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Tyson, Mike

Mike Tyson

1966-

American boxer

He was one of the best, and he blew it. The youngest heavyweight champion in history, the most inspiring champ since Muhammad Ali , Mike Tyson became the most notorious modern boxer when he went to jail for rape, and then, in his comeback tour, for biting off a piece of Evander Holyfield 's ear. Even before that, Tyson was the man who bragged about wanting to kill his opponents, to punch a man so hard his nose would go through his skull. It is tempting to see Tyson's story as a classic Greek tragedy, the same primal brutality that carried him to the top destroying him in the end. But Tyson was not a plaything for the gods and the Furies. At each step he had opportunities, chances not often given to

ghetto kids. And despite appearances, he was not stupid. He had a choice. And he blew it.

Mike Finds a Mentor

Michael Gerard Tyson was born in Brooklyn, New York, on June 30, 1966, to Lorna Tyson and Jimmy Kirkpatrick. His father ran off before he was two years old, and Mike grew up with all the temptations of ghetto life. By the age of twelve, he was in a street gang and had been in and out of juvenile court. Finally, after an armed robbery conviction, in 1978, he was sent to the Tryon School for Boys, a reformatory, where the physical education instructor, Bobby Stewart, spotted his potential as boxer. In 1981, Stewart introduced the 14-year-old Tyson to his friend, the legendary Cus D'Amato, and D'Amato introduced him to the "sweet science" of boxing.

Cus D'Amato took Tyson in, and when Tyson's mother died a couple of years later, D'Amato became Tyson's legal guardian. Slowly, he and Camille brought Tyson out of his shell, nurturing his aspirations and overcoming his self-doubts. As he explained it to reporter William Plummer, "people, especially if they come up in a rough area, have to go through a number of experiences in life that are intimidating and embarrassing. These experiences form layer upon layer over their capabilities and talents. So your job as teacher is to peel off those layers." As D'Amato peeled layers, he discovered a young man who'd grown up wild, and who was deeply ashamed that he couldn't even read. D'Amato soon corrected that, providing a tutor and introducing Tyson to books on Joe Louis and Jack Dempsey , and other "heavyweights" like Napoleon and Alexander the Great. These were life lessons that would reshape the young fighter, and for a time it seemed the "priestly" D'Amato had redeemed the soul of Mike Tyson.

Iron Mike

When Tyson first stepped into the ring for a professional boxing match, on March 4, 1985, there was no fanfare or boasts before the cameras. Tyson didn't even have a robe to cast off dramatically before the match. But he did have something. He had a menacing glare that would intimidate many fighters in the years ahead, sometimes defeating them before they even stepped in the ring. If that did not work, a single, stunning blow usually did the trick. And he had a thorough grounding in the methods of great fighters of the past, and perhaps most importantly, a sense of his own strength. Tyson would go 15-0 in his first year, but in November he lost his only real father figure, Cus D'Amato, who died at age 77.

Chronology

1966 Born June 30, in Brooklyn, New York, to Lorna Tyrone and Jimmy Kirkpatrick
1978 Is sentenced to Tryon School for Boys, a reformatory
1981 Is introduced to Cus D'Amato by Tryon physical education instructor Bobby Stewart
1983 Mother dies, becomes D'Amato's ward
1985 Death of Cus D'Amato, November
1986 Becomes youngest heavyweight champ in history, taking WBA title, November
1987 Becomes undisputed World Heavyweight Championship, August
1988 Marries Robin Givens, February 7
1988 Death of Jim Jacobs, March
1988 Givens files for divorce, October 7
1989 Signs up with Don King
1990 Loses heavyweight title to Buster Douglas, February 10
1992 Sentenced to six-year prison term for rape, March
1995 Released from prison, March 25
1996 Marries long-time girlfriend Monica Turner, mother of his two children
1997 Infamous biting incident in Holyfield-Tyson rematch; Tyson fined $3 million and suspended from boxing for one year
1998 Suspension lifted
1998 Sues Don King for $100 million
2002 Monica files for divorce, February, citing adultery

It was a bitter blow, but far from a knockout punch. Tyson still had his co-manager, Jimmy Jacobs, D'Amato's old friend and a legendary trainer in his own right. He had a good team around him, he had that glare, a strong neck that let him take a fair amount of punishment, and fists that seemed unstoppable. Before long they were calling him "Iron Mike," and not long after that, they were calling him champ.

On November 22, 1986, he took out Trevor Berbick in two rounds, winning the World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight title. Tyson destroyed Berbick. As one of the judges, District Attorney Lane, told Sports Illustrated, "If I had let the fight continue, if I let him get hit with more of those terrible punches, it would have been criminal." A year after D'Amato's death, Tyson had fulfilled his dream and become the youngest heavyweight champion in history. It was a sweet moment, but the confused state of modern boxing meant his title was incomplete. In addition to the WBC, there was also a WBA (World Boxing Association) and IBF (International Boxing Federation) champion.

The following year, Tyson did the necessary consolidation. On March 7, 1987, Tyson went up against WBA placeholder James "Bonecrusher" Smith in Las Vegas. Smith fought not so much to crush Tyson's bones as to preserve his own, and after 12 dull rounds Tyson was declared the winner. On August 1, 1987, Tyson went up against IBF champion Tony Tucker to reunite the triple crown of boxing. Tucker did manage to land a blow in the first round, and ultimately he did go the distance, but it was clearly Tyson's fight throughout. "Aw, he stopped fighting after the fifth round," Tyson told Sports Illustrated. "After that he was just in there to survive." Tucker survived, but his championship did not. When it was over, Mike Tyson was the undisputed World Heavyweight Championship (complete with crown and chinchilla robe, provided, inevitably, by the showman who always managed to climb into the ring with a champ, Don King ). An embarrassed Mike Tyson sat in brooding silence during this "coronation."

The Troubled Champ

By the end of 1987, Tyson was being hailed as the most exciting champ since Muhammad Ali, an example for ghetto kids, and indeed all kids, to aspire toward. Interestingly, he was surrounded by white men, including his co-managers Jim Jacobs and Bill Cayton, and so he seemed to embody racial harmony and a "we can all get along" spirit that only added to the allure of the "reformed" delinquent. In 1988, it all began to go wrong.

