Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson has accused an unauthorized television drama of stealing his life story, comparing the streaming platform behind the upcoming series to a “slave master.”
“Mike,” which premieres on US streamer Hulu August 25, is a scripted drama that re-enacts moments from the controversial fighter’s life, from his early childhood and through his 1992 rape conviction.
“Hulu is the streaming version of the slave master. They stole my story and didn’t pay me,” wrote Tyson on Instagram.
He added: “I don’t support their story about my life. It’s not 1822. It’s 2022. They stole my life story and didn’t pay me.”
“To Hulu executives I’m just a n****r they can sell on the auction block,” he wrote, using asterisks in place of letters.
Hulu, which is only available in the United States, is majority-owned by Disney.
The show depicts Tyson being bullied as a young child with a lisp, his teenage years in and out of prison after joining a Brooklyn street gang, and his early start in boxing.
While the eight-part limited series shows Tyson in the ring during various famous bouts, it concentrates on his turbulent private life.
One episode focuses on Desiree Washington, the 18-year-old beauty pageant contestant who accused Tyson of rape in 1991. He was convicted the following year, and jailed for three years.
The episode tells the events of the rape in an Indianapolis hotel room, and the ensuing trial, from Washington’s perspective and with her narration.
Creator and screenwriter Steven Rogers said the filmmakers actually “couldn’t talk to” Tyson because “his life rights were already taken” by another project.
But he also pointed to the benefits of an unauthorized take on Tyson’s life, saying “I don’t 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,” he told a recent Television Critics Association panel.
“I don’t like to be beholden to just one person.”
Trevante Rhodes, who plays Tyson in the eight-part limited series, said “it feels best at least to detach yourself as much as you can.”
Asked if he was worried about angering Tyson — considered one of the best heavyweights of all time, who infamously bit off a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear in a 1997 bout — Rhodes simply replied: “Nah.”
‘Baddest man on the planet’
While confronting allegations of domestic violence, the show also contextualizes the violence Tyson suffered as a child, the early loss of his mother to cancer, his drug addiction issues, and efforts by establishment figures to take advantage of Tyson’s lucrative success in the ring.
“When I was researching it, I found that a lot of the issues that we’re struggling with today — like Black Lives Matter, and MeToo, and prison reform and addiction and mental health issues all the stuff that we’re struggling with — have their roots in this one man’s story,” said showrunner Karin Gist.
“So it felt like a really good time to tell it, through the lens of the baddest man on the planet.”
Rogers added: “I would hope that if he watches it, that he would change his opinion.”