Fallen Champ: The Untold Story of Mike Tyson

Barbara Kopple’s film, made for network television, covers the early (and most fascinating) portion of the boxer Mike Tyson’s career. Shot while Tyson was serving a prison sentence in the wake of his 1991 rape conviction, the film considers how a fighter with such ferocious skills could allow personal demons to bring him down. Tyson’s turbulent youth of the mean streets of Brooklyn (he was arrested at age 13), his tutelage by legendary trainer Cus D’Amato (who literally took in the abandoned teenager), his sympathetic management by Jim Jacobs, and his attempts to control his temper are amply documented. In 1986, at the age of 19, Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion ever, but with success came an almost Shakespearean slide into disgrace. The flamboyant Don King stepped in to take over Tyson’s career, and in 1988, the young man’s support system took a big hit with the death of Jacobs from leukaemia. Though successes followed for a time, Tyson’s fragile psyche was a time bomb waiting to explode. The film gathers familiar coverage of the fighter’s ring career as well as revealing footage of Tyson’s struggles to channel his aggressions into positive conduct. Kopple conducts interviews with many Tyson associates, most importantly D’Amato. It’s a departure for the filmmaker, whose previous work (the Oscar-winning films Harlan County, U.S.A. and American Dream) focused on labour issues.By Tom Wiener

93 minutes. 16mm and Videotape. Color.
Barbara Kopple: Director & Producer


1993 Emmy Awards
Nominated for Outstanding Individual Achievement – Informational Programming

1993 Television Critics Association
Won Best Documentary

1993 Alfred I. DuPont
Columbia University Award

1994 Directors Guild of America
DGA Award – Won Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary/Actuality