As if sleep-walking in a film noir, Tyson soon found his femme fatale, Robin Givens. The beautiful star of ABC's "Head of the Class," Givens represented class and sophistication to the newly crowned champ. To Givens, or at least to her mother, Ruth Roper, Tyson represented moneya lot of money. Tyson had earned millions of dollars in fight purses and television contracts, including a $26 million deal with HBO for a series of seven fights, signed in 1987. More unusually for a prize-fighter, he had honest management that had allowed him to keep the lion's share of that money. After a whirlwind courtship, Tyson married Givens on February 7, 1988. Soon, she and her mother began to do a little house cleaning, banishing many of Tyson's friends and closely questioning others about the state of his finances.

A month later, Tyson's co-manager, Jim Jacobs, died. While Tyson was at the funeral, his wife Robin was at the bank, demanding to know the whereabouts of "her money." Shortly thereafter, they confronted Tyson's surviving manager, Bill Cayton, demanding a full accounting and ultimately reducing his share of the champ's earnings from one-third to 20 percent. Tyson's behavior became increasingly erratic, ramming cars into trees, getting into a street brawl with boxer Mitch Green and, on a disastrous trip to Russia, chasing Robin and her mother through the hotel corridors in a drunken rage. In a nationally televised interview with Barbara Walters, Givens told America of her "life of horror" with a manic-depressive Mike Tyson, while the heavyweight champ sat meekly at her side, looking to some observers like a tranquilized pit bull. Shortly after the interview Tyson smashed up furniture, glassware, and windows at their mansion in Bernardsville, N.J., and Givens fled to Los Angeles, where she filed for divorce. At the time, she was generally seen as the villain. Her image was splashed across the tabloids with the simple caption: Most Hated Woman in America.

Related Biography: Trainer Cus D'Amato

Cus D'Amato was more than a boxing trainer with a good eye for talent. D'Amato was a legend, hailed as the man who had successfully fought mobster Frank Carbo's boxing monopoly and made Floyd Patterson "king of the sport," in the words of People reporter William Plummer. Norman Mailer had called him a Zen master. He was more of a teacher than a trainer, a teacher in the old, all-encompassing sense. While he taught his fighters the moves, he also drew them out, discovering their hidden talents and fears. "Fear is like a fire," he'd tell them. "If you control it, as we do when we heat our houses, it is a friend. When you don't it consumes you and everything around you."

By the time Mike Tyson met him, D'Amato had largely retired from the sport, but he maintained a training camp at an old Victorian house in the Catskills, courtesy of his mistress, Camille Ewald. Usually there were five or six aspiring fighters in residence. Fight-film entrepreneur Jimmy Jacobs provided the equipment. (D'Amato had helped others to riches, but his own money always seemed to slip through his fingers, often lent to friends unable to pay him back.) When he saw Tyson, he saw the kind of champion he'd almost forgotten, one who could reach the top, and actually deserve the honor.

Out of the Frying Pan

Almost as soon as Givens left Tyson's life, Don King entered. King had waited a long time. For years, Tyson had been making mincemeat of King's stable of heavyweight champions, and it frustrated the promoter deeply that he had no piece of the champ. King's first opening came at Jim Jacob's funeral, which he attended uninvited, loudly condemning Tyson's managers for such indignities as not having a limo ready for the champ. He had also worked strenuously to bring to light the suspicions of Givens and her mother toward Bill Cayton. And now, with Givens out of the picture, he pounced, offering Tyson the use of his farm in Ohio to recuperate from his disastrous marriage. King also proved useful, moving swiftly to close Tyson's joint accounts with Givens, just in time to prevent her from transferring over $600,000 into her own account.

At the same time, King began to plant doubts in Tyson's mind about all the "white men" around him, particularly his manager. Perhaps drained from his recent experiences, Tyson began to listen, and before long he was firmly in King's corner, even giving him a limited power of attorney. "I think Don has sold black to Tyson," former heavyweight champ and King client Larry Holmes told Sports Illustrated. Cayton could only add, "I feel very sad that Mike appears to have gone from a manipulative situation to another, far more manipulative situation."

Tyson, however, wasn't worried. He still had his millions, he still had his undefeated pro career, and he still had his title. In April, 1989, he successfully defended the latter two against England's Frank Bruno, easily over-powering him in the fifth round. Then, on June 27 in Atlantic City, in what may have been his greatest night in the ring, he floored former champ Michael Spinks in all of 90 seconds. Then, on February 10, 1990, the unthinkable happened in Tokyo. James "Buster" Douglas, a 42-1 underdog who couldn't even get a photographer to come to his weigh-in, came back from an eighth round knockdown to fell the champ in the tenth. It was impossible, and at first, Don King wouldn't let it happen. He got representatives from the WBC, the WBA, and even the Japan Boxing Commission to declare that Douglas should have been counted out in the eighth round, awarding the fight to Tyson. But King too suffered a rare defeat, and in the face of enormous public outrage, the fight and the title were soon awarded to Buster Douglas.

And into Hot Water

For Tyson, it was the beginning of the end. Not that it was obvious in the ring. Shortly after the Douglas fiasco he began his comeback, knocking out former Olympian Henry Tillman in the first round on June 16, and defeating Donovan "Razor" Ruddick twice in 1991. He was all set to take on the new heavyweight champ, Evander Holyfield, in November, 1991. The fight never happened.

While attending the Miss Black America Pageant in July, Tyson had earned a bizarre new title when a pageant organizer called him a "serial buttocks fondler," accusing him of assaulting 11 of the 23 contestants. It was easy fodder for late-night comedians. But nobody was laughing when one of those contestants, Desiree Washington, brought a much more serious charge. According to her, Tyson had lured her to a hotel room during the contest and then raped her. He was tried and convicted, and in March 1992, he was sentenced to six years in prison.

It was a stunning turnaround for the champ who once seemed so unbeatable, so exciting, and of course it brought an immediate backlash. In the popular mind, Tyson was now a brutal thug who could not control his impulses, and had landed where he should have been all along. Before long Tyson was in trouble, accused of assaulting a guard, and placed in solitary confinement. Before long, odd stories began to leak out, that Tyson was reading up on communism. Perhaps this was a response to rumors that Don King was squandering his fortune, that Tyson might be a penniless proletarian by the end of his jail term. There were stories that he had converted to Islam. People wondered if Tyson was a changed man. At any rate, he emerged from prison on March 25, 1995, having served only three of his six years.

