Mike Tyson (1966- )

Mike Tyson, June 11, 2019, Los Angeles
Courtesy Glenn Francis (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Michael Gerard Tyson was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 30, 1966. He was raised by a single mother in the slums of Brooklyn in what he described as awful living conditions, in poverty, and surrounded by peer pressure. By the time he was ten, he had already developed a reputation as a brawler, and he was cutting school, drinking, smoking, and committing robberies with his friends.

After numerous arrests, Tyson was sent to a New York reform school for troubled juveniles. It was there that Bobby Stewart, a counselor, athletic coach, and former boxer, took an interest in him and taught him how to box. Realizing Tyson’s talent, Stewart arranged for him to meet with the trainer, Constantine “Cus” D’Amato.  After watching Tyson spar, D’Amato was convinced that he could one day become the heavyweight champion of the world. He became Tyson’s legal guardian, and arranged an early parole. D’Amato was a believer in the power of the mind, and he spent as much time passing along his personal philosophy to Tyson as he did the physical boxing skills.

D’Amato not live to see the fulfillment of his vision. He passed away on November 4, 1985, but the management team that he had put in place for Tyson, including co-managers Jim Jacobs and Bill Cayton, and the trainer, Kevin Rooney, carried out his plan. On November 22, 1986, Mike Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in history, defeating Trevor Berbick for the World Boxing Council Championship (WBC), at 20 years old.

Over the next three years, Tyson established himself as one of the most dominant and intimidating fighters in history. The high point of his career was a 91 second first-round knockout of Michael Spinks in June 1988.

By 1990 Tyson’s life was in disarray. He married actress Robin Givens in 1988, and they divorced in 1989. One of his managers, Jim Jacobs, had passed away, and he parted company with both his remaining manager, Bill Cayton, and his trainer, Kevin Rooney. Controversial boxing promoter Don King began managing his career. On February 11th of that year he defended his title against Buster Douglas, a 42-1 underdog, and lost in one of the biggest upsets in history.

In 1991 Tyson was accused of rape by Desiree Washington. Subsequently convicted in 1992 he was sentenced to six years in prison. He ended up serving three years before being paroled. Tyson’s fighting career had suffered and he lost the next five bouts, including an infamous disqualification for biting off a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear in their 2nd fight. He called it quits after a disappointing loss in June of 2005 to journeyman Kevin McBride. He finished his career with a total of 50 wins and six losses.