Born in poverty in Brooklyn, New York, arrested 38 times by age 13, Mike Tyson's future was dark. Like many young men who turn to crime, he was sent to a juvenile center. His story might have spiraled down from there if it hadn't been for his extraordinary talents. At age 14, he became the protégé of one of boxing's legendary managers, Cus D'Amato. Through rigorous training and dedication, the course set for him turned.
He became a champion. A hero. A sports icon. The greatest fighter since Ali. He was rich, married to a beautiful actress and living in luxury. The world was at his feet until he fell from an American dream into an American nightmare.
Cus D'Amato, the trainer who discovered the legendary "Iron" Mike Tyson, is portrayed by Academy Award® winning actor George C. Scott ("Patton"). Michael Jai White will make his cable debut portraying Tyson, the controversial boxer who was the youngest heavyweight champion in boxing history. Paul Winfield ("Sounder") is promoter Don King. Malcolm-Jamal Warner ("The Cosby Show") portrays Tyson's friend, Rory Holloway. Tony Lo Bianco ("The French Connection") and James B. Sikking ("Hill Street Blues") play Jimmy Jacobs and Bill Cayton, Tyson's former managers. TYSON is based on the book "Fire and Fear: The Inside Story of Mike Tyson," by Jose Torres.
In the beautiful upstate New York resort town of Catskill, legendary boxing manager and trainer Cus D'Amato (George C. Scott), accompanied by his training protégé Teddy Atlas (Holt McCallany) and boxer Kevin Rooney (Clark Gregg), arrive at a small, dingy gym to check out a young prospect, Mike Tyson (Michael Jai White), who had been sent to nearby Tryon juvenile detention center after having been arrested more than 38 times by age 13. D'Amato takes the 13-year-old powerhouse under his wing, bringing him to live in the home that D'Amato shares with Camille Ewald (Lilyan Chauvin).
Under Cus's tutelage, Tyson begins working at a furious pace to develop himself into a champion, learning the techniques of Rocky Marciano, Joe Louis and Jack Dempsey, as well as the philosophy that helped D'Amato bring Floyd Paterson the heavyweight crown. "What's the difference between a hero and a coward?" D'Amato lectures. "There ain't no difference. They both feel exactly the same inside. They both fear dying and being hurt. But it's what the hero does about it that makes him a hero -- and what the other doesn't do that makes him a coward."
Year after year, in the sheltered environment of the Catskills, Tyson grows into a young man of promise. After the funeral of his mother in Brooklyn, Tyson takes the bus back to the Catskills with his beloved racing pigeons in tow, determined not to return to the mean streets of Brownsville.
June 23, 1982: Tyson, fearful of disappointing D'Amato, sobs in his dressing room at the Junior Olympics. Bolstered by Atlas' encouragement, he enters the ring, head lowered, tucked behind his gloves. Utilizing D'Amato's patented "peek-a-boo" technique, Tyson lands a series of jabs and body punches, ending in a left hook that drops his opponent like a sack of potatoes. Mike Tyson becomes the 1982 Junior Olympics champion in eight seconds.
Back in the Catskills, D'Amato is worried that Tyson will be swamped with the wrong kind of influence, pouting that the "sharks" that exist in professional boxing will be after Tyson in no time and that the young man won't have a chance against their slick manipulation. Upon Tyson's return, D'Amato and Camille propose that they become his legal guardians. Tyson, having truly become part of their family, consents.
However, in spite of all the positive elements of his environment, Tyson continues to make wrong choices. He threatens his schoolteachers, takes advantage of an underage girl, and disappears for days at a time. His bad behaviour goes unchecked until Atlas discovers that Tyson has been involved with his niece. After a violent confrontation, Atlas severs his relationship with D'Amato and Tyson.
D'Amato brings Bill Cayton (James B. Sikking) and Jimmy Jacobs (Tony Lo Bianco), well-known seasoned boxing managers, to meet with his young champion. Jacobs and Cayton decide to take the young Tyson under their management.
Kevin Rooney becomes Tyson's trainer, joining the team of D'Amato, Jacobs and Cayton. Tyson turns professional and wins one fight after another, knockout after knockout. Sports Illustrated puts him on the cover, dubbing him "Dynamite!" Everything seems to be falling into place when, suddenly, D'Amato dies. Distraught with grief, Mike vows the only way he can make D'Amato proud is to become world champion.
Having finally won the WBC crown with a brutal, trademark knockout of Trevor Berbick, Tyson goes on a sexual rampage with his pal Rory Holloway (Malcolm-Jamal Warner). Chided for his behavior by Rooney, the new champ turns to Jacobs for advice and comfort. Having taken D'Amato's place as a father figure, Jacobs counsels Tyson against taking too many risks, but Tyson claims his carousing days are over. "Now I just want to fall in love," he tells his manager. "I want to have a relationship, like you got with Lorraine. And kids, lots of kids."
And Tyson, in fact, has the perfect woman in mind. Her name is Robin. He has seen her on TV. Tyson brings actress Robin Givens (Kristen Wilson) and her mother Ruth Roper (Sheila Wills) to the Tony Tucker fight in Las Vegas. Distracted by the visiting women, he is taken the distance by Tucker, but pulls out a unanimous decision to unify the WBC-WBA-IBF titles and become undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. As Tyson stands center-ring, boxing promoter Don King (Paul Winfield) beams.
On impulse, Tyson and Robin marry, shocking Camille, Rooney, his management and the boxing world. Then, Jimmy Jacobs suddenly dies, and Robin alienates Cayton by demanding to take over her husband's affairs. With Don King also looming in the background, Cayton knows he's in for a battle, and expresses his fears to Jacobs' widow: "Cus' last request was that we protect Mike from the sharks. Well, the sharks are circling."
Tyson is at his peak as a fighter, a glorious, dominating warrior, as he flattens former champ Michael Spinks in 91 seconds. Convinced that Don King should promote his career, Tyson seeks to break his contract with Cayton, and Kevin Rooney is also banished. Cus D'Amato's fear of sharks in the boxing world is being realized. Robin Givens sues for divorce, and Tyson heads to Tokyo to defend his title against a journeyman heavyweight named Buster Douglas - beginning a fall from grace that culminates in a felony conviction and a stretch in an Indiana jail cell.