On the Comeback TrailAgain

Mike Tyson's first stop after being released was a mosque, where he prayed with Muhammad Ali. Some speculated that it was a sign that things were changing. But one aspect remained the same. On the day he was released Don King negotiated a deal with Showtime on behalf of "his" champ. Tyson's first post-prison bout was with Peter McNeely, who looked good on paper with a 36-1 record. But the 36 victories were against habitual losers, and the loss was to McNeely's only opponent with a winning record. McNeely's manager threw in the towel 85 seconds into his match with Tyson. A broken thumb postponed his next match, but on December 16, Tyson knocked out Buster Mathis in the third round. In March of 1996, he likewise dispatched Frank Bruno in the third. After three easy victories, and not incidentally, $65 million richer, Tyson was feeling on top again. On September 7, 1996, he met Bruce Seldon, who was on the mat in 109 seconds. Some fans said they did not actually see a punch, and wondered if the fight was fixed. Seldon's manager speculated that his client had actually suffered a nervous breakdown in the face of Tysonand, in fact, Seldon has not fought another boxing match since then.

Awards and Accomplishments

1986 Takes WBC heavyweight championship, November 22 (youngest heavyweight champ in history)
1987 Takes WBA heavyweight title, March 7
1987 Takes IBF heavyweight championship, August 1 (becomes undisputed World Heavyweight Champion)
1989 Defeats former champ Michael Spinks, by a knockout in 90 seconds

Finally, boxing fans could look forward to a long-delayed match-up, when Evander Holyfield agreed to fight Tyson in November of 1996 for the heavyweight championship. Against all odds the 34-year-old Holyfield ended what Sports Illustrated's Richard Hoffer called Tyson's "machinery of menace," when he won a technical knockout in the eleventh round. It was a huge upset, defying all expectations. In fact, pay-per-view channels had offered a per-round price, so customers would not blame them when Tyson felled Holyfield in the first round. Boxing officials had forced Holyfield to undergo a battery of tests, fearing he might actually lose his life. It was a stunning result, but nothing could prepare the boxing world for the shock they were about to get.

The Holyfield-Tyson rematch, held was one of the most anticipated in history. The MGM Grand sold out on the first day, all 16,000 tickets. Millions tuned in on pay-per-view, anticipating a spectacle. They got one. The fight was brutal from the start, with Holyfield at one point head butting Tyson in the second round. Then in the third, Tyson chomped down on Holyfield's left ear. The referee deducted two points from Tyson, but then let the fight go on. Again the fighters met in the center, and again Tyson spat out his mouthpiece and chomped down, on Holyfield's right ear. And this time he bit a piece off, spitting it out. This time the referee called the fight, disqualifying Tyson.

It was bizarre. It was savage. And for many it was the last straw. Tyson had nearly proved himself too brutal for boxingnot an easy feat. The Nevada State Commission withheld his paycheck and suspended his license. Outrage poured in from all sides, with even the White House weighing in. Tyson became constant fodder for late night comedy, and the Hollywood Wax Museum moved his image from sports to the Chamber of Horrors. But in the end, Tyson escaped. He was banned for a year, and fined $3 million, but ultimately, boxing decided to let Tyson keep doing the only thing he was really good at: hitting people until they fell down.

The Unrepentant

And Tyson wasn't finished, with boxing or with outrages. On October 19, 1998, the Nevada State Boxing Commission restored Tyson's boxing license. In December of 1998, he pled no contest to a road rage incident and spent a short time in jail the following March. That year he also initiated a $100 million lawsuit against Don King after discovering that his $200 million career winnings had dwindled away, and that in fact he owed $13 million in back taxes. In the summer of 2000, after knocking down an opponent, Lou Savarese, he continued to pound the fighter and even lashed out at the referee. Incredibly, in the post-fight press conference, Tyson revived his cannibal image in remarks addressed to heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis , whom Tyson hoped to meet in the ring some day. "I want your heart. I want to eat your children," Tyson declared, adding, "I will rip out his heart and feed it to him."

Then, in the runup to the actual Tyson-Lewis match, Mike Tyson seemed to blow his chances. While the Nevada State Athletic Commission was considering whether to give Tyson a license to box there, Tyson charged at Lewis during a pre-fight press conference. Lewis' bodyguard intervened, and a brawl ensued. Nevada turned him down for a license, but Washington, D.C.,

allowed the fight to take place there. When the fight finally took place in June of 2002, Lennox knocked Tyson out in the eighth round. It was almost anti-climactic that the unbeatable Iron Mike had been felled again.

Tyson had come a long way from the days when Cus D'Amato had dreamed of making him a legend. He had almost fulfilled those dreams, winning a world championship at the age of 19 and consolidating all of boxing's dubious crowns into one that nobody could dispute. For awhile he seemed like the champ everyone had been waiting for. But in the end, he seemed to willfully throw it all away. Tyson continues to fight, in the face of public outrage, and maybe he will win back fans and reclaim his titlesbut with every year and every comment and every altercation, it seems like that goal, if it is his goal, slips further away.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Address: Office: 10100 Santa Monica Blvd. #1300, Los Angeles, CA 90067.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Periodicals

Boyle, Robert. "The final bell rings for Cus D'Amato." Sports Illustrated (November 18, 1985): 20.

Callahan, Tom. "Boxing's allure." Time 49 (June 27, 1988): 66.

Gross, Ken. "People Weekly." Life (October 17, 1998): 60.

Hoffer, Richard. "All the rage." Sports Illustrated (May 20, 2002): 34.

Hoffer, Richard. "Buster Douglas was floored by Mike Tyson in the eighth round, but then he got up " Sports Illustrated (February 19, 1990): 12.

Hoffer, Richard. "Destined to fall." Sports Illustrated (February 17, 1992): 24.

Hoffer, Richard. "Out of the darkness." Sports Illustrated (April 3, 1995): 44.

