“Mike,” the 2022 Hulu limited series, is based on the controversial life of Mike Tyson. The series has been directed by Craig Gillespie, Tiffany Johnson, and Director X. It takes us behind the glorified aura of the showman and makes us privy to a man who was emotionally distraught from within and had already decided that he would end up in prison and live the life of a felon. Trevante Rhodes plays the protagonist, Mike Tyson, and Harvey Keitel plays his coach, Cus D’Amato. Amidst all the controversies where Mike Tyson has accused the makers of using his life story for their gains, let’s see if the series is able to pack a punch, or fizzles out as one of those biographical dramas that put forth a concoction that is neither moving nor engrossing.
How Was Mike Tyson Introduced To Cus D’Amato?
The stage was set, and Mike Tyson was ready to tell the audience about his life. He goes on stage and tells them that he is going to speak the truth. The truth about who Mike Tyson was, in reality. Could Mike Tyson only be defined as the most brutal, the most vicious, and the most ferocious fighter that ever lived? Was there anything beyond the pompous, arrogant, and wild demeanor? How did Mike Tyson feel about going to prison? Did he feel guilty for committing all those crimes? Did he know what exactly it meant to be a convicted rapist? People generally didn’t ask him about all these issues. And when they did, he didn’t take it in good faith. But now, Mike was ready to confront his demons. He was ready to tell the people about a time in his life when he didn’t even know how to throw a punch.
The life of Michael Gerard Tyson was as miserable as it could get. He was constantly bullied by the other kids living in his neighborhood. He was timid, and weak, and everybody picked up on him. Brownsville, New York, where Tyson grew up, had a very high crime rate. Every kind of illegal activity was rampant in the area. Things were not good in his family either. His mother had an abusive relationship with her partner, Eddie. Mike said they used to beat each other and then make love. The little kid thought that maybe this was how couples were supposed to be. Before Eddie, Mike’s mother dated another man, who was probably his father. Mike says that his mother had a terrible choice in men. She had a good life before coming to Brownsville and worked as a nurse. But now things just got worse. His mother was thrown out of the house by her partner. He took all her money and left her and her kids, Denise, Rodney, and Mike, to fend for themselves. It seemed as if their troubles were never going to end.
Mike was declared to be mentally impaired, and due to constant bullying, he finally decided to stop going to school altogether. He was just in second grade, and his mother was worried that without any formal education, he wouldn’t be able to do anything in life. He saw that his mother had stopped expecting anything out of him. It disappointed him to see that his own mother didn’t think that he would be good at anything in life. Mike loved birds. He loved how they soared in the sky and could fly anywhere. That kind of freedom attracted him. A bunch of guys had kept some pigeons in a cage. Mike used to help them feed the pigeons. But the guys still didn’t stop bullying him. Just to annoy and hurt Mike, one of the guys snapped the neck of the pigeon and killed it. That day, maybe for the first time in his life, Mike Tyson punched, and he punched like his life depended on it. It started a new chapter in Mike’s life. He started committing burglary and all sorts of petty crimes. He was sent to a juvenile home where he made friends, and as soon as he got out on parole, he again did something that sent him back to prison. The Spofford juvenile detention center couldn’t manage him anymore, so he was sent to the infamous Tryon Juvenile Center (who would have known that years later it would be known as the facility that reformed the world champion, Mike Tyson).
Mike met Mr. Bobby Stewart, the guidance counselor, who was also an amateur boxing champion. Mike went into the ring to face him. An overconfident Mike thought he could take him down. But in one punch, Mike thought that he was going to die that day. Tyson wanted to learn from him. Mr. Stewart said that he would do so only if Tyson earned good credits. So he obeyed all the rules and did what was asked of him in prison. Tyson started training under Bobby Stewart. It was about time when Tyson was going to be released from prison, and Bobby thought that now he needed professional training. He hooked him up with Cus D’Amato, the famous coach, who had trained champions like Floyd Patterson and Jose Torres. Cus saw the boy move swiftly and throw hard-hitting punches. He was impressed. His career as a trainer had taken a downside. People thought he was too old to produce a world champion. Cus needed to prove to the world that he could still produce a champion like Patterson. Cus saw what Mike was capable of, if trained properly. He promised to make him the youngest boxing champion in the world. For the first time in his life, Mike felt that he amounted to something. He knew that, contrary to what his own mother said, he was going to become somebody. He had found his calling and was ready to put his blood, sweat, and tears into the sport.
