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Michael Gerard Tyson, (born June 30, 1966) is a former American World Heavyweight boxing Champion. Tyson, the youngest man to have won a heavyweight title belt, was rated in 1999 by Ring magazine as the fourteenth greatest heavyweight of all time. Tyson unified the belts in the splintered heavyweight division in the mid-eighties and was renowned for speedily defeating rival contenders at the height of his career.

Tyson has been nicknamed "Iron Mike Tyson", "Mighty Mike Tyson", "Kid Dynamite", and "The Baddest Man on the Planet", Tyson adopted the Muslim name Malik Abdul Aziz after his conversion to Islam.[1][2] For his behavior both in and out of the ring, ESPN has ranked Tyson as the #1 Most Outrageous Character in modern sports history by both experts panel selection and internet poll.[3]

Mike Tyson

 

 
Mike Tyson

Statistics
Real name Michael Gerard Tyson
Nickname Iron Mike
Kid Dynamite
Baddest Man on the Planet
Weight Heavyweight
Nationality Flag of United States American
Birth date June 30, 1966 (1966-06-30) (age 40)
Birth place Brooklyn, New York, USA
Style Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 58
Wins 50
Wins by KO 44
Losses 6
Draws 0
No contests 2

Michael Gerard Tyson, (born June 30, 1966) is a former American World Heavyweight boxing Champion. Tyson, the youngest man to have won a heavyweight title belt, was rated in 1999 by Ring magazine as the fourteenth greatest heavyweight of all time. Tyson unified the belts in the splintered heavyweight division in the mid-eighties and was renowned for speedily defeating rival contenders at the height of his career.

Tyson has been nicknamed "Iron Mike Tyson", "Mighty Mike Tyson", "Kid Dynamite", and "The Baddest Man on the Planet", Tyson adopted the Muslim name Malik Abdul Aziz after his conversion to Islam.[1][2] For his behavior both in and out of the ring, ESPN has ranked Tyson as the #1 Most Outrageous Character in modern sports history by both experts panel selection and internet poll.[3]

Early years

Tyson was born and raised in the notorious Brownsville section of Brooklyn. Tyson's early childhood was marked by strife and unhappiness forcing his mother, Lorna Smith Tyson, to provide for her family following the departure of their father, Jimmy Kirkpatrick,[4] when Tyson was two years old. Tyson's reputation as a youth who would beat anyone who ridiculed his high-pitched, lisping voice was fueled by constant abuse by older children on the streets of Brownsville.[4] Expelled from junior high school for fighting, Tyson passed through juvenile detention centers, yet remained in perpetual trouble with the state for petty crime and violence. On his own at age 10, he earned his way through the tough streets of New York by mugging and purse-snatching; by the time he was 13, he had been arrested 38 times.[5] He eventually ended up at the Tryon School for Boys in Catskill, New York. It was at Tryon that Tyson's raw boxing ability and incredible potential in the ring was discovered by a juvenile detention center counselor and former boxer named Bobby Stewart.[4] As Tyson was an outstanding physical specimen, Stewart trained him for a few months and then introduced him to the legendary Cus D'Amato.[4]

Tyson was later removed from reform school by D'Amato, a well-known boxing trainer whose proteges included former champions Floyd Patterson and José Torres.[6] He saw the young boxer's potential and took him off Stewart's hands to train him; he later became Tyson's legal guardian,[4] and Tyson has often referred to his love for D'Amato as a father figure. Teddy Atlas was also another notable trainer who worked with Tyson in his early career with D'Amato.

As an amateur Tyson amassed a 24-3 record, and was considered a formidable opponent and prime candidate to represent the USA in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. However two losses to Henry Tillman ruined his chances to represent the US in the Olympics. Tyson turned professional soon after.[7]

 Rise to stardom

Mike Tyson made his professional debut on March 6, 1985, in Albany, New York, a match he won by a first round knockout over Hector Mercedes.[4] Fighting frequently in his first two years as a professional, Tyson won 19 of his first 22 fights by knockout, 14 of which came in the first round.[8] His quality of opposition gradually increased to journeyman fighters and borderline contenders,[8] and his win streak attracted much media attention, leading to his being billed as the next great heavyweight champion. D'Amato died in November, 1985, relatively early into Tyson's professional career; some speculate that his death was the genesis of many of the troubles Tyson was to experience later as his life and career progressed.[9]