Kram, Mark. "The tiger king." Esquire (April 1996): 74.

Loverro, Thom. "Tyson apologizes for his 'worst night.'" The Washington Times (July 1, 1997): 74.

"Main Event: Tyson-King." Sports Illustrated (March 16, 1998): 16.

"Mike Tyson vs. Robin Givens: the champ's biggest fight." Ebony (January 1989): 116.

Plummer, William. "Cus D'Amato." People (July 15, 1985): 77.

"Professional boxing: It was a very good year." Sports Network (December 31, 2002): 16.

Putnam, Pat. "All the king's man." Sports Illustrated (November 7, 1988): 20.

Putnam, Pat. "Getting a belt out of life." Sports Illustrated (December 1, 1986): 18.

Putnam, Pat. "Only one numbe " Sports Illustrated (August 10, 1987): 20.

Shulan, Michael. "Heavyweights." Nation (July 30, 1988): 102.

"Tyson's win is boxing's loss." Business Week Online (March 14, 2002).

Sketch by Robert Winters

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Tyson, Mike 1966–

Mike Tyson 1966

Professional boxer

Became Youngest Heavy Weight Champion

Professional Glory, Personal Problems

Went to Prison

Infamy in the Desert

Fighting for the Money

Sources

Mike Tyson, the youngest heavyweight champion in boxing history, is perhaps one of the sports most notorious figures. His talent is undeniable. As Sports Illustrated observed, He is the purest of fighters: He hits people and they fall down. While some ponder the kinetic energy behind each punch, Tyson reminds us of the sheer simplicity of the sport. There are no goal lines or plays to calljust two men standing in a ring of physicality, each trying to demolish the other. Yet Tyson also reminds us of the more primal aspect of the sport. From his imprisonment for rape to the cannibalistic comments directed toward Lennox Lewis and his biting of Evander Holyfields ear, Tysons persona has evolved into that of the brutal aggressor.

Became Youngest Heavy Weight Champion

Michael Gerard Tyson was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 30, 1966, to Lorna Tyson and Jimmy Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick left the family when his son was two years old. As a youth Tyson joined a street gang at a very early age and was in trouble with the law many times before he was 12 years old. After an arrest for armed robbery he was sent to the Tyron School in 1978, a correction center for juveniles in upstate New York. It was there that his life changed direction. The schools physical education teacher saw potential in the young man and introduced him to legendary boxing trainer Cus DAmato, who lived near the facility at the time. Tyson thrived under the new structure and discipline in his life. Tyson moved in with DAmato and, when the boxers mother died when he was 16, DAmato became his legal guardian. Tyson was sent back to the Tyron School for a time after he was threatened with a gun by his then-trainer Teddy Atlas. The trainer had heard that Tyson sexually abused a 12-year-old girl and was trying to frighten him. Tyson made stunning progress as an amateur and decided to try out for the Olympic team at the age of 17. After failing to make the 1984 Olympic team, DAmato decided that it was time for his fighter to turn professional.

On March 4, 1985, Tyson stepped into the ring for his first professional fight. He had studied boxing history

At a Glance

Born Michael Gerard Tyson on June 30, 1966, in Brooklyn, NY; married Robin Givens, February 7, 1988 (divorced 1988); married Monica Turner, April of 1997; children: (first marriage) Michael, DAmato Kilrane, (second marriage) Reina, Amir.

Career: Professional boxer, 1985.

Awards: WBC title, heavyweight champion, 1986; WBA title, 1987; IBF championship, 1987; WBC championship, 1996; WBA championship, 1996.

Addresses: Office-c/o Jeff Wald Entertainment, Professional Boxer, 2121 Avenue of the Stars, Ste. 2630, Los Angeles, California, United States 90067-5050

and watched old newsreel footage of the great fighters of the past and wanted to emulate them. He entered the ring without fanfare, without a robe, without socks, dressed in black with the most menacing and intimidating glare in boxing. Many of his opponents were beaten before Tyson even stepped through the ropes. Tyson went 15-0 in his first year as a professional boxer. Many boxing aficionados thought that DAmato had created the perfect heavyweight fighter. But he would never live to see his man become champion. The 77-year-old trainer died in November of 1985.

Despite this loss, Tyson continued to storm through the heavyweight division. One year after DAmatos death, Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion ever when he gained the World Boxing Council (WBC) championship belt after a two-round knockout of Trevor Berbick. Co-manager Jimmy Jacobs told Pat Putnam of Sports Illustrated that everything was going according to plan: Cus predicted that Mike would fight for the title before the end of 1986. Cus said the only way to prepare Mike for this was to give him a speed education by a multiple of four. So there has been no R and R for Mike. There couldnt be. And he has held up beautifully. The next year Tyson united the heavyweight championship, defeating James Bonecrusher Smith for the World Boxing Association (WBA) belt in March and Tony Tucker for the International Boxing Federation (IBF) belt in August. Tyson was on top of the boxing world as the most ferocious boxer in the sports most glamorous division. But he soon learned that success often comes at a price.

Professional Glory, Personal Problems

In 1988 Jimmy Jacobs died, leaving Tyson without the co-manager who had been with him from the beginning of his career. Into the vacuum in Tysons life created by the deaths of DAmato and Jacobs came Don King, boxings most notorious promoter, and Tysons new wife, actress Robin Givens, whom he had married after a two-week courtship.

In the ring the fighter was at the absolute pinnacle of his power, defeating former IBF champ Michael Spinks in 91 seconds. Outside the ring Tysons life was spinning out of control. He broke his hand in a street fight with a former opponent Mitch Blood Green. Then he crashed his BMW into a tree on DAmatos former estate. Some in the media reported that the crash was intentional and amounted to a failed suicide attempt. He was reported to have chased Givens and her mother through the streets of Moscow, where she was shooting a movie. And then there was the appearance with his wife on national television in a question-and-answer session with Barbara Walters. Tyson sat next to Givens looking half-awake as his wife talked about him as if he were not there. She said that he was a manic-depressive and claimed that he had abused her. Soon after the humiliating ordeal Givens and Tyson were divorced.

