the ears of the latter confirms the Darwinian side of Tyson's combativeness.
Knowing as I do about the ability of professionals to lie while appearing candid, it's a challenge for me to believe his account of a childhood full of promiscuous parents and bullying at school. But that he used the kind of bitterness that comes from these circumstances as an inducement to excel is obvious.
Although Tyson is not an educated man, he is able to extract meaning from his experiences such as his self-awareness about the importance of submissive women in his life and his shrewd acknowledgment that most of them just want to be associated with the champ. Robin Givens is the best example of the beautiful woman who marries a philanderer and abuser when she didn't have to.
This documentary's most incisive insight for me is seeing that even a world champ can lose if he doesn't keep up his training and avoid those ambitious women. The message: practice, practice, practice.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, Cinema Classics, and On the Marquee, which can be heard streaming at http://publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/ppr/index.shtml and on demand at http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/arts.artsmain Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com