If you had to affix a precise date to the beginning of Mike Tyson’s professional decline, you could do worse than December 9, 1988. On that day, Tyson fired Kevin Rooney, the masterful boxing trainer who had guided him to the world heavyweight championship, and moved firmly into the camp of Don King, a man whose name is interchangeable with corruption and degradation. Once an invincible fighter with precise punches and defensive skills, Tyson got sloppy, trading his scientific pugilism for flat-footed brawling. Seduced by a world of women and money, he abandoned all discipline. His laziness caught up with him in February 1990, when a journeyman named Buster Douglas outclassed him in a championship fight and knocked him out.
This was still merely the beginning of the end. In 1992, Tyson was convicted of raping a young beauty queen named Desiree Washington, and spent the next several years in an Indiana prison. Emerging in 1995, he knocked out a few tomato cans before fighting the bigger names, biting ears and going on ridiculous rants about eating people’s children and stomping on their testicles. He nurtured an obsession with pigeons and exotic tigers, living as an eccentric in his own Xanadu. More arrests ensued, more assaults, more crude outbursts.
What’s the point of rehashing this ugly tabloid history? The point is that the name “Mike Tyson” comes with a lot of unwanted baggage, which I simply couldn’t set down while watching the premier of Tyson’s new “show,” a 15-minute animated sketch called Mike Tyson Mysteries. It airs on Adult Swim, which is a grown-up portion of the Cartoon Network featuring peculiar and often graphic shows that blend violence and dark humor. The show has Tyson voicing an animated version of himself. A retired boxer, he is inexplicably portrayed as a freelance mystery solver. His team, a cross between Animal House and the Scooby Doo gang, consists of Norm Macdonald as an alcoholic talking pigeon, the ghost of the Marquess of Queensberry, and Tyson’s brainy adopted daughter.