The exit of Givens left Don King firmly in control of Tyson. For five years Tyson had destroyed opponent after opponent, but that would soon change. On February 11, 1990, Tyson fought James Buster Douglas, a 42-1 underdog. From the very beginning of the fight, there was a different atmosphere. Tyson was sluggishsome claim from anti-depressant medicationand his journeyman opponent seemed to be different also, as if he were not afraid of the man so many others had feared to fight. Tyson knocked down Douglas, but the challenger recovered and ended up knocking out the champion in the tenth round.

Tyson recovered from his loss to win two more bouts in 1990. The next year he defeated Donovan Razor Ruddock twice. His next fight was for the heavyweight championship against Evander Holyfield, but that scheduled fight never happened.

Went to Prison

While attending the Miss Black America contest, Tyson met 18-year-old Desiree Washington. On July 19, 1991, Tyson took her back to his hotel room and allegedly raped the young pageant contestant. He was tried and convicted of rape and, in March of 1992, Tyson was sentenced to six years in prison. He spent three years of his six-year sentence in jail. Word leaked out that Tyson was a different man after spending time behind bars. He was said to be reading communist literature and Malcolm X, and had even converted to Islam.

The 28-year-old Tyson was released from prison on March 25, 1995. He emerged from prison with tattoos of tennis star Arthur Ashe and communist leader Mao Zedong on his arms. He went to a nearby mosque and met with boxing great Muhammad Ali immediately after he left the prison grounds. Though many boxing promoters and managers had courted the fighter in prison, it was Don King who negotiated a deal with Showtime on his fighters first day out of prison.

Tysons first post-prison opponent was Boston journeyman Peter McNeely, with a record of 36-1. On paper he seemed good enough, but his opponents combined records were 148-436. McNeely maintained a brave face throughout the pre-fight pomp and circumstance, though everyone suspected the fight would go to Tyson. Tyson knocked down McNeely twice and then McNeelys manager threw in the towel after 89 seconds of the first round.

Over the next year Tyson beat up on lesser fighters and stirred controversy. King tried to schedule Tysons next fight on the same night and in the same city (Las Vegas) as a pay-per-view fight between Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield, causing an uproar among boxing circles. The fight was rescheduled when Tyson broke his thumb, and Tyson knocked out Buster Mathis in the third round of their eventual fight on December 16th in Philadelphia.

Easy victories followed. On March 16, 1996, Tyson fought the tough talking but weak-chinned Englishman Frank Bruno. Clearly frightened in the ring, Bruno was repeatedly warned for clinching in the first two rounds of the fight. Tyson battered Bruno in the third, sending him sliding incoherently down the ropes 50 seconds into the round. On September 7, 1996, Tyson knocked out Bruce Seldon in 109 seconds. Many spectators and fans watching the pay-per-view event thought the fight was fixed because few saw Tyson punch Seldon, but Seldons trainer said that his man was so scared that he may have had a nervous breakdown. This string of fights earned Tyson some $65 million dollars.

The victory over Seldon gave Tyson the WBA championship and a legitimate claim to fighting Evander Holyfield, who he had been waiting to fight since 1991. Holyfield was seen as a washed-up fighter, in danger even of being killed in the ring by Tyson. Holyfield was a 25-1 underdog, but he would make $11 million to Tysons $30 million. Despite the long odds, Holyfield was the first man whom Tyson faced since he was released from prison who would fight back. In the sixth round, Holyfield opened a cut over Tysons left eye with a head butt and then dropped Tyson with a left hook. It was only the second time Tyson was knocked down in his whole career. At that point Holyfield said that he knew he had beaten Tyson and for the rest of the fight, he jabbed Tyson and stayed out of his rivals reach. Tyson lost, but the fight grossed $100 million and a rematch was assured.

Infamy in the Desert

Anticipation for the Tyson-Holyfield rematch was so great that the MGM sold out its 16,000 tickets on the first day. The spectators and the millions viewing on pay-per-view expected to be part of another unforgettable moment in Tysons career. They were not disappointed. The first round seemed to pick up where the first match left off. Holyfield was the aggressor, sometimes leading with his head. In the second, Holyfield head-butted Tyson and cut him above his right eye. The fight became more brutal, with both fighters seeming to abandon the rules.

Then, in the third round, Tyson and Holyfield clinched in the middle of the ring. Tyson seemed to search for his opponents ear, find it, and then purposely chomped down on it. Holyfield propelled himself into the air and Tyson spit out his mouthpiece and a piece of Holyfields ear. Tyson then followed Holyfield back to his corner and pushed him with both hands. There was a two-minute delay, after which it was decided the fight could continue. The two clinched in the center of the ring and Tyson reached over and bit Holyfields other ear. The ring immediately filled with people and chaos ensued. As Tyson left the arena with empty beer cups raining down on him, it seemed that the youngest and most-feared heavyweight champion might be drummed out of boxing forever.

The Nevada State Commission withheld Tysons paycheck and suspended his license. Tyson appeared before the press on the Monday after the fight and apologized for his behavior, but the public was outragedperhaps more so than when he was convicted for rape. He realized he couldnt whup me, and he got frustrated, Holyfield explained to Time magazines Richard Lacayo. Reaction poured in from all over the world and Tyson quickly became a punch line on the late night comedy shows. At the Hollywood Wax Museum his likeness was moved from the sports section to the Chamber of Horrors next to Hannibal Lector, the cannibal from the movie Silence of the Lambs. In the end Tyson was banned from boxing for one year and fined $3 million.

Fighting for the Money

Tysons controversial defeat at the hands of the aging Holyfield led many to believe that his career was finished. But enduring financial troubles, including $13 million in debt from back taxes, lured Tyson back into the ring through the late 1990s and early 2000s. Tyson took steps to bring more discipline to his fighting and his life. He parted ways with Don King in a flurry of lawsuits. He married again, this time to a pediatrician. His training regimen became steadier and he returned to the ring, making mountains of cash against opponents who offered little opposition. Tyson scored easy victories over British champion Julius Francis in Manchester, England, in February of 2000 and Brian Danish Pastry Nielsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, in October of 2001. Im back, Tyson said after the latter victory.

