Mike Tyson talks about his new pigeon-racing reality show. Really.

taking-on-tyson-animal-planetImage 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.

Playing yourself?
Probably an alien or something. I have no idea. But we’ll find out one day.

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Comments (33 total) Add your comment
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  • Geleia

    Very cool hobby, keep going with it!

  • Juan Venegas

    Well we heard so many stories about pigeons maybe this will tell more about the real use of pigeons from the past as message carriers!

  • Jay

    Glad to see Mike straightening his life out and getting some work. Everyone deserves a chance to turn it around. Watched the DVD documentary about him he was in and it makes you look at the guy differently. Watch it, it’s quite interesting. Most of us don’t have a clue what some people go through. Not making an excuse, just a fact.

  • Spencer

    A note to Iron Mike:
    I’ve been a fan since your early days in boxing and never believed any of the things said or written about you, but that’s not why I’m writing this. Like you I went to Thomas Jefferson HS, though having graduated in 1953 way before you were born. On balmy June afternoons I used to look out of the classroom windows and watch the pigeons circling over the rooftops near the school, and always wished I could be free enough to fly with them. Maybe one of those roofs was where you learned how to care for the birds.

    Best of luck with your show/Spencer

  • Well…

    I thought it was known that he was into pigeons…I don’t see what’s so strange about it.

  • John

    To the author:
    Why is there need to call the man or his show weird? If he was some well liked person of esteemed monetary stature, someone regarded as genius, some world class royalty figure, or even some lauded leader actually responsible for the non-punished deaths of thousands, would weird be anywhere in this article?
    Its an ignorance the mindset of some people having the gift of articulating words to befit an article, when all they can come up with as the foremost thought, is the majority opinion of those that only know the media’s portrayal of a person.
    Whats weird is the depth of people these days where most feel the audacity to label others, yet be totally oblivious to their own astounding anti-Christ-like atrocities.

  • voiceoftheunsilentmajority

    A more intriguing reality show would the Michael Vick training dogs for the Westminster Dog Show and call it “UNDERDOG”. Send me 15% royalties Animal Planet lol

  • hERB

    Animal planet could have certainly found a better choice to show off this amazing sport. Mike is a Freak and a felon and by no means represents the true Sport of pigoen racing.

  • holymoly

    Mike Tyson – I actually feel bad for the guy. I think he is someone who has been marginalized by people in his life. He clearly lacks certain critical thinking skills and may have deficits but I think he is a decent guy who people should show a little kindness towards.

  • SadieGrimm

    My next door neighbor, a very kind man who lives with his wife of sixty something years is an avid pigeon racer. I find the cooing to be rather pretty and it’s fun to watch the birds learn over the season, making racing circles over our yards at first and then eventually the neighborhood before they head down south for their races. I will admit that when we first moved in I feared our cars would be prime bird splat targets but I can honestly say that in five years we’ve been hit maybe three times and nothing says it’s pigeon poop. I’m not an ornithologist after all. I hope I can get my neighbor to watch the show, I think he’d get a kick out of his hobby getting such big time coverage.
    Tyson was probably picked because he’s the only ‘Name’ associated with pigeon racing and this is something he wanted to do. Whether people like him or not, he’s certainly well known and could bring in big numbers that a channel like Animal Planet doesn’t usually get. Since they support so many good causes, I’m all for it. Hope Tyson really has reformed- his

  • alex george

    gkfamilyloft.com

  • alex george

    go mike go gkfamilyloft.com 8176773334

  • Linda

    Mike, I wash off my car every day from the pigeons I feed at the beach.. I LOVE them!! They are smart and recognize my car..I wish I knew as much as you do so they could follow me home : )

    • Ngawang Tenpa Ratutsang

      I am so facinated by Mike and your comment too. I am really looking into becoming close friend with Pigeons. My first question is how to train or how do you go about it. I am a animal lover and dogs are my passion. I will appreciate your help.

  • cathy sabotka

    Would like to email mike tyson un pigeons I also have pigeons. Any advice on emailing mike Would appreciate it

  • roger w

    the queen of england has a very good racing pigeon loft and takes a strong interest in the sport good luck mike

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