Tyson's first nationally televised bout took place on February 16, 1986 at Houston Field House in Troy, NY against journeyman heavyweight Jesse Ferguson. Tyson knocked down Ferguson with an uppercut in the fifth round that reportedly broke Ferguson's nose.[10] During the sixth round, Ferguson began to hold and clinch Tyson in an apparent attempt to prolong the fight. After admonishing Ferguson several times to obey his commands to break the clinches and box, the referee eventually stopped the fight near the middle of the sixth round and Tyson was declared the winner by TKO.

On November 22, 1986, Tyson was given his first title shot, fighting Trevor Berbick for the WBC heavyweight title. Tyson won the title by second round technical knockout, and at the age of 20 years and 4 months became the youngest heavyweight champion ever. This particular Tyson fight was notable for the fact of Trevor Berbick attempting to get up after the knockdown, only to fall down again, and repeating the sequence until he was finally counted out.[11] Floyd Patterson had been the youngest heavyweight champ to that time, having won the title by beating Archie Moore in an elimination series following the retirement of Rocky Marciano, while Muhammed Ali still holds the record as the youngest man to take the lineal title from the reigning undisputed champion (Sonny Liston) in the ring.[12]

Tyson aged 20 was around 222 lb (101 kg) with approximately 5.5 percent body fat, and was stocky for his height of 5'11" (180 cm). Known for his strength, many fighters were said to be too intimidated to hit him[13] and this was backed up by his hand speed, accuracy, coordination, powerful hits and timing. Tyson was also noted for his defensive abilities.[14] Holding his hands high in the Peek-a-Boo style taught by his mentor Cus D'Amato, he would slip and weave out of the way of the opponent's punches while closing the distance to deliver his own punches.[14]

 Undisputed Champion

Expectations for the young champion were extremely high, and he embarked on an ambitious campaign to fight all the top heavyweights in the world. In 1987, Tyson defended his title against James 'Bonecrusher' Smith on March 7 in Las Vegas, Nevada. He won by unanimous decision and added Smith's WBA title to his existing belt.[15] 'Tyson mania' in the media was becoming rampant.[16] He beat Pinklon Thomas in May with a knockout in the sixth round.[17] On August 1 he took the IBF title from Tony Tucker in a twelve round unanimous decision.[18] He became the first heavyweight to own all three major belts (WBA, WBC, IBF) at the same time. His only other fight in 1987 was in October against the 1984 Olympic Super Heavyweight gold medalist Tyrell Biggs, that ended with a victory of Tyson by knockout in the seventh round.[19]

Tyson had three fights in 1988. He faced an aged but still game Larry Holmes on January 22, and defeated the legendary former champion by fourth round knockout.[20] This would be the only knockout loss Holmes would suffer in 75 professional bouts. Tyson then fought contender Tony Tubbs in Tokyo in March, fitting in an easy two-round victory amid promotional and marketing work.[21]

On June 27, 1988, Tyson faced Michael Spinks. Spinks, who had taken the heavyweight championship away from Larry Holmes via a fifteen round decision in 1985, had never lost his title in the ring. The IBF title which he had won from Holmes had been stripped from him, but many (including Ring magazine) considered him to have a legitimate claim to being the true heavyweight champion. Tyson cleared up all confusion by speedily knocking him out within 91 seconds of the first round.[22]

Controversy and upset

During this time period, Tyson's problems outside boxing were also starting to gain prominence. His marriage to Robin Givens was heading for divorce,[23] and his future contract was being fought over by Don King and Bill Cayton.[24] In late 1988, Tyson fired longtime trainer Kevin Rooney, the man many credit for honing Tyson's craft after the death of D'Amato in November 1985.[14] Without Rooney, Tyson's skills slowly deteriorated and he became more prone to looking for the one-punch knockout, rather than utilizing the combinations that brought him to stardom.[25] He also began to headhunt, neglecting to attack the opponent's body first.[26] In addition, he lost his defensive skills and began to barrel straight in toward the opponent, neglecting to jab and slip his way in.[27] In 1989, Tyson had only two fights amid personal turmoil. He faced the popular British boxer Frank Bruno in February in a below-par fight where Bruno managed to stun Tyson at the end of the 1st round,[28] although Tyson would go on to knockout Bruno in the fifth. Tyson then managed a one round knockout of Carl "The Truth" Williams in July. In the same year, Tyson was awarded the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Overseas Personality Award.[29]