Despite these positive steps, Tysons public behavior became increasingly angry and irrational. In March of 1999 he spent a short time in jail after pleading no contest to two misdemeanor assault charges stemming from a road rage incident. Following a 2000 match in which he defeated Lou Savarese in 38 seconds, Tyson told the assembled media, I am the most ruthless, brutal champion ever. I am Sonny Liston and Jack Dempsey. There is no one who can match me. He saved his most bizarre remarks for a future opponent, heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis. I want your heart. I want to eat your children, Tyson proclaimed of Lewis.

Upon hearing of Tysons comments, Lewis remarked that Mike Tyson is a train wreck waiting to happen. His predication came true in January of 2002, when a press conference announcing a match between Tyson and Lewis became a fierce brawl between the entourages surrounding the two fighters, ending with Tyson biting Lewis on the leg. Boxing commentator Ferdie Pacheco told The Sporting News that someone needs to put Tyson in a hospital for a year. He has no self-control and is filled with self-loathing.

The Tyson-Lewis fight, scheduled for June of 2002 in Memphis, Tennessee, was given a huge build-up in the press, and the fighters were kept from seeing each other prior to the match. Though the fight set records with pay-per-view sales of $103 million, it hardly met expectations. Lewis took command early and appeared to toy with an overmatched Tyson for the early rounds. Then, in the eighth, he leveled Tyson with a hard right to the head.

Tyson was oddly tender after the fight. He hugged his opponent and then, noticing that he had left blood on the champions cheek, reached up and gently wiped his face. Tyson proclaimed that Lewis was splendid, a masterful boxer, and I take my hat off to him. Asked about a rematch, Tyson said, Id be crazy to ask for a rematch. Hes too big and too strong. I mean, for the right price, Ill fight a lion. But I dont think I can beat that guy.

Though the Lewis match clearly showed Tyson to be past his prime, his reputation and ability to draw fans continue to draw fight promoters looking to cash in on the spectacle of a Tyson match. Late in 2003, speculation swirled that he might fight champion Roy Jones, perhaps in Eastern Europe or Russia. The bigger fight facing Tyson seemed to be in the courtroom, where he tried to fend off his many creditors. Despite earning approximately $20 million from the Lewis fight, Tyson filed for bankruptcy in 2003.

Sources

Books

Berger, Mike, Blood Season: Mike Tyson and the World of Boxing, Four Walls Eight Windows, 1995.

Heller, Peter, Bad Intentions: The Mike Tyson Story, New American Library, 1989.

Hoffer, Richard, A Savage Business: The Comeback and Comedown of Mike Tyson, Simon and Schuster, 1998.

Periodicals

Jet, October 29, 2001, p. 51.

Sporting News, March 4, 2002, p. 64.

Sports Illustrated, September 16, 1986; January 18, 1999; June 17, 2002.

Time, July 14, 1997.

On-line

ESPN, http://espn.go.com (February 12, 2004).

Michael J. Watkins and Tom Pendergast

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Watkins, Michael; Pendergast, Tom. "Tyson, Mike 1966–." Contemporary Black Biography. 2004. Retrieved October 01, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3431000058.html

Tyson, Mike

Mike Tyson (Michael Gerald Tyson), 1966–, American boxer, b. Brooklyn, N.Y. At the age of 12, Tyson was sent to reform school, where he began to box. In a whirlwind career begun in 1985 when he turned pro, his spare, brutal style (36 knockouts in his first 41 wins) rescued him from the ghetto and made him, at 20, history's youngest world heavyweight champion following his 1986 knockout of Trevor Berbick. His first loss (1990), to unheralded Buster Douglas, punctured "Iron Mike's" aura of invincibility.

Tyson's life since then has been marked by violence, instability, and antisocial behavior in and out of the ring. His conviction (1992) for the rape of a beauty contestant resulted in a sentence of 10 years in prison. Released in 1995, Tyson returned to boxing, winning the World Boxing Council title in 1996. The same year, however, he lost to Evander Holyfield, and in a 1997 rematch bit Holyfield's ear, for which he was temporarily banned from boxing. In 1999 he was briefly imprisoned in Maryland for assault. After he sparked a melee at a prefight conference with Lennox Lewis in 2002, Tyson was denied a license to fight by Nevada, and the bout relocated to Memphis, where Tyson lost. Subsequently, he was not a significant contender.

See his memoir, Undisputed Truth (with L. Sloman, 2013).

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Tyson, Mike

Tyson, Mike (1966– ) US boxer. In 1986, he became the youngest heavyweight champion in boxing history. In 1987, Tyson became the first undisputed heavyweight champion for a decade. Defeated by Buster Douglas in 1990, he was convicted of rape and sentenced to prison in 1992. Released in 1995, Tyson regained his WBC title in 1996 by stopping Frank Bruno. Later that year, he was defeated by Evander Holyfield. In a 1997 rematch, Tyson was disqualifed for biting Holyfield's ear. He was fined and banned from boxing for a year. In 1999, Tyson served three months in prison for a ‘road rage’ assault. In 2000, he easily defeated the British heavyweight champion Julius Francis. In 2002 Lennox Lewis successfully defended his world heavyweight crown against Tyson.

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Tyson, Mike 1966–

Mike Tyson 1966

Professional boxer

Professional Debut

Professional Glory, Personal Problems

Went to Prison

Infamy in the Desert

Cannibalistic Comments

Sources

Mike Tyson, the youngest heavyweight champion in boxing history, is perhaps one of the sports most notorious figures. His talent is undeniable. As Sports Illustrated observed, He is the purest of fighters: He hits people and they fall down. While some ponder the kinetic energy behind each punch, Tyson reminds us of the sheer simplicity of the sport. There are no goal lines or plays to calljust two men standing in a ring of physicality, each trying to demolish the other. Yet Tyson also reminds us of the more primal aspect of the sport. From his imprisonment for rape to the cannibalistic comments directed toward Lennox Lewis and his biting of Evander Holyfields ear, Tysons persona has evolved into that of the brutal aggressor.