‘Mike’ Episode 2: Ending Explained – Did Mike Tyson Win The Heavyweight Championship Title? What Did Cus D’Amato Teach Mike?
Cus wanted to make Mike into a savage beast. He told him to throw punches with bad intentions. He said that unless and until he controlled his mind, he would not be able to be a successful boxer. He said that fatigue was 90 percent psychological. Cus wanted to train Mike and take him under his wings. For that, he needed to go and talk to her mother. Though Lorna Mae, Mike’s mother, allowed Cus to take him, it was evident that she didn’t have any trust in her boy. She had presumed that Cus was taking him only because Mike could revive his career. Cus saw a way to revive his career in the young Mike Tyson, but his relationship with Mike was much more than just a deal. He loved the boy. He wanted to see him become the world champion. He told Mike to completely shut off his emotions and focus on his objective, i.e., to be the world heavyweight champion. He said one thing that stayed with Mike forever: “Punches are born, not made.” Cus wanted to put him in a “smoker.” A smoker was a recreational boxing match, where contestants fought for prize money. It was a non-sanctioned fight and really wild in nature.
When Mike saw these unregulated fights for the first time, he was scared beyond his wits. He wanted to run and almost did so. But then it dawned upon him: if he ran away today, he would be running his whole life. Mike decided to go back and face his opponent. Mike won his first smoker fight, even though he was merely 14 years old. He won the Junior Olympics next and went back to his mother’s home to give her the good news. All she had to say was that Cus was using him, and the day he lost, he would throw him out. Mike was disheartened, not because her mother said something, but because she didn’t believe in the potential he had. She still felt that Mike was this good-for-nothing kid who would eventually end up behind bars. Mike met his friend in his neighborhood. His friend told him that all his life, he had wanted the white folks to cheer for him, but they never did. Mike has gotten an opportunity. Everybody loved him. His friend told him to focus on his goal and do what he was destined to do. Cus got pneumonia and was no longer able to be with Mike. On November 4th, 1985, Cus died due to pneumonia. Mike missed him terribly. Cus was the father he never had, and before he knew it, he had lost him too.
As soon as Cus died, Jimmy Jacobs and Bill Cayton started representing and managing Tyson. They made Mike fight very frequently. They didn’t care if it wasn’t good for him in the long run. They saw a golden goose, and they wanted all the golden eggs in one go. Mike fought Trevour Berbick on November 22nd, 1986, for the WBC heavyweight championship title. He won the fight, and it ushered in a new era. Tyson was only 20 years old when he achieved that feat. As Cus had said, glory awaited the gifted boxer. Little did Tyson know that his life would never be the same and that it would turn into a spectacle. There was money, luxury, privilege, and all the other comforts waiting to embrace the new sensation of the boxing world. Upcoming episodes will tell us if Tyson is able to be in control of his mind like Cus had told him to or if he will let his emotions take over him and destroy everything that comes his way.
The first two episodes do not present anything unique or authentic on the platter. It has its moments, but as a whole, it is not able to create that stirring effect that makes you engrossed. Trevante Rhodes is brilliant as Tyson, but the narrative, till now, lacks a buildup and is unable to complement his performance. Though it moves swiftly, it does so in an unimpressive manner. The makers have chosen to not opt for a very serious and dark execution style. The series has a light-hearted look and feel. The upcoming episodes will tell if it will turn out to be the right move or not. For now, let’s hope that “Mike” is able to deliver and live up to the expectations of the audience.