Taking on Tyson

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Taking on Tyson TV Poster Image
Pigeon care paints gentler picture of notorious boxer.

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age 2+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The series shows how animals and a healthy hobby can help kids (and adults) stay focused on positive things. Pigeon racing is depicted as a competitive and primarily male-centered sport; the birds are presented as animals that should be loved, respected, and taken care of.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tyson has a troubled past, but is trying to overcome it by making consistent positive choices. The overall cast is a little rough around the edges, but they are committed to the birds and to each other. 


Contains bloody scenes from Tyson’s historic matches. Archival footage shows him being arrested, taking swings at reporters, and engaging in other negative behaviors. Tyson’s childhood stories include narratives about being bullied, violent confrontations with gang members, stealing, and time spent in juvenile hall


Tyson is sometimes photographed with sexy models.


Lots of boasting between racers; phrases like “kicking ass” are commonly heard.


The series serves as a promotional vehicle for Tyson.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Tyson’s previous use of drugs and alcohol is occasionally discussed, but the series clearly notes that he no longer drinks or does drugs.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this docuseries, which features retired boxer Mike Tyson raising, training, and racing homing pigeons, sends some positive messages about redemption. While it has an element of self-promotion, it also revolves around Tyson making constructive life choices, enjoying friendships, and his love of birds. The show also revisits the athlete’s controversial past, and features archival footage of his boxing matches publicly violent moments, as well as disturbing details about his tumultuous childhood. Words like "ass" are occasionally audible.

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Kid, 11 years old May 2, 2011

What's the story?

TAKING ON TYSON follows retired boxer Mike Tyson as he reconnects with his roots and enters the competitive arena of pigeon racing. Tyson, who has raised birds since childhood, returns to his childhood state of New Jersey to train homing pigeons and prepare them for competition. With the support of best friend and promoter Mario Costa, pigeon caretakers Junie and Ricky Roman, and expert pigeon trainer Vinnie Torre, he works hard to train the birds to return to their coops at top speed and beat out their more experienced opponents. Throughout it all, he shares intimate details about his childhood, his fight training, and how his birds have helped him throughout his tumultuous life.

Is it any good?

The series is as much about the boxer's efforts to redeem himself as it is about his entry into the pigeon racing community. Facts about homing pigeons, their care, and the specialized training they require to be race-worthy, are interspersed with biographical narratives about Tyson's life. Conversations about his desire to lead a healthy and productive lifestyle with the help of his birds results in a program that successfully reveals a vulnerability and gentleness in a man that is notorious for being tough and mean.

The premise is interesting, but one can’t help feeling that Taking on Tyson was created (at least in part) to improve the athlete’s public image. Meanwhile, some animal lovers may cringe at the thought of training pigeons for sport. But overall, the show’s messages are mostly positive. It isn’t for everyone, but boxing fans will find something worth watching here.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about celebrities using television to improve their image. Do you think Tyson appeared in this series to improve his troubled reputation? Is appearing on a reality show the best way to achieve this? What other reasons might public figures have to appear in these kinds of series? 

  • Talk about pigeon racing. Did you know that pigeon racing originates from the ancient practice of using pigeons to deliver mail? What exactly are the rules? Do you think that the sport, as it is played today, is cruel to animals? Why or why not?

TV details

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