Michael Gerard Tyson was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 30, 1966 to Loma Tyson and Jimmy Kirk-patrick. Kirkpatrick left the family when his son was two years old. As a youth Tyson joined a street gang at a very early age and was in trouble with the law many times before he was 12 years old. After an arrest for armed robbery he was sent to the Tyron School in 1978, a correction center for juveniles in upstate New York. It was there that his life changed direction. The schools physical education teacher saw potential in the young man and introduced him to legendary boxing trainer Cus DAmato, who lived near the facility at the time. Tyson thrived under the new structure and discipline in his life. Tyson moved in with DAmato and when the boxers mother died when he was 16. DAmato became his legal guardian. Tyson was sent back to the Tyron school for a time after he was threatened with a gun by his then-trainer Teddy Atlas. The trainer had heard that Tyson sexually abused a 12-year-old girl and was trying to frighten him. Tyson made stunning progress as an amateur and decided to try out for the Olympic team at the age of 17. After failing to make the 1984 Olympic team, DAmato decided that it was time for his fighter to turn professional.

Professional Debut

On March 4, 1985 Tyson stepped into the ring for his first professional fight. He had studied boxing history and watched old newsreel footage of the great fighters of the past and wanted to emulate them. He entered the ring without fanfare, without a robe, without socks, dressed in black with the most menacing and intimidating glare in boxing. Many of his opponents were

At a Glance

Born Michael Gerard Tyson on June 30, 1966 in Brooklyn, New York; son of Lorna Tyson and Jimmy Kirkpatrick; married Robin Givens, 1988 (divorced 1988); married Monica Turner; children: four.

Career: Professional boxer, 1985-; first professional loss to James Buster Douglas, 1990; fined and suspended from boxing for one year, 1997.

Awards: WBC title, making him the youngest heavyweight champion in boxing history, 1986; WBA title, 1987; IBF championship, August 1, 1987; regained WBC championship, 1996; regained WBA championship, 1996.

Addresses: Office] 0100 Santa Monica Blvd. #1300, Los Angeles, CA 90067.

beaten before Tyson even stepped through the ropes. Tyson went 15-0 in his first year as a professional boxer. Many boxing aficionados thought that DAmato had created the perfect heavyweight fighter. But he would never live to see his man become champion. The 77-year-old trainer died in November of 1985.

Despite this loss, Tyson continued to storm through the heavyweight division. One year after DAmatos death, Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion ever when he gained the World Boxing Council (WBC) championship belt after a two-round knockout of Trevor Berbick. Co-Manager Jimmy Jacobs told Pat Putnam of Sports Illustrated that everything was going to plan: Cus predicted that Mike would fight for the title before the end of 1986Cus said the only way to prepare Mike for this was to give him a speed education by a multiple of four. So there has been no R and R for Mike. There couldnt be. And he has held up beautifully. The next year he united the heavyweight championship, defeating James Bonecrusher Smith for the World Boxing Association (WBA) belt in March and Tony Tucker for the International Boxing Federation (IBF) belt in August. Tyson was on top of the boxing world as the most ferocious boxer in the sports most glamorous division. But he soon learned that success often comes at a price.

Professional Glory, Personal Problems

In 1988 Jim Jacobs died. Jacobs had co-managed the young heavyweight from the beginning of his career. Into the vacuum in Tysons life created by the deaths of DAmato and Jacobs came boxings most notorious promoter Don King and Tysons new wife, Robin Givens, whom he had married after a two-week courtship. In the ring the f ghter was at the absolute pinnacle of his power, defeating former IBF champ Michael Spinks in 91 seconds.

Outside the ring Tysons life was spinning out of control. He broke his hand in a street fight with a former opponent Mitch Blood Green. Then he crashed his BMW into a tree on DAmatos former estate. Some in the media reported that the crash was intentional and amounted to a failed suicide attempt. He was reported to have chased Givens and her mother through the streets of Moscow where she was shooting a movie. And then there was the appearance with his wife on national television in a question and answer session with Barbara Walters. Tyson sat next to Givens looking half-awake as his wife talked about him as if he were not there. She said that he was a manic-depressive and claimed that he had abused her. Soon after the humiliating ordeal Givens and Tyson were divorced after one year of marriage.

The exit of Givens eft Don King firmly in control of team Tyson. For five years Tyson had destroyed opponent after opponent, but that set of circumstances would also change. On February 11, 1990 Tyson fought James Buster Douglas, a 42-1 underdog. From the very beginning of the fight, there was a different atmosphere. Tyson was sluggishsome claim from anti-depressan: medicationand his journeyman opponent seemed to be different also, as if he were not afraid of the man so many others had feared to fight. Tyson knocked down Douglas, but the challenger recovered and ended up knocking out the champion in the tenth. At first King claimed the knock out was invalid because Tyson had actually won the fight when he put Douglas on the canvas earlier in the bout. The promoter even pressured WBC President Jose Su-laiman to declare the knockout invalid before succumbing to overwhelming public outrage over Kings chicanery.

Tyson recovered from his loss to win two more bouts in 1990. The next year he defeated Donovan Razor Ruddock twice. His next fight was for the heavyweight championship against Evander Holyfield, but that scheduled fight never happened.

Went to Prison

While attending the Miss Black America contest, Tyson met 18-year-old Desiree Washington. On July 19, 1991 Tyson took her back to his hotel room and allegedly raped the young pageant contestant. He was tried and convicted of rape, and in March of 1992, Tyson was sentenced to six years in prison. He spent three years of his six-year sentence in jail. Word leaked out that Tyson was a different man after spending time behind bars. He was said to be reading communist literature, Malcom X, and had even converted to Islam.

At age 28, Tyson was released from prison on March 25, 1995. He emerged from prison with tattoos of Arthur Ashe and Mao Zedong on his arms. He went to a nearby mosque and met with Muhammed Ali immediately after he left the prison grounds. Though many boxing promoters and managers had courted the fighter in prison, it was Don King who was part of Tysons entourage and negotiated a deal with Showtime on his fighters first day out from behind bars.

Tysons first post-prison opponent was Boston-based journeyman Peter McNeely. McNeelys record was 36-1. On paper he seemed good enough, but his opponents combined records were 148-436. His only loss came against an opponent with a winning record. Despite his own shaky record, McNeely maintained his brave face throughout the pre-fight pomp and circumstance though everyone knew the fight would go to Tyson. Tyson knocked down McNeely twice and then McNeelys manager threw in the towel after 89 seconds of the first round.