In 1989 Tyson was granted an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from Central State University in Ohio. Many in the academic community expressed displeasure at this (as well as at the practice of giving honorary doctorates to celebrities in general), claiming that it cheapened the value of such awards, particularly for those who had worked years in their fields to earn them.[30]

By 1990 Tyson seemed to have lost direction, and his personal life and training habits were in disarray. In a fight on February 11 he lost his championship to James "Buster" Douglas in Tokyo.[31] On paper it looked like an easy victory for Tyson, but Douglas was at an emotional peak after losing his mother to a stroke two weeks prior to the fight,[31] and fought the fight of his life. Tyson failed to find a way past Douglas's lightning fast jab that had a thirteen-inch reach advantage over his own. Tyson did send Douglas to the floor in the eighth round, catching him with an uppercut, but Douglas recovered sufficiently to hand Tyson a heavy beating in the later rounds. After the fight, the Tyson camp complained that the count was slow and that Douglas had taken longer than ten seconds to get to his feet.[32] Thirty-five seconds within the start of the 10th round, Douglas unleashed a combination of blows that sent Tyson to the canvas for the first time in his career. He was counted out by referee Octavio Meyran.[31] The victory over Tyson, the previously undefeated "baddest man on the planet" and arguably the most feared boxer in professional boxing at that time, at the hands of the 42-1 betting odds underdog Douglas, has been described as one of the most shocking upsets in modern sports history.[33]

After Douglas

After the loss, Tyson recovered somewhat, knocking out heavyweight contenders Henry Tillman[34] and Alex Stewart[35] in the first round in each of his next two fights. Tyson's victory over the 1984 Olympics Boxing Heavyweight gold medalist (and 1983 Boxing Heavyweight silver medalist of the Pan American Games) Tillman was notable in that he avenged his early career amateur losses at Tillman's hands. These bouts set up an elimination match for another shot at the Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship, which Evander Holyfield had taken from Douglas in his first defense of the title.

Tyson, who was the #1 contender, faced #2 contender Donovan 'Razor' Ruddock on March 18, 1991, in Las Vegas. Tyson and Ruddock went back and forth for most of the fight, with Tyson scoring with solid shots, until referee Richard Steele controversially stopped the fight during the seventh round in favor of Tyson. This decision infuriated the fans in attendance, sparking a post-fight melee in the audience and the referee subsequently had to be escorted from the ring.[36]

Tyson and Ruddock would meet again to settle the disputed decision on June 28 that year, with Tyson flooring Ruddock twice and winning a 12 round unanimous decision.[37] A fight with Holyfield was eventually booked, and was scheduled to take place in the fall.

Rape conviction, prison, and aftermath

However, the Holyfield fight was not to be. Tyson was arrested later in July 1991 for the rape of Miss Black Rhode Island, Desiree Washington, in an Indianapolis hotel room. Tyson was convicted on the charge of rape on February 10, 1992.[38]

Under Indiana law, a defendant convicted of a felony must begin serving his prison sentence immediately after the sentence is imposed. He was given a sentence of six years and was released on March 1995 after serving three years.[39] During his incarceration, Tyson converted his religion to Islam.[1]

Tyson did not fight again until later in 1995. He had two comeback bouts against Peter McNeeley and Buster Mathis Jr., which he won easily. Interest in Tyson's first comeback fight since his incarceration against McNeeley was high enough for it to gross more than USD $96 million worldwide, including a United States record $63 million for PPV television. The fight was purchased by 1.52 million homes, setting both PPV viewership and revenue records for that time.[40] The brief 89 second fight wherein McNeeley swiftly crumpled on facing Tyson, elicited criticism that Tyson's management lined up "Tomato Cans", easily defeated and unworthy boxers for his return.[41]

