Businessman extraordinaire Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson has taken to the Internet to promote his latest venture, Street King energy shots. In a web video currently going viral (amassing over 80,000 views in less than four days), 50 chooses a somewhat unlikely celebrity to star — Mike Tyson.

In the nearly 2 minute video, viewers see a The Hangover-esque plot unfold, in which 50 and boxer Floyd Mayweather are recapped on a forgotten night of wild partying from a very hyper Mike Tyson, who was secretly, um, drugged on the energy shot.

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Though the plot certainly isn’t original, the video’s gone viral for a clear reason — Tyson steals the show as a hilarious leading man.

When I watched the video I found myself smiling, suddenly endeared to this big goofy guy who was hopping around a hotel penthouse like a 6-year-old souped up on Halloween candy.


But wait — am I really feeling soft towards a nearly 300 pound man who formerly held the reputation of being a monster both in and outside of the boxing ring? Somehow being endeared towards Tyson feels wrong, as if I’ve become complicit in distracting the public from his past. He’s obviously comfortable with this new image of being the funny, lovable ex-boxer, but there was a time when he had a very angry and dangerous reputation (especially against women).

Can we let bygones be bygones? Considering his very dark past (and especially as a woman), is it okay to be a Tyson fan now?

Though over 20 years ago, it’s hard to forget the controversy that mired Tyson’s boxing career — the 1992 rape conviction and imprisonment, the awful 1997 heavyweight championship fight where he bit off part of Evander Holyfield’s ear, and numerous other fights, assaults, drug and abuse charges that colored the public perception of Mike Tyson.
Particularly haunting was the tense television interview with Tyson and his first wife, actress Robin Givens, a relationship so strained, held together by God knows what (money and publicity?) and bearing so many bruises and baggage it’s a mystery what compelled the two to even sit on a couch together.

Givens said life with Tyson as “torture, pure hell, worse than anything I could possibly imagine,” a seemingly fitting description for a man who would spend the next 20 years wallowing somewhere near rock bottom, content to reinforce this public image with monstrous behavior both inside the ring and on the street as the drugged heavyweight champion.

It wasn’t until about 2008 that Tyson finally began his public road to redemption, most notably via The Hangover, in a quick bit role where the boxer showed he had enough humor to poke fun at his angry and erratic reputation.

Tyson has used comedy to reform his public image, flipping that movie role into various TV and Internet appearances. He seems content in his new reputation, and now reflects on his past and present with a sobriety and remorse only time, experience and maturity could bring. It seems like he’s changed, and he’s willing to be vulnerable in the public eye through comedy and bravely honest interviews to prove it.

Still, it’s hard to reconcile the convicted rapist with the jolly guy he portrays today. The Mike Tyson we now know seems a lifetime away from that angry guy of the 1990s, someone who’d more likely make you cry in pain than make you laugh. I want to believe that he’s changed, that people change, that maybe he’s even gained a newfound respect for women.

Tyson’s been quoted as saying of this life now, “I don’t deserve to have the wife that I have; I don’t deserve the kids that I have, but I do, and I’m very grateful.”

Fame and money are intoxicating, and I’m sure they factored into Tyson’s behavior in the past. As his star continues to be reborn, and he slowly begins to reclaim his celebrity, my hope is Tyson can maintain this new persona without falling into his old vices. I’m starting to like this new guy, and I hope he continues to win over skeptics like me – people can change, and hopefully Mike Tyson is living proof.