Created by Steven Rogers, Hulu’s sports drama series ‘Mike’ revolves around Mike Tyson, who aspires to become a boxing champion upon learning the basics of the sport while he is in prison. His first trainer Bobby Stewart leads him to a famed trainer Cus D’Amato, who promises to accompany Mike to great heights. Cus trains Mike to participate in championships upon welcoming the boxer to his own family.
The series progresses through the obstacles and hurdles Mike faces to become a legend of the game. Starring Trevante Rhodes as the titular character, the Hulu production opens a window to the personal life of the famed boxer, making one eager to know whether the show is depicting the true story of Mike Tyson. Well, let us share the answer!
Is Mike the Real Story of Mike Tyson?
Yes, ‘Mike’ is based on the true story of Mike Tyson, the legendary former boxer. The show begins by depicting the real Mike’s tumultuous childhood while he was living in Brownsville, Brooklyn. At the age of 12, Mike got arrested for possession of a certain stolen property, which led him to a state reformatory, as the show depicts, according to his autobiography ‘Undisputed Truth.’ At the prison, Mike met Bobby Stewart, one of the counselors at the place and a professional boxer. Bobby, as the show depicts, took Mike to the legendary trainer Cus D’Amato to take the emerging boxer to “the next level.”
Under the guideship of Cus, Mike contested in the 1981 and 1982 Junior Olympic Games, winning gold medals both times. Mike made his professional debut in 1985 at the age of 18. In the same year, he had to endure the death of Cus, who died of pneumonia at the age of 77. In 1986, Mike had his first shot at a title against Trevor Berbick for the World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight championship. He won the match in the second round, becoming the youngest heavyweight champion in history. The win against Berbick in a match that was billed as Judgment Day was Mike’s stepping stone to stardom.
Rather than focusing on Mike’s career as a boxer, the show prioritizes the depiction of him as a person. The impact of Cus’ death, his relationships with women, and the controversies that revolved around his life find a place in the show. The series also explores his troubled relationship with his mother, Lorna Smith Tyson. In his autobiography, Mike wrote that his mother might have thought “she’d failed as a mother” when she had to sign the permission papers for him to leave with Cus. ‘Mike’ focuses on such emotionally turbulent instances that affected him as a person more than his renowned achievements as a boxer.
In addition, Rogers’ creation explores the significance and relevance of Mike Tyson. As per executive producer Karin Gist, the foundation of ‘Mike’ is “to tell the story so that we’re talking about more than just the events in his [Mike Tyson’s] life, but rather placing the story and giving it context in the world and at the time.” During a Television Critics Association panel, Gist added, “We really wanted to make sure we were as broad as possible in the research and the dramatization of the events of his life and we could make sure we were opening the doors to other conversations to be had around those things as well.”
For the same, Rogers had to rely on extensive research rather than seeking Mike as a source. “For me, as a writer, as a storyteller, I don’t really like to be reliant on just one source. I really like to do the research and get all these different opinions and then put a story around all of that. I don’t like to be beholden to just one person,” the creator said in the same interview. For Rogers and his team, depicting an unbiased account of the American hero was very integral. “We just wanted to tell an unbiased story and have the audience decide what they think or feel,” Gist added during the same panel discussion.
Having said that, Mike Tyson has not approved the project. As per Mike, the creators or the network of the show hadn’t communicated with him concerning the show. When ‘Mike’ was announced, as per reports, the boxer even described the same as a “tone-deaf cultural misappropriation of my life story.” However, Gist summarizes the intention of ‘Mike’ as “challenging what people think they know about Mike and hoping that they come away from the series with something else to think about.” Taking everything into consideration, although ‘Mike’ is based on the true story of the real-life boxing legend, we recommend you approach the series as an “unauthorized” version of the same.