He regained one belt by easily winning the WBC title from Frank Bruno (their second fight) in March 1996 by knocking him out in the third round.[42] Tyson would add the WBA belt to his collection by defeating champion Bruce Seldon in one round in September that year. Seldon was severely criticized and mocked in the popular press for seemingly collapsing to innocuous punches from Tyson in the fight.[43] However, Tyson would later be stripped of the WBC belt for refusing to fight Lennox Lewis, the organization's #1 contender.[44]

 The Holyfield-Tyson fights

 Tyson vs Holyfield I

Main article: Tyson-Holyfield I

Tyson's next defense of his title came against Evander Holyfield, who was in the fourth fight of his comeback to boxing after retiring in 1994 following the loss of his championship. It was said that Don King and others saw Holyfield, the former champion, who was 34 at the time of the fight and a huge underdog, as a washed up fighter.[45]

On November 9, 1996 in Las Vegas, Tyson faced Holyfield in a title bout dubbed 'Finally' . In a surprising turn of events, the supposedly "washed-up" fighter Holyfield, who was given virtually no chance to win by numerous commentators[46] defeated Tyson by a TKO decision when referee Mitch Halpern stopped the bout in round 11.[47] Holyfield made history with the upset win by being the second person ever to win a heavyweight championship belt three times. However Holyfield's victory was marred by allegations of Holyfield's frequent headbutts[48] against Tyson during the bout. Although the headbutts were ruled accidental during the fight by the referee,[48] they would become a point of contention later on in the subsequent rematch.[49]

Holyfield vs Tyson II and aftermath

Poster publicizing the 28 June, 1997,  Holyfield-Tyson II fight, dubbed The Sound and The Fury.
Poster publicizing the 28 June, 1997, Holyfield-Tyson II fight, dubbed The Sound and The Fury.
Main article: Holyfield-Tyson II

Tyson and Holyfield would fight again on June 28, 1997. Originally, Halpern was supposed to be the referee, but after Tyson's camp protested, Halpern stepped aside in favor of Mills Lane.[50] The highly anticipated rematch was dubbed "The Sound and the Fury", and was held again at the Las Vegas MGM Grand Garden Arena. It was a lucrative $100-million plus drawing fight, with the rematch drawing more attention than the first bout; with Tyson getting $30 million and Holyfield $35 million.[51] The fight was purchased by 1.99 million households, setting the PPV buyrate record that still stands as of 2007. [52]

The fight itself would eventually end in a massive debacle. In one of the most controversial events ever in modern sports,[53] it was stopped at the end of the third round, with Tyson disqualified[54] for biting Holyfield on both of his ears. One bite was severe enough to remove a piece of Holyfield's right ear which was found on the ring floor after the fight.[55] Tyson later argued he had to retaliate in that manner because he felt Holyfield kept head butting him without penalty.[49] In the confusion that followed the ending of the bout and announcement of the decision, a near riot erupted in the arena and several people were injured in the ensuing melee.[56]

As a subsequent fallout from the incident, USD $3 million was immediately withheld from Tyson's $30 million purse by the Nevada state boxing commission (the most it can legally hold back).[57] Two days after the fight, Tyson issued a statement,[58] apologizing directly to Holyfield for his actions and asked not to be banned for life over the incident. [59] Tyson was roundly condemned in the news media but nevertheless he was not without defenders. Novelist and commentator Katherine Dunn wrote a column that criticized Holyfield's sportsmanship in the controversial bout and charged the news media of being biased against Tyson.[60]

On July 9, 1997, Tyson's boxing license was revoked by the Nevada State Athletic Commission in a unanimous voice vote; he was also fined USD $3 million and ordered to pay the legal costs of the hearing.[61] The revocation was not permanent, as a little more than a year later on October 18, 1998, the commission voted 4-1 to restore Tyson's boxing license.[62]

1999 to 2005

 After Holyfield

In January 1999 Tyson returned to the ring to fight the South African Francois Botha. It ended up being a another controversial match-up. While Botha initially controlled the fight, Tyson allegedly attempted to break Botha's arms during a tie-up and both boxers were cautioned by the referee in the ill-tempered bout. Botha was ahead on points on all scorecards and was confident enough to mock Tyson as the fight continued. Nonetheless, Tyson landed a straight right-hand in the fifth round that knocked Botha out.[63]

