Undisputed Truth: My Autobiography – Mike Tyson and Larry Sloman

I am not a sports person. But in a weird way, neither is Mike Tyson.

Ok, Obviously the former heavyweight champion of the world is linked to sports. But in terms of the cultural capital he has earned himself, he is a different creature entirely. When I think of him, the first thing that comes to mind is Mike Tyson Mysteries. For many other people, the first association is ‘Drederick Tatum’. After that, it might be prison time, court cases, and a kind of sordid life…

I don’t think I am alone in feeling like this. The back blurb on this book reads:

Tyson’s story bubbles with bitches, strippers, baby mommas, gold-diggers and – most catastrophically – wives… The most insane and astonishing Sports Book I have read for years

(my emphasis)

Sports Book? I guess. If you really insist. I don’t think I would have liked this very much if it actually was. About half of this book is heavily linked to the world of boxing, but when you consider how much of that first half of the book seems to be dedicated to Mike’s reluctance to be a boxer, and how much of it seems to be a reaction to childhood trauma, I feel like it is debatable. Yea, the boxing is a major theme, but it really didn’t feel like all that much of a major player. If I had to put a theme to all of this, I would call it a book about a person who got taken advantage of a lot and then lost his way. Midway through the Book Mike Tyson quits boxing and dedicated himself full time to debauchery, and it is at that point where the book slowly started losing my interest. The Anna Karenina principle is horseshit, and every drug abuse story is pretty much the same tired song.

I’ve been currently reading a lot of biographies and memoirs. It isn’t the first time I have been on a kick like this. But this one did actually stand out in one pretty noticeable respect. In the past, I noticed that you could frequently read the hand of the ghost-writer in the work. Even in those situations where the ‘author’ of the book is a very literate person, one notices the that someone else style is present1. Larry Sloman really should be lauded here, as his pen does not show through in this work at all. That’s an incredibly stupid statement on my part: I have no idea how Tyson and Sloman divided the work, nor do I have no idea what Mike Tyson sounds like. But what matters is that while I was reading this it sounded to me like what Mike Tyson sounds like. That made the book very enjoyable, and was actually what propelled me through when, as I mentioned above, it began to get stale at the end.

I want to conclude with a note on a peculiarity: I get most of my books from the library, but this one was a gift from my brother, and it was an actual dead tree copy of the book. Being Europeans, he sent me a copy of this that came from England, and so I encountered a few puzzling lines in the book, all of which read something akin to “UK law does not allow me to speak about that trial.” At the beginning of the book it was fine, but when I got further along and found that the trial in question had nothing to do with the UK, it became a lot more puzzling for me. I knew that UK speech laws were a little more restrictive, but this felt ridiculous.

1 I first noticed this years ago when I was simultaneously reading two books by Cornell West: The American Evasion of Philosophy and Brother West. I would go from the one to the other thinking ‘there is no way in hell these were written by the same person’. In fact, there is a co-author credited right on the cover of Brother West.

Frankly, I have no idea. And I am happy this way.

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