*Former heavyweight champion and Brooklyn native Mike Tyson has always had a love affair with pigeons.  From breeding, raising and now racing them, the birds have been an integral part of his life since his childhood.  When he felt no one else loved him, he cherished companionship from his birds.

When troubled, he could always turn to them.  His birds have given him a sense of tranquility and escape throughout his tumultuous life.  No matter how bad things are, Tyson could count on his pigeons to make him feel better.  His pigeons and rooftop coops remained his one constant and secret solace.  Matter of fact, he threw his first punch when a neighborhood bully killed one of his beloved pigeons and threw it in his face.  It was also his first knockout!

Mike Tyson with his beautiful wife KiKi

Now, the Animal Planet and Science Channel are bringing his love of his favorite birds to television with the debut of Taking On Tyson on Sunday, March 6, 2011.  The show will not just focus on his fine feathered friends but will also visit his favorite neighborhood watering holes where he’s surrounded by his lifelong friends.  Taking On Tyson is an enriching window into his complex life, where the road to self-awareness, the path to inner peace and the vision into the future lie with these birds.

From the rooftops of Jersey City to the streets of Brooklyn, this six-part docudrama profiles the enigmatic boxing legend as he reconnects with his roots and returns to his childhood neighborhood to face his next challenge.

Tyson takes audiences on an insider’s tour of the highly competitive, bizarrely fascinating subculture of pigeon racing.  The stakes are high in this sport, which has just as much machismo as boxing.

Along with a band of close friends who share his love for these avian athletes, Tyson enters the realm of competitive pigeon racing.  Taking On Tyson is an enriching window into his complex life, where the road to self-awareness, the path to inner peace and the vision into the future lie with these birds.

Mike tyson and Marjorie Kaplan

In celebration of the new show, on Wednesday, March 2, 2011, Marjorie Kaplan, president, Animal Planet, and Science Channel, and Tyson co-hosted a premiere party for his new show, Taking On Tyson, at the tony Gansevoort Park Avenue South.  The show, about the face-tattooed former Heavyweight Champion of The World and his racing pigeons, had its debut on Sunday, March 6, 2011.

The party was off the hook!  Ironically, guests were served libations called the Right Hook Me Up, a combination of “vodka, mint, lime, strawberries, and Prosecco.”  And as they sipped away, they watched clips from the show played on larger than life screens scattered throughout the elegant room where they got up close and personal with a thrilled Tyson.

‘The first thing I ever loved in my life was a pigeon.  I don’t know why…I feel ridiculous trying to explain it,” stated Tyson.  “Pigeons are a part of my life.  It’s a constant with my sanity in a weird way; this is just what I do.  If I’m lucky enough to die an old man, I’m going to have birds.”

On hand to lend their support for the first time racer were members of Tyson’s Corner: Mario Costa, his lifelong friend and promoter/manager; Vinnie Torre, his esteemed and respected pigeon trainer; and the Roman Brothers, his pigeon caretakers. Tyson’s rivals include the younger yet more experienced racers Joe Green and Helder Rodrigues. (Photos by Steven B. Ekerovich)

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.