Joyce Carol Oates attended a screening of James Toback’s documentary Tyson with the director and Iron Mike himself, and participated in a Q & A session, as reported in New York Magazine:

“What’s the experience of watching yourself in this movie?” [Oates] asked. “Do you feel like you yourself are an abstract piece of art?”

“I just look at it like Jim asked me questions and I answered the questions,” Tyson explained. “It looked very simplistic to me at first, but watching it with a conglomerate of people here, I feel very vulnerable. I don’t like watching it.”

JCO of course has written extensively on boxing from her book on the subject, to many articles on Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, and others. Of the young Tyson, JCO wrote in 1986:

Mike Tyson, a boy warrior, has become legendary, in a sense, before there is a legend to define him. And never has the collective will of a crowd—the very nearly palpable wish of a crowd—been more powerfully expressed than it is tonight in Las Vegas. With his much-publicized 27-0 record as a professional boxer, of which twenty-five victories are knockouts (fifteen in the first round, several within sixty seconds), with so much expectation centered upon him as the “new hope” of heavyweight boxing, Tyson recalls the young Jack Dempsey, who fought his most spectacular fights before winning the heavyweight title. Like Dempsey in the upward trajectory of his career, Tyson suggests a savagery only symbolically contained within the brightly illuminated elevated ring, with its referee, its resident physician, its scrupulously observed rules, regulations, customs, and rituals. Like Dempsey he has the power to galvanize crowds as if awakening in them the instinct not merely for raw aggression and the mysterious will to do hurt that resides, for better or worse, in the human soul, but for suggesting incontestable justice of such an instinct . . .

Image: Mike Tyson by Eduardo Merille


  1. I hate boxing. I always have. It does not frighten me so much as disgust me. Perhaps we are all murders. Perhaps we all want to do harm , to hurt one another, but to ritualize the worst in us as a game, a sport, seems evil. It is like taking your aggression out in sex, rape , beating up women and such like. The some crowds of course loves anything evil. Look how they flock to an airport when a damaged plane is coming in. Look how they gather to watch an execution, even an execution of a child. If I had my way, I would turn the hose on such crowds.


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