Legal problems caught up with Tyson once again. On February 6, 1999, Tyson was sentenced to a year's imprisonment, fined $5,000, and ordered to serve 2 years probation and perform 200 hours of community service for assaulting two motorists after a traffic accident on August 31, 1998.[64] He served nine months of that sentence. After his release he fought Orlin Norris on October 23, 1999. Tyson knocked Norris down with a left hook he threw after the bell sounded ending the first round. Norris injured his knee from the off-the-clinch-punch when he went down and said he was unable to continue the fight. Consequently, the bout was ruled a no contest.[65]

In 2000 Tyson had three fights. The first was staged at the MEN Arena, Manchester, England against Julius Francis. Following controversy as to whether Tyson should be allowed into the country, he took just 4 minutes to knock out Francis in the second round.[66] He also fought Lou Savarese in June 2000 in Glasgow, winning in the first round. The entire fight only lasted 38 seconds. Tyson continued punching after the referee had stopped the fight, knocking him to the floor as he tried to separate the boxers.[67] In October Tyson fought the similarly controversial Andrew Golota,[68] winning in round three after Golota refused to carry on. The result was later changed to no contest after Tyson refused to take a pre-fight drug test and then tested positive for marijuana in a post-fight urine test.[69] Tyson fought only once in 2001, beating Brian Nielsen in Copenhagen with a seventh round TKO.[70]

 Lewis vs Tyson

The Lewis-Tyson fight that took place on June 8, 2002, was one of the most anticipated heavyweight fights in years.
The Lewis-Tyson fight that took place on June 8, 2002, was one of the most anticipated heavyweight fights in years.

Tyson once again had the opportunity to fight for a heavyweight championship title in 2002, this time against his early career sparring partner Lennox Lewis[71] who held the WBC, IBF and IBO titles at the time. Like the Holyfield fights, various circumstances in 90s delayed any earlier match-up of Tyson with Lewis.[44] Tyson sought to fight Lewis in Nevada for a more lucrative box-office venue, but the Nevada boxing commission refused him a license to box as he was facing possible sexual assault charges at the time.[72]

Two years prior to the bout; in a post fight interview after the Savarese fight, Tyson had made several inflammatory remarks to Lewis, "I want your heart, I want to eat your children, praise be to Allah".[73] On January 22, 2002, a mass brawl involving the two boxers and their entourages occurred at a press conference held in New York to publicize the planned event.[74] The melee put paid to any chance of a Nevada fight and alternative arrangements had to be made, with the fight eventually occurring on June 8, at the Pyramid Arena in Memphis, Tennessee. Lewis dominated the fight and knocked out Tyson, who at 35 and clearly past his prime, in the eighth round. Tyson was magnanimous after the fight and praised Lewis on his victory.[75] This fight was the highest-grossing event in pay-per-view history, generating $106.9 million from 1.95 million buys in the USA.[52]

 Final fights, bankruptcy and retirement

On February 22, 2003, Tyson beat fringe contender Clifford Etienne 49 seconds into round one, once again in Memphis. The pre-fight was marred by rumors of Tyson's lack of fitness and that he took time out from training to party in Las Vegas and get a new facial tattoo.[76] This would be Tyson's final professional victory in the ring.

In August 2003, after years of financial struggles, Tyson finally filed for bankruptcy.[77] Tyson is said to have squandered nearly $300m in ring earnings through lavish spending and bad advice. In 2003, amid all his economic troubles, he was named by Ring Magazine at number 16, right behind Sonny Liston, among the 100 greatest punchers of all time.

