Tyson vs Hulu
Hailed as one of the greatest boxing legends of all time, Mike Tyson has once again found himself in a fight—this time for the rights to his life story.
On August 25th, Hulu is launching the first two episodes of an eight-episode biopic series entitled Mike. The dramatized series stars Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight) as Tyson and Harvey Keitel (Reservoir Dogs, National Treasure) as famed boxing manager and trainer Constantine "Cus" D'Amato, and offers viewers a personal look at Tyson’s storied life in and out of the boxing ring, including many of the scandals that “The Baddest Man on the Planet” weathered following his retirement from sports.
The series is entering into a canon of Tyson stories that includes two memoirs and a one-man documentary show, Undisputed Truth, directed by Spike Lee. What makes Mike differ from the canon, however, is Tyson’s complete lack of involvement and staunch refusal to support the project.
Tyson, who was neither approached about the series prior to its creation nor offered compensation, has publicly and consistently fought against the upcoming dramatization of his life since 2021 when Hulu greenlighted the project. In an Instagram post, Tyson called out the “corporate greed” that often preys upon social and racial disparities, calling the series a “tone-deaf cultural misappropriation of the Tyson life story.”
Shortly after Mike began production, Tyson allegedly began working on a separate project about his life with actor Jamie Foxx to star as the boxer, but the production has not found a network to date.
Recently, the conflict recaptured public attention after Tyson posted on Instagram, thanking UFC President Dana White for turning down an alleged multi-million dollar offer from Hulu to promote the show.
"Hulu tried to desperately pay my brother @danawhite millions without offering me a dollar to promote their slave master take over story about my life," Tyson posted on Instagram. "He turned it down because he honors friendship and treating people with dignity. I'll never forget what he did for me just like I'll never forget what Hulu stole from me."
Celebrity culture has long treated athletes and other public figures like public property. And unfortunately for Tyson, his story actually is. Hulu was legally able to create Mike without contacting Tyson because the former heavyweight champion’s life rights option expired years ago. Nonetheless, the boxing legend criticized Hulu for writing and producing a story without his blessing or permission, telling Entertainment Tonight, “Hulu nor any of their supercilious team ever tried to engage in any negotiations with this Black man. In their eyes, I am still just a n****r on the auction block ready to be sold for their profit without any regard for my worth or my family.”
Hulu’s official synopsis bills the show as “one wild ride” that “explores the tumultuous ups and downs of Tyson’s boxing career and personal life - from being a beloved global athlete to a pariah and back again.”
According to Deadline, Mike showrunner Karin Gist offered insight into the show’s methodology at Hulu’s Television Critics Tour panel. “We just wanted to tell an unbiased story and have the audience decide what they think or feel,” Gist said. “Challenging what people think they know about Mike and hoping that they come away from the series with something else to think about. Whether you like him or hate him, does the story make you question how complicit society has been? That was the intention, that was the North Star for the writers’ room as we were crafting stories.”
“Iron Mike,” as Tyson is often known by, has not accepted the streaming company’s remarks as genuine.