King scheduled Tysons next fight to air on the FOX Network. Not only would Tyson be on free television, his fight was scheduled on the same night in the same city (Las Vegas) as the pay-per-view event Riddick Bowe vs. Evander Holyfield III. King and Tyson caused an uproar among boxing circles and casino executives, but Tyson broke his thumb during practice and was forced to postpone the bout. The fight was rescheduled for December 16th in Philadelphia and Tyson knocked out Buster Mathis in the third round.

On March 16, 1996 Tyson fought the formidable but weak-chinned Englishman Frank Bruno. Bruno talked a great deal before the fight, but in the ring he was clearly frightened. In the first round he clinched 15 times and received two warnings. In the second round he clinched 15 more times and received a one-point penalty. Tyson battered Bruno in the third round sending him sliding incoherently down the ropes 50 seconds into the third. One year out of prison Tyson had scored three easy victories and had earned $65 million.

On September 7, 1996 Tyson knocked out Bruce Seldon in 109 seconds. Many spectators and fans watching the pay-per-view event thought the fight was fixed because few saw Tyson punch Seldon, but Sel-dons trainer said that his man was so scared that he may have had a nervous breakdown. Seldon would never box again and Tyson had won back one of his championship belts: the WBA.

Next up for Tyson was Evander Holyfield, who he had been scheduled to fight in 1991. Holyfield was seen as a washed-up fighter, in danger even of being killed in the ring by Tyson. Holyfield was a 25-1 underdog, but he would make $11 million to Tysons $30 million. Despite the long odds, Holyfield was the first man whom Tyson faced since he was released from prison who would fight back. For the first time since Buster Douglas, Tyson faced a worthy opponent. In the sixth round, Holyfield opened a cut over Tysons left eye with a head butt and then dropped Tyson with a left hook. It was only the second time Tyson was knocked down in his whole career. At that point Holyfield said that he knew he had beaten Tyson and for the rest of the fight, he jabbed Tyson and stayed out of his rivals reach. Tyson lost, but the fight grossed $100 million and a rematch was assured.

Infamy in the Desert

Anticipation for the Tyson-Holyfield rematch was so great that the MGM sold out its 16, 000 tickets on the first day. The spectators and the millions viewing on pay-per-view expected to be part of another unforgettable moment in Tysons career, but it would be unforgettable for all the wrong reasons. The first round seemed to pick up where the first match left off. Holyfield was the aggressor, sometimes leading with his head. In the second, Holyfield head butted Tyson and cut him above his right eye. The fight became more brutal with both fighters seeming to abandon the rules.

Then, in the third round, Tyson and Holyfield clinched in the middle of the ring. Tyson seemed to search for his opponents ear, find it, and then purposely chomp down on it. Holyfield propelled himself into the air and Tyson spit out his mouthpiece and a piece of Holy-fields ear. Tyson then followed Holyfield back to his corner and pushed him with both hands. There was a two-minute delay after it was decided the fight could continue. Tyson had two points deducted and the two met again in the center of the ring in a clinch and Tyson reached over and bit Holyfields other ear. The ring immediately filled with people and chaos ensued. As he left the arena with empty beer cups raining down on him, it seemed that the youngest and most-feared heavyweight champion ever was perhaps out of boxing.

The Nevada State Commission withheld Tysons paycheck and suspended his license. Tyson appeared before the press on Monday after the fight and apologized for his behavior, but the public was outragedper-haps more so than when he was convicted for rape. He wasnt up for another beating, Holyfield explained to Time magazines Richard Lacayo. He realized he couldnt whup me, and he got frustrated. Reaction poured in from all over the world and Tyson quickly became a punch line on the late night comedy shows. At the Hollywood Wax Museum his likeness was moved from the sports section to the Chamber of Horrors next to Hannibal Lector, the cannibal from the movie Silence of the Lambs. In the end Tyson was banned from boxing for one year and fined $3 million.

During his year away from the sport, Tyson made some changes. After earning an estimated $200 million in the ring, he found that he was cash poor and $13 million in debt from back taxes. He pointed the finger at King and the two parted ways in a flurry of lawsuits. He married again, this time to a pediatrician. His training regimen became steadier and he returned to the ring again making mountains of cash against opponents who offered little opposition.

Cannibalistic Comments

But if people thought that he had slowed down or shrugged off his capacity for the outrageous, they were wrong. In March of 1999 he spent a short time in jail after pleading no contest to two misdemeanor assault charges stemming from a road rage incident. Then, after defeating Lou Savarese in 38 seconds in the summer of 2000, his post-fight behavior and remarks again drew worldwide attention. After the referee stopped the bout, Tyson continued to pound Savarese and even hit the referee with a wild shot. Then outside the ring immediately after the fight he told the assembled media, according to the ESPN website, I am the most ruthless, brutal champion ever. Tyson continued, I am Sonny Liston and Jack Dempsey. There is no one who can match me. But he saved his most bizarre remarks for a possible future opponent, heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis. According to the ESPN website, Tysons message for Lewis was this: I want your heart. I want to eat your children. Tyson then added that when he fought Lewis, I will rip out his heart and feed it to him. Ironically, he admitted later that he was not ready for Lewis yet.

Tyson has survived a highly publicized series of personal and professionell highs and lows. While known for his ferocity both inside and outside of the ring, Tyson has also contributed to community and charity causes through his various business organizations, including Mike Tyson Enterprises and Tyson Gear. Ever the enigma, perhaps not even Tyson can say where the next chapter in his tumultuous life will take him.

Sources

Books

Hoffer, Richard, A Savage Business: The Comeback and Comedown of Mike Tyson.Simon and Schuster: NY, 1998.

Periodicals

Sports Illustrated, September 16, 1986; January 18, 1999. Time, July 14, 1997.

Other

Additional material for this profile was obtained online at http://espn.go.com and http://tyson.com.

Michael J. Watkins

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Watkins, Michael. "Tyson, Mike 1966–." Contemporary Black Biography. 2001. Encyclopedia.com. (October 1, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2873000069.html

Watkins, Michael. "Tyson, Mike 1966–." Contemporary Black Biography. 2001. Retrieved October 01, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2873000069.html

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