CANNES, France (Reuters) - Heavyweight Mike Tyson, one of the most fearsome and notorious fighters in boxing’s history, said on Saturday it was a miracle he was still alive after the drugs and violence of his past.
“I’ve lived a wild and strange life,” Tyson told a news conference at the Cannes film festival to present a documentary on his life by U.S. director James Toback.
“I’ve used drugs, I’ve had physical altercations with dangerous people, people were angry. I’ve slept with guys’ wives, they wanted to kill me. I‘m just happy to be here. It’s just a miracle. I feel good about being here with you,” he said.
Selecting from hours of footage and mixing fight sequences with interviews and photographs, Toback tells the story of the boxer’s climb from his impoverished New York childhood to the pinnacle of his sport and his dramatic fall.
Like Serbian director Emir Kusturica’s documentary on Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona, showing out of competition next week, “Tyson” paints the picture of a charismatic but troubled champion whose image transcended his sport.
“In the course of the film, Tyson moves from someone you might think you’d want to steer well clear of to a man you might actually want to meet and speak with, which is a significant accomplishment,” trade paper Variety said in its review.
Tyson himself, his face tattooed and looking significantly heavier in a grey suit than in his sporting prime, strode along the red carpet at the film’s opening night to loud applause.
“I had no idea this thing was going to ever make it to this grand scale here,” said Tyson, 41. “I feel totally overwhelmed.”
The film treats Tyson as a tragic but also noble figure. At 20, he became the youngest heavyweight champion of the world but his life spiraled out of control and he served three years in jail after being convicted of rape in 1992.
In 1997, he bit a piece out of opponent Evander Holyfield’s ear during a fight and was banned from the ring for a year.
Toback, who has known Tyson for years, has been praised for the confidences he drew from the fighter.
“I’ve always analyzed my life,” Tyson said. “I’ve always been pretty objective about myself, I’ve always been a harsh critic about myself.”
Humiliated as a child for his distinctive high lisp, he suffered much bullying until he began to fight back.
He was rescued from the streets of Brooklyn by veteran trainer Cus D‘Amato, who helped channel his raw power and aggression and made him one of the most devastating punchers the sport had ever seen.
Editing by Keith Weir