Image Credit: Eric Ogden/Animal PlanetIf you’ve always dreamed of a reality series involving Mike Tyson and pigeons, well…. you have weird dreams. But Animal Planet just might have a show for you. Premiering Sunday at 10 p.m. ET/PT, Taking on Tyson follows the famous/infamous ex-heavyweight champion — and subject of the 2008 documentary Tyson — around his old Brooklyn neighborhood and beyond as he immerses himself in the world of pigeon racing. (Fact: Tyson got into his first fight at age 11 when a bully ripped the head off of one of his pet pigeons.) And now, some highlights from EW’s brief yet rather informative chat with Tyson.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Mike Tyson and pigeons. What’s going on here?
MIKE TYSON: At first when I wanted to do it, I said, “Wow, this is a chance for me to do something, and I can pay some bills.” But what they’re going to see is a candid guy. They may not like that guy. He’s pretty vulnerable and stupid at certain points, but it’s pretty interesting. Besides the information about the pigeons, it’s almost like people taking a camera and watching me. [I compete with] guys that have been doing this hobby for all their lives, guys that want to win and brag about their win. It’s a weird, eclectic group of people, I would say myself.
Will this series show a different side of you?
It’s just what I am as a normal person. This is what I love to do — this is a hobby I do with childhood friends, we battle against other friends. It’s a really ancient sport, before Christ even. Pigeons have had [their] place during some memorable moments in history — the pigeons were very necessary for the Crusades…. What was interesting was when Napoleon fought [the Duke of] Wellington, and when Wellington won the war, somebody was spying for the Rothschilds. He released a pigeon, the pigeon went back to the Rothschild’s coop, and they got the information before anybody else that Wellington had won, and these guys bet their whole life fortune on the war. That’s why they were able to make such a mass fortune.
How much of the show will be about pigeon racing versus your daily life?
It’s a little bit of everything. It’s just me, pretty much cleancut, telling the truth about anything anybody asks me. It’s interesting insight…. They come visit me in England, on a personal tour. You won’t see big mansions or Rolls-Royces. That Mike Tyson is dead and went to hell a long time ago. You’re going to see some dirty guys with pigeon s— on them, working the real deal…. It’s not labeled a reality show — it’s labeled a mini-documentary. Everything is a reality show on television. Even the news. CNN is a reality show. It’s just not labeled a realty show, you know? I don’t mind being in a reality show, I just don’t like the label of reality shows. Some people are schmucks but they just don’t like the label of it. It’s all about the label in this country.
Does pigeon racing get pretty competitive?
Oh yeah. Some of the people want to fight, they hate each other. Some people think people are cheating. You gotta meet this character, Joe Green. We all despise Joe because Joe is a very nice guy but he’s a very discreet braggart, you know? Very classy braggart…. They had me saying some derogatory things to somebody I really don’t even know that well because you get jealous. I’m jealous that [Joe] keeps winning. I’m a novice and they’ve got me going against guys who’ve been racing pigeons for 25 years. We keep playing this guy, this guy beats everybody, so I said, “This should be the f—ing Joe Green show instead of the Mike Tyson show!”
Why do you love pigeons?
I don’t know. When the guys introduced me to pigeons, they were talking about pigeons like some trainers would be talking about a world class fighter. “Oh, look at his moves!” “Oh, son of a bitch! Nobody can touch him!” It’s the same way. There are people bragging about this bird like he’s a world champion fighter, and to be honest with you, some of these birds are world champions.
What can we expect from your role in The Hangover 2?
It’s going to be amazing. I play Mike Tyson and playing Mike Tyson, you’re liable to see anything. That’s the privilege I have of being Mike Tyson.
Are there pigeons instead of tigers?
[teasing] You gotta watch! I’m also lined up to do Men in Black 3.
Probably an alien or something. I have no idea. But we’ll find out one day.