In his new memoir, Mike Tyson writes that working on the book has made him think his whole life has been a joke.
The former heavyweight champion, who electrified the boxing world in the 1980s, now regrets how the pursuit of fame made him act outside the ring.
“I feel like a schmuck,’’ Tyson told Willie Geist on TODAY Tuesday. “I feel like ‘el schmucko.’ For instance, I didn’t choose being a fighter; it chose me. Somebody told me, ‘Hey this is what you’re gonna do, you’re good at this.’
“I’m from such a deprived neighborhood, in Brownsville, Brooklyn. I wanted something great for my life. I didn’t want to be that person any more. So I went on that journey, and that journey took me to such a megalomaniacal perspective of myself.”
In his new book, “Undisputed Truth,” Tyson writes about the struggle to contain his alter ego: “Iron Mike,’’ the ferocious fighter inside the ring whose personality often manifested itself in ugly incidents outside the ring. Tyson told Geist it was “almost impossible’’ to contain that side of him.
“That guy, he follows me,’’ Tyson said. “He even follows me when I perform on stage on Broadway. That’s my alter ego when I’m afraid. I can use ‘Iron Mike’ as an excuse, but I owe that to all the self-gratification I got out of being that person. It took me away from being that scared little kid to being a feared person, which I thought was a respected person.”
He believes that warrior spirit is one that has been a part of him forever.
“I believe in another life I was at war [in ancient Greece] with Achilles and all those guys,’’ he said. “I believe I was born to do this.”
Tyson also writes frankly about his ill treatment of women during his life, which he believes relates to his childhood.
“I judge by the way my mother was being treated, so I thought that’s how women should be treated,’’ he said. “When you see the biggest woman figure in your life being treated pretty disrespectfully, you realize she’s accepting that. You realize this is just what it is.”
Therapy and his wife and five daughters have helped Tyson improve his interactions with women, he believes. “I really like to deep down believe that I am [better],’’ he said.
Tyson also writes about how his pursuit of the heavyweight title and chasing an aura as one of the greatest fighters of all time led him down a negative path.
“I tried so desperately to be someone that I really wasn’t, and I never really found out who I was,’’ he told Geist. “But I wanted to be this image of what I thought was glorious and fantastic. It was just conquering people, becoming the best, and it didn’t matter who I stepped on, even if I stepped on myself or my own feelings or destroyed myself. I just wanted that image of being the greatest fighter God created, all that crazy stuff.”
With a one-man Broadway show, an HBO special about his life airing on Nov. 16, and his new memoir, Tyson feels like he is a long way from the man who once burned to be the champ.
“It’s like light years away for me,’’ he said. “It’s like a blur, all that stuff, all that insecurity, wanting to be the best fighter in the world. I don’t even think in those terms anymore.”
The book is a raw account of Tyson’s life that details everything from his rough upbringing to a prison stint for a rape conviction to his struggles with drugs and alcohol.
“Nobody that reads that book is going to be envious or jealous of me,’’ he said. “No one is going to be envious and say, ‘Wow, he had a great life.’ That’s not gonna happen.”