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04.27.09

My Friend Iron Mike

I've known Mike Tyson for 15 years. Or at least I thought I did. James Toback's mindbending documentary reveals the vulnerability and madness that nobody's ever seen.

Mike Tyson and I have known each other almost 15 years, and whenever we see each other we always make a point to try to chop it up. I remember meeting him at the pool of the Hard Rock Hotel in Vegas—he’s always been a cool dude to me, a real cat. But then I saw this film, and it made me realize that no matter how well you think you know someone, you can’t ever really know how raw it gets.

I really identify with Mike and what he went through—being a celebrity, and I’m on a millionth of the magnitude of someone who could be heavyweight champion—it’s insanity, the people coming at you, and the feeling that you can do whatever you want. You are just trying to hold onto everything, but it's real madness.

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I think that everyone lives between what they should do and what they want to do. We have these impulses to go nuts. But when you add a few hundred million dollars, that barrier starts to drop, and there are no ramifications or repercussions. People say you’re the king of the world, and then you’re destined for destruction. You’ve seen this with Elvis, with Michael Jackson, and with Mike Tyson—all these people with unbridled power. It always ends terribly. But it’s not necessarily your fault.

See, I am one of those people that when Mike was really winning, he was my hero. What bothers me are the people that dropped him when he had hard times, and walked away from him, not even remembering what he meant to them. I don’t like that part of society, where they just leave you when you lose. When Mike was in prison, he says that he felt that people wanted him to get out so he could fight, but not just so he could be free. It’s like when I’ve been down, and people would say "Ice, can you get back up to entertain us?" And I didn’t know if anyone cared about me at all as a person, or just wanted me to get back up and entertain.

People say you’re the king of the world, and then you’re destined for destruction. You’ve seen this with Elvis, with Michael Jackson, and with Mike Tyson—all these people with unbridled power.

After the movie, Mike said that watching it, he thought he came off as a “very scary guy,” and that’s true. I remember doing the narration for another Tyson documentary and I was allowed to ad lib, and I made the comment, “You train a pitbull, and you get mad when it eats the furniture.” And that’s why boxing is so rough—you take a brutal sport, and you train someone to fight like a barbarian and then ask them to be a gentleman; it’s a paradox. We want to see these guys kill each other, and then we turn around and want some other type of behavior. I think Mike really did the best he could with all the leeches and the other people around him expecting him to never lose.

And now, he’s starting all over again. He is at a ground zero in his life, and I think it’s so great that he bared his soul in this film. The jewel of it is that it’s all in his own words. When people read an interview from you, they don’t know if it's been edited or if it's in your own voice. But this was raw Mike. At this point in Mike’s life, he doesn’t have any endorsements, he doesn’t have any angles, he just said, “Yo I’m-a tell the truth.” When he was talking about the Holyfield fight and how angry he was getting, you felt him getting mad—saying “he was headbutting me and I was getting mad! You know, I didn’t go in there to bite this guy’s ear, but I snapped.” It was good to hear it from the horse’s mouth.

I can’t wait to see what he does now—I know Jamie Foxx will play him in the movie of his life, and that’s a great match. Jamie has the same love for Mike that we all have.

But you know, the real thing about Mike is he is always going to keep his game face on. Even when I saw him at the premiere and I said, we love you for doing this, he simply said, I want respect. He still wants to be a man, and baring himself this way isn’t easy. But I know deep down he is a good person, and that bleeds through in this film.

Ice-T is a Grammy-award winning rapper, actor, and author, who is credited with pioneering gangsta rap in the late 1980s. He plays Detective Odafin Tutuola on NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

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