'Taking On Tyson' review: Mike Tyson takes a bite out of Animal Planet

I knew that Mike Tyson had been raising pigeons since he was young, but didn’t know, until I watched the premiere of Taking On Tyson on Sunday night, that Tyson raced them as well.

Actually, I’m still not entirely convinced Tyson races homing pigeons, at least when there aren’t any cameras around, for pure enjoyment. It looked as though the producers had taken Tyson’s affinity for the birds and then surrounded him with a team of professional pigeon racers, who coach the fighter in the rules and discipline of their subculture, all for the purpose of a TV series.

“Mike’s birds have never raced before,” said narrator Michael Kenneth Williams (Boardwalk Empire; immortal as Omar in The Wire). This Animal Planet series’ way of building suspense is to have Williams say intensely, “If they are released too early, they might not come back.”

Makes sense, right?

The fighter who served three years in prison for rape and took a firm nibble from Evander Holyfield’s ear has spent the past few years rehabilitating his public image. I don’t doubt that Tyson has long found comfort spending time alone on rooftops with his beloved birds, but I also think the show is just as much an effort to domesticate Tyson’s image in the same way his cameo in The Hangover was.

Actually, the weakest aspect of Taking On Tyson isn’t the boxer, who has always been a more complex, intriguing figure than his critics will allow. No, it’s the cast of self-consciously colorful pigeon trainers, who each behaves as though he’s auditioning for his own cable tv reality show, that get in the way of enjoying Tyson communing with the pigeons. For a portrait of the man as both a sensitive soul and competitive brute, you have to see director James Toback’s terrific 2008 documentary Tyson. Toback taps into Tyson’s psyche in a way Taking On Tyson never achieves. As a reality show about pigeon racing, Taking On isn’t terribly compelling, either. In short, it’s neither fish nor fowl.

Twitter: @kentucker

Comments (31 total) Add your comment
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  • Ginger Brooks

    Tyson acts like a brute with those pigeons which are not friendly with him at all. Everybody in the film would seem to fit better in a
    group for criminal activities…i.e. a crime family story.

    • Tess Tickles

      Tyson is the greatest of all time. Soda Popinski is a close second.

      • Angelo

        It’s interesting television. It’s a tough project for the producers to tackle too—walking the line between focusing on Tyson, himself a compelling story, and the pigeon racing culture. It’s animal planet, so the intent should be to educate viewers about the animals and the sport they’re a part of. On the other hand, you can’t ignore Mike Tyson’s story and why he’s had a lifelong interest in the birds. The first couple episodes have moved slowly, setting up the series. I think there is a lot of potential if they do it right.

    • adam

      get over his past woman. he’s a different man.

      • adam

        sorry i was talking to ginger

    • efem

      He acts like a brute because he is one

  • t.moon

    Oh my Loooord,please stop!! I’ll never watch animal planet again:/

  • eddy

    this is a crappy article, people are always going to find reason to complaint

    • Diandra

      YMMD with that anwsre! TX

  • Xfn

    Tyson = greatest to ever enter the ring…all that matters…go Iron Mike

    • efem

      Really, tell that the your daughters, I guess you don’t mind the rapes and battering of women. Wow I hope you don’t have kids

      • Tommy9834

        It’s BS how a women can have consensual sex, then just cry rape, and there’s practically no way for the man to prove that she’s lying, and don’t tell me this NEVER happens, especially when the man is rich.

        We can only look at the facts surrounding the situation. Tyson invited her and ONLY her, and it was late at night. You really think that slimy, scheming b*tch didn’t know why he called?

        It was her word against Mike’s but she’s the “innocent little girl” and Tyson’s the “brutal mean animal” so who do you think the jury, and other Tyson haters, is gonna side with?

  • Cnlyklvn

    Tyson is the greatest and always will be. People loved him when he was up and had all his fame.but now that he ain’t on top people want to down him but that’s usually how it goes. Keep doing what you do tyson you ll always be on top in my book

    • Colonel Angus

      Tyson wasn’t on top in prison!!

    • Robert

      Are you serious, the “greatest”. Rape, prison, poor sportsmanship. Maybe great before he through his life away….maybe.

      • adam

        jeez your a woman

  • paul

    We are all only human. And if iron Mike is fixing himself to be a better man. Well that makes him better then he has ever been. Keep up the good work Mike!!!!!

    • efem

      Most “human” don’t think its OK to rape young women!

  • Naturalone76

    The show is actually very interesting. If you belive he is innocent(I do) or not, the man has paid his dues and is now sharing an interest we all know he loves, and mixing it with something he is not familiar with. Say what ever you want about him he is an intriguing person.

  • Dee

    I don’t understand why every article about Mike has to include the rape conspiracy, the Holyfield incident, filing bankruptcy and his previous problem with drugs. EVERYONE ALREADY KNOWS THIS!!!!! YOU PANSY A$$ WRITERS DON’T HAVE TO KEEP BRINGING THESE THINGS UP LIKE WE DON’T ALREADY KNOW THE HISTORY OF MIKE TYSON!!!! And to all you d*ck heads who wan’t post negative things about Mike in this comment section, get a life and worry about your own issues!!! Mike has paid his debts to society and is doing well for himself!!! He is committed to his family and helping others to learn life’s lessons through his misfortunes, so leave him the hell alone!!!!!

    • efem

      Are you kidding there is no payback for having your body invaded. Get a grip if you think it was a conspiracy.

    • Tommy9834


      No seriously though, your right. That whole rape fiasco was fishy, and the biting incident, while Tyson was truly wrong there, Holyfield was headbutting alot, so it’s not like he was a saint himself.

      Either way, these Tyson haters, who were all probably brought up from rich, and privileged families and neighborhoods, couldn’t live the life Tyson lived, with his childhood, insecurities, and the fear of everyone gunning for him.

      I personally think people like Tyson scares them, so they talk about him behind the safety of their keyboards.

  • Zip

    Mike has came a long way in his life. There will always be haters out there, fuck em! Pigeon racing actually seems pretty interesting to me. I hadnt heard of it until now.

  • efem

    I am horrified that Mike Tyson, a convicted rapist has a TV show on a family friendly network. I will never purchase anything from any of his sponsers or allow my that network into my home. Who is paying back the woman he raped for the trauma she lives with every day. Just awful

    • Tommy9834

      By “the women he raped” do you mean Desiree Washington, the slimy scheming whore who had a history of false accusations of rape in the past, and then she would agree to drop charges if the man paid her 1 million dollars?

      Is that the women your talking about?

      Oh I think she’s doing just fine, knowing she suckered the courts and managed to pulled a fast one on a famous boxer, and got some cash, publicity, and sympathy from feminist groups and whinny soccer moms.

  • Richard Peix

    Mike one thing they never mentioned on the first show was the importance of good grit to help in dijestion. I bred both raceing homers and english Long Faced tumblers. I won the National Young bird show in 79 and 81. I recomend Foust grit. Good luck champ and I am sure your going to be a winner.

  • ChuloLindo

    Tyson can’t do anything without people trying to bring him down. Jesus Christ! let the guy just be!

  • gilbert

    mike tyson,loved by few, hated by many but respected by all… go mike!!!!

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