Homecoming king: Mike Tyson gets a hero’s welcome in Bedford-Stuyvesant

Homecoming king: Mike Tyson gets a hero’s welcome in Bedford-Stuyvesant
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Mike Tyson has come home for the holidays.

The Brooklyn-born boxer was back in Bedford-Stuyvesant on Friday to sign copies of his new memoir, “Undisputed Truth: My Autobiography,” in a knockout event at Fulton Street’s Restoration Plaza.

“I’m just happy to be here,” the former heavyweight champ said. “I can’t find the words for it. This feels like home. This is who I am.”

Tyson is well known for causing controversy both in and outside of the ropes — just this week he was banned from entering the UK for a planned book tour due to his rape conviction — but the pugilist once dubbed “the baddest man on the planet” looked the model statesman as he greeted the long line of fans snaking its way through the building. He also made time to help light the plaza’s Christmas tree, and then proceeded to lead the crowd in a rousing rendition of “Jingle Bells.”

The event was a collaboration between Fort Green’s Greenlight Bookstore and the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation. The two have held a number of celebrity book-signings together before — both NBA hall-of-famer Earl “The Pearl” Monroe and “CSI: NY” star Hill Harper made appearances earlier this year — but the visit from hometown hero Tyson held particular significance.

“It’s very special to have Mike Tyson, because he is one of Bedford-Stuyvesant’s own,” said Tracey Capers, Restoration’s program director.

Tyson, who was born in the neighborhood but moved to Brownsville at age 10, said the feeling was mutual.

“I’m from Bedford-Stuyvesant,” he declared. “I just had to move to Brownsville because my parents fell on hard times. It’s funny how life repeats itself and I’m back here again — life just goes around in circles.”

The borough-bred bruiser now lives in Las Vegas and noted that his old stomping grounds had changed significantly since he was a kid — for the better.

“I like to see the prospering of the neighborhood,” Tyson said. “It looks so much better than it did when I lived here in the ’70s.”

The boxer’s homecoming also held meaning for many locals who emerged from the building clutching autographed books and gossiping about their brush with the star slugger. Passing groups of teenagers shouted, “Oh my god, it’s Iron Mike!” and crowded around the windows to take snap-shots on their cellphones.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” said George Hobbs, a former boxer who knows Tyson personally from back when they were both training in Brooklyn gyms. “I’m glad he made this book to make people aware of the person he really is.”

“He is a champ,” said William Lim, a self-proclaimed “huge fan” who came from Clinton Hill to meet Tyson for the first time. “He has a different life now. He is not that bad man people knew.”

Signed and delivered: Antoine Reels holds his freshly-signed copy of boxer Mike Tyson’s new book.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini