Born in Brooklyn, New York on June 30th 1966, and grew up on the merciless streets of Brownsville. As a youngster Tyson was an accomplished mugger and downright thug, by the age of twelve he had been arrested over thirty times resulting in time spent in juvenile detention centres and medium security facilities, until aged thirteen he was sent to last resort establishment; Tryon school for boys. It was here councillor and athletic coach Bobby Stewart first witnessed the potential in the thirteen year old that stood 5ft 6” and weighed 186 lbs of solid muscle. He taught the young powerhouse all he knew before referring with Cus D’Amato, a 72-year-old trainer who lived and breathed the game. D’Amato had steered Floyd Patterson and Jose Torres toward winning world titles and with the financial backing of two businessmen, Jim Jacobs and Bill Clayton he always lived with the dream of producing another heavyweight champion.
In 1980, on his fourteenth birthday Tyson was released into the custody of D’Amato, who became his legal guardian. The wise old trainer would also become the troubled youngsters mentor, confidant and friend. He took Tyson into his home giving him stability and not only coached the youngster but also installed in him many values. Mike was flourishing in this environment and had found the father figure he never had.
After a successful amateur career, Mike Tyson turned professional in 1985. In his first year as a professional, he knocked out all fifteen opponents, eleven of them in the first round. At the end of the year, Tyson’s foundations would be rocked when his guardian, mentor and friend D’Amato died. Tyson would continue soaring through the rankings at frightening pace and in 1986, he won another impressive thirteen contests cumulating in a challenge for the WBC title against Trevor Berbick in November.
The world was gazing on as the young Tyson absolutely destroyed Berbick with ruthlessness rarely witnessed in a ring. Berbick could not withstand the young challenger’s brand of hellfire, every punch was being thrown with murderous intent when the young brute landed a left hook on the Jamaicans temple, and after a brief and delayed reaction, the Champion was on the canvas for a second time. Then what would follow would become one of those images remembered forever in the sports history. As referee Mills Lane started the count Berbick tried in vain to find his feet but was caught in a tortures conflict between body and mind, Berbicks legs just were not receiving the message his brain was sending. The Champion twice stumbled across the ring like that of a child trying to take their first step, falling into the ropes and the ringside media. Finally, Mills Lane got hold of the defeated Berbick and helped him find his equilibrium. Tyson had become the youngest-ever heavyweight champion at 20 years and 145 days, a record previously held by Floyd Patterson.
With this the new champion was not long in forming a fan base, in their thousands they would flock from all over to witness the raw, aggressive street fighting style of the young champion, frequently filling venues which seated 15,000. Within ten months, he unified the division. In addition, in January 1988 he demolished ex-champion Larry Holmes in four rounds, followed up two months later with a second round stoppage of Tony Tubbs.
They say every fighter or sportsman have their finest hour, Iron Mike’s finest performance came on 27th June 1988 and lasted only 91 destructive seconds, in a bout against Michael Spinks. Many gave Spinks a real chance; he was the former undisputed light-heavyweight champion and had made a successful transition to the heavyweight division, in his professional career he had never been on the canvas and remained undefeated. In a contest that grossed $100 million, Tyson had removed any doubt that remained over his right to the undisputed title in 91 seconds.
The champions life was in turmoil outside the ring ,long time friend Jim Jacobs had died, car crashes, brawls and a short turbulent marriage to actress Robin Givens had ended, it seemed his only stability was between the ropes, but even their the cracks where beginning to appear. Promoter Don King had entered the scene and planted the seeds that would eventually replace the champion’s corner men, removing the last link to his old mentor D’Amato. Tyson abandoned his usual style of movement and fast combinations that where drilled into him by old mentor D’Amato. In 1989, he made two successful defences, in February against England’s Frank Bruno who came close to denting Tyson’s aura of invincibility. Early on in the bout Bruno had Tyson in trouble, nevertheless the champion recovered and brushed aside Bruno in the fifth. Iron Mike fought once more in the year, another first round stoppage this time against Carl Williams.
On February 11th 1990, Mike Tyson had his world crumble around him in Tokyo, Japan. His opponent James Buster Douglas, born in Ohio, on 7th July 1960, the son of a decant middle and light heavyweight.
Few people gave Douglas a prayer, but as Muhammad Ali once said, (all you need is a prayer, because if that prayer reaches the right person not only will your opponent fall, but mountains too). Tyson had most men beaten before they entered the ring such was his persona, Douglas had recently lost his Mother, and his Wife was seriously ill. Hardly the right frame of mind for a man to take on the most fearsome fighter on the planet. Maybe this personal loss gave him a hunger or an inner strength on the night. Douglas fought well, and then in round eight it seemed all his effort had been undone when floored by a right uppercut. What happened next caused much controversy and debate for years. Referee Octavio Mayran delayed the count by a few seconds while ushering Tyson to a neutral corner, then made a huge blunder by starting the count himself, when he should have picked up the cue from the timekeeper. As Douglas arose from the canvas the bell sounded ending the round giving him more vital time to recover. Douglas picked up the pace in the ninth and in the tenth caught the champion sending him to the canvas, dazed, confused and on his knees, reaching for his mouthpiece the fight was over. As a measure of how seismic an upset this was you only had to glance at the bookmakers odds, Douglas was a 42-1 outsider; by far the longest odds in the championships history.
It was six years before Tyson challenged for another title, meanwhile his turbulent life continued out of the ring. In 1992, he was convicted of rape and sentenced to ten years in jail, of which four years were suspended. His career never did regain its momentum, but upon his release he remained the biggest draw in boxing, this resulted in him recapturing his WBC title in 1996, when he stopped frank Bruno in three rounds. The following year Tyson pushed the self-destruct button again when he bite a piece of Evader Holyfields ear of during their second meeting in 1997. Many commissions refused Tyson a licence to box in their state forcing him overseas to compete in Scotland and Denmark. Over the next four years, he won four bouts and had two no-contests. The aura of Tyson still remained many fans never recognised a champion unless he had defeated Tyson, with this and a lucrative purse Tyson would fight current champion Lennox Lewis on 8th June 2002, in Memphis. The pre fight press conference was bizarre and another display of self-destruction. Tyson attacked Lewis and then launched an outburst at the stunned media. This was not to stir up an interest in the fight as the fight sold itself, on that podium Tyson looked mentally unstable and it was disturbing to witness. Lewis knocked Tyson out in the eighth. Financial imperatives would force Tyson to fight on, loosing two of his next three fights.
Not many names enter your thoughts when dreaming of super-fights with fighters from different eras, but in his prime you could have matched Mike Tyson up with any of the greats gone before him. He was dominant during his peak and unified a fragmented division, the first man to do so since Joe Frazier in 1970. Mike Tyson gave us carnage and controversy during his turbulent career, which was under the microscope like only a few others have experienced. He will be remembered as the man who had the raw ingredients to become the greatest of them all.