On July 30, 2004, Tyson faced the British boxer Danny Williams in another comeback fight staged in Louisville, Kentucky. Tyson dominated the opening two rounds. The third round was more even, with Williams getting in some clean blows and also a few illegal ones, for which he was penalized. In the fourth round Tyson was surprisingly knocked out. It transpired that Tyson was trying to fight on one leg, having torn a ligament in his other knee in the first round. This was Tyson's fifth career defeat.[78] He underwent surgery for the ligament four days after the fight. His manager Shelly Finkel claimed that Tyson was unable to throw meaningful right-hand punches after the knee injury.[79]

On June 11, 2005, Tyson stunned the boxing world by quitting before the start of the seventh round in a close bout against journeyman Kevin McBride. After losing the third of his last four fights, Tyson said he would quit boxing because he hasn't "got the fighting guts or the heart anymore."[80]

 After professional boxing

Tyson has stayed in the limelight by promoting various websites and companies.[81] In the past Tyson had shunned endorsements, accusing other athletes of putting on a false front to obtain them.[82] He has also done entertainment boxing shows at a casino in Las Vegas[83] and started a tour of exhibition bouts to try ease his spiraling debts.[84]

On the front page of USA Today on June 3, 2005, Tyson was quoted as saying: "My whole life has been a waste - I've been a failure." He continued: "I just want to escape. I'm really embarrassed with myself and my life. I want to be a missionary. I think I could do that while keeping my dignity without letting people know they chased me out of the country. I want to get this part of my life over as soon as possible. In this country nothing good is going to come of me. People put me so high; I wanted to tear that image down."[85] Tyson began to spend much of his time tending to his coop of around 350 pigeons in Paradise Valley, an upscale enclave near Phoenix, Arizona.[86]

On December 29, 2006, Tyson was arrested in Scottsdale, Arizona on suspicion of DUI and felony drug possession after he nearly crashed into a police SUV shortly after leaving a night club. In a police probable cause statement filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, "He (Tyson) admitted to using (drugs) today and stated he is an addict and has a problem".[87] Tyson pleaded not guilty on January 22, 2007 in Maricopa County Superior Court to felony drug possession and paraphernalia possession counts and two misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence of drugs. On February 8, he subsequently checked himself into an inpatient treatment program for "various addictions" while awaiting trial on the drug charges.[88] Tyson is to stand trial in August, 2007, stemming from these charges.[89]

Marriage and children

Tyson has been legally married twice and has had children with several different women. His first marriage was to actress Robin Givens from February 7, 1988 - February 14, 1989.[23] Tyson's marriage to Givens was especially tumultuous with allegations of violence, spousal abuse and mental instability.[90] Matters came to a head when Tyson and Givens gave a joint interview with Barbara Walters on the ABC TV newsmagazine show 20/20 in September 1988, in which Givens described life with Tyson as, "torture, pure hell, worse than anything I could possibly imagine."[91] Givens also described Tyson as, "manic depressive" on national television while Tyson looked intently and calmly on.[90] A month later in October, Givens announced that she was seeking a divorce from Tyson.[90] Tyson's marriage to Givens did not result in any children.

His second marriage was to Monica Turner from April 19, 1997 - January 14, 2003.[92] At the time of the divorce filing, Turner worked as a pediatric resident at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington DC.[93] She is also the sister of Michael Steele, the former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland. Turner filed for divorce from Tyson in January 2002, claiming that he committed adultery during their five-year marriage, an act that "has neither been forgiven nor condoned."[93]

Tyson has 7 children: Gena, Mikey, D'Amato, Rayna, Amir, Miguel,and Exodus.[85] Rayna (born February 14, 1996) and Amir (August 5, 1997) are from his second marriage to Turner.[93]

 Mike Tyson in popular culture

At the height of his fame and career in the late 80s and throughout the 90s, Tyson was one of the most recognized sports personalities of the world. Apart from his many sporting accomplishments, his numerous outrageous and controversial behavior both in the boxing ring and in his private life has kept him constantly in the public eye. As such, Tyson has appeared in myriad popular media in either cameo appearances or as a subject of parody or satire.

Legacy

Although Tyson was considered a formidable champion during his prime, he lacked discipline and self control in and out of the ring, leading to personal problems and extended periods of imprisonment. After being released from his first prison sentence, Tyson's heavily anticipated comeback failed to reclaim his previous dominance. Tyson's greatest impact upon the boxing world was as a fighter during the 1980s, as the latter part of his career was overshadowed by controversy even though he eventually regained a title belt.