|6-Mar||Hector Mercedes||W TKO 1||Albany, New York|
|10-Apr||Trent Singleton||W TKO 1||Albany, New York|
|23-May||Don Haplin||W KO 4||Albany, New York|
|20-Jun||Ricardo Spain||W KO 1||Atlantic City, New Jersey|
|11-Jul||John Alderson||W TKO 2||Atlantic City, New Jersey|
|19-Jul||Larry Sims||W KO 3||Poughkeepsie, NY|
|15-Aug||Lorenzo Canady||W KO 1||Atlantic City, New Jersey|
|5-Sept||Michael Johnson||W KO 1||Atlantic City, New Jersey|
|9-Oct||Donnie Long||W TKO 1||Atlantic City, New Jersey|
|26-Oct||Robert Colay||W KO 1||Atlantic City, New Jersey|
|1-Nov||Sterling Benjamin||W TKO 1||Latham, NY|
|13-Nov||Eddie Richardson||W KO 1||Houston, Texas|
|22-Nov||Conroy Nelson||W TKO 2||Latham, NY|
|6-Dec||Sammy Scaff||W TKO 1||New York, NY|
|27-Dec||Mark Young||W TKO 1||Latham, NY|
|11-Jan||David Jacob||W TKO 1||Albany, NY|
|24-Jan||Mike Jameson||W TKO 5||Atlantic City, New Jersey|
|16-Feb||Jesse Ferguson||W TKO 6||New York, NY|
|10-Mar||Steve Zouski||W KO 3||Uniondale, NY|
|3-May||James Tills||W 10||Glen Falls, NY|
|20-May||Mitch Green||W 10||MSG, New York, NY|
|13-Jun||Reggie Gross||W TKO 1||MSG, New York, NY|
|28-Jun||William Hosea||W KO 1||MSG, New York, NY|
|11-Jul||Lorenzo Boyd||W KO 2||Swan Lake, CA|
|26-Jul||Marvis Frazier||W KO 1||Glen Falls, CA|
|17-Aug||Jose Ribalta||W TKO 10||Atlantic City, New Jersey|
|6-Sept||Alonzo Ratliff||W 1KO 2||Las Vegas, NV|
|22-Nov||Trevor Berbick||W TKO 2||Las Vegas, NV|
|7-Mar||James Smith||W 12||Las Vegas, NV|
|30-May||Pinklon Thomas||W TKO 6||Las Vegas, NV|
|1-Aug||Tony Tucker||W 12||Las Vegas, NV|
|16-Oct||Tyrell Biggs||W TKO 7||Atlantic City, New Jersey|
|22-Jan||Larry Holmes||W TKO 4||Atlantic City, New Jersey|
|21-Mar||Tony Tubbs||W TKO 2||Tokyo, Japan|
|27-Jun||Michael Spinks||W KO 1||Atlantic City, New Jersey|
|25-Feb||Frank Bruno||W TKO 5||Las Vegas, NV|
|21-Jul||Carl Williams||W TKO 1||Atlantic City, New Jersey|
|11-Feb||James Buster Dougles||L KO 10||Tokyo Japan|
|16-Jun||Henry Tillman||W KO 1||Las Vegas, NV|
|8-Dec||Alex Stewart||W TKO 1||Atlantic City, New Jersey|
|18-Mar||Donovan Ruddock||W TKO 7||Las Vegas, NV|
|28-Jun||Donovan Ruddock||W 12||Las Vegas, NV|
|19-Aug||Peter McNeeley||W DQ 1||MGM, Las Vegas, NV|
|16-Dec||Buster Mathis Jr||W KO 3||MGM, Las Vegas, NV|
|16-Mar||Frank Bruno||W TKO 3||MGM, Las Vegas, NV|
|7-Sept||Bruce Seldon||W TKO 1||MGM, Las Vegas, NV|
|9-Nov||Evander Holyfield||L TKO 11||MGM, Las Vegas, NV|
|28-Jun||Evander Holyfield||L DQ 3||MGM, Las Vegas, NV|
|16-Jan||Francois Botha||W KO 5||MGM, Las Vegas, NV|
|23-Oct||Orlin Norris||NC 1||MGM, Las Vegas, NV|
|29-Jan||Julius Francis||W TKO 2||Manchester, England|
|24-Jun||Lou Savarese||W TKO 1||Glasgow, Scotland|
|20-Oct||Anderw Golota||NC 3||Auburn Hills, Michigan|
|13-Oct||Brian Nielsen||W RTD 7||Copenhagen, Denmark|
|8-Jun||Lennox Lewis||L KO 8||Memphis, Tennessee|
|22-Feb||Clifford Etienne||W KO 1||Memphis, Tennessee|
|30-Jul||Danny Williams||L KO 4||Louisville, Kentucky|
|11-Jun||Kevin McBride||L TKO 6||Washington DC|