Some sports personalities are bigger than the industry, to the point that they become recognized stars for more than their crafts. Famous athletes such as Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning, Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham, LeBron James, Sidney Crosby, Ronda Rousey and others are seen as brands who are featured in huge advertising campaigns. Before all of them made millions of dollars, a young boxing phenom known as “Iron” Mike Tyson was the hottest athlete on the planet. Tyson became a household name among diehard boxing fanatics and casual sports fans who were drawn to him because of his knockout power that ended fight after fight in seconds.
The life and times of Tyson read like a novel or a movie script that would not be all that believable except for the fact that much of his adulthood has occurred in public. The highest of highs for Tyson included a run as the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, making a small fortune when he was the top boxer in the world, and being the key figure of a beloved video Nintendo video game that was named in his honor. His lows, of course, landed Tyson behind bars. Numerous regrettable moments that occurred inside of boxing rings can also be added to the list.
Tyson has not been a perfect man during his life. He would be the first person to tell you this and the retired boxer, who had nicknames such as “The baddest man on the planet” and “Kid Dynamite,” has publicly spoken about his flaws and his regrets in interviews. Maybe his honesty about his life coupled with nostalgia and memories had by fans who watched Tyson nearly 30 years ago all explain why he has remained so beloved among so many individuals. Tyson still commands attention whenever he makes appearances and he is widely regarded as one of the more popular and well-known boxers in history.
15. Tyson’s First Victory Came Against Childhood Obesity
Those who watched Tyson in his prime probably have visions of the cut and muscular version of the boxer who was in tremendous physical shape. That was not always the case. Tyson spoke about being overweight as a child during an interview segment on television show Access Hollywood in March of 2011: “I was skipping school because I used to be an overweight kid with glasses, so every time I went to school people would just kick the crap out of me.” Boxing fans can be grateful that Tyson, who reportedly was around 200 pounds as a youth, found the motivation to get in better shape as a teenager.
14. Tyson Overcame Fears of Boxing
The documentary Tyson was released in 2008. It featured segments in which the man himself talked about different portions of his life. Years before he was known as a menacing figure who legitimately intimidated opponents as a professional, Tyson was an amateur who doubted his own skills. He even attempted to flee a tournament via a train because he was so consumed with doubt. Unable to do so, Tyson made his way back to the competition. Tyson was unstoppable, winning every one of his fights in the tournament by knockout. It is hard to imagine that the same Tyson who knocked grown men out cold was once just a scare amateur like so many before and after him.
13. Tyson Abstained From Sex For Years
The famous line associated with the first movie of the Rocky series claimed that “women weaken legs.” It turns out that life imitated art, or maybe that is the other way around. Tyson has claimed that he abstained from sex when he was making his way through the ranks so that he could be the best possible fighter. He did so, according to his claims, for five years. That is quite the dedication to your craft, especially considering the life that Tyson would lead after he became a celebrity. One cannot argue with success and Tyson’s many successes speak to the positive nature of this career decision.
12. Tyson Learned From Losing
There is an old adage in the sports world that one must learn how to deal with losing before he can win. That may have been the case for Tyson, who did not bring a perfect record into his professional career. Tyson lost a pair of amateur bouts to Henry Tillman. The second defeat to Tillman visibly upset Tyson so much that he seemed to be attempting to escape the ring immediately after the decision. Perhaps the pain that he felt after losing helped fuel the fire for Tyson even more once he turned pro. Tyson would ultimately get a bit of revenge on Tillman. More on that later.
11. Tyson Had Punching Power Early As A Pro
Highlight reels of Tyson knocking opponents out at pay-per-view shows in front of thousands and thousands of fans can be found on websites such as YouTube. ESPN, to this day, may occasionally air a program dedicated to some of the best knockouts of Tyson’s career. Tyson had that explosive knockout power early in his career before the majority of casual fans knew his name. His first two fights both ended in first-round knockouts. Of his 16 first pro battles, 12 were recorded as either first-round KO or first-round TKO victories for the man who would go on to make history in several ways.
10. Tyson Makes History
It was November 22nd, 1986 when Tyson entered the ring to face off with Trevor Berbick. Berbick did well to survive the first round. He did not, however, make it through the second before he was just the latest knockout victim of Tyson. By winning the WBC Heavyweight Championship on that night, Tyson became the youngest Heavyweight Champion in boxing history. A confident Tyson reportedly said the following to his manager after entering his name into the record books: “I’m the youngest heavyweight boxing champion in history, and I’m going to be the oldest.” That, unfortunately for Tyson, would not be the case.
9. Tyson’s Fight Style
It has, over time, been accepted by some that Tyson was merely a brawler who did not have much technical skill. That is not at all an accurate assessment of Tyson, particularly of the young man who was so dominant inside of the ring. Mentor and tutor Cus D’Amato taught Tyson was is referred to as a “Peek-A-Boo” style, one that had Tyson hold both hands up high for protection. This made it easy for Tyson to avoid taking damage as he approached opponents to land blows of his own. Once he closed the gap, Tyson, somewhat of a shorter
Heavyweight boxer, was able to unleash his arsenal of punches.
8. Tyson Makes History II
Tyson was already holding the WBC and WBA Heavyweight Championships when he entered the ring to fight Tony Tucker on August 1, 1987. Tucker was the IBF Champion at the start of the evening. That title belonged to Tyson when the two athletes left the ring. This is significant because the victory made Tyson the first recognized Heavyweight boxer in history to own three major belts. Tyson was seemingly on his way to becoming one of the greatest pound-for-pound boxers in history, as nobody could touch him at this stage of his career. What some have called his best ever performance was still to come.
7. Tyson: The Career Killer
Michael Spinks was an accomplished boxer who had notched 31 victories without a single defeat when he and Tyson met in the summer of 1988. Some believed that Spinks would have the skills to avoid Tyson’s punishing blows while at the same time doing enough to make the fight interesting. Those hopes ended for good after two knockdowns and 91 seconds of action. Tyson made Spinks look like an under-trained amateur not ready for the bright lights, and Spinks made a major career decision after that night: He retired. Spinks never boxed as a pro again.
6. Tyson’s “Punch-Out!!” Was a Huge Hit
Would Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! have been such a massive hit among Nintendo owners had the game had some anonymous figure serving as the final opponent for main character Little Mac? One can’t say for sure, but what is known, according to ESPN and other sources, is that Punch-Out!! with Tyson on the cover and in the game sold roughly two million units. Part of the allure and fun of the title was wanting to play the role of the person who was actually able to take Tyson down, even if you were only beating an animated version of the actual champion. This is the first of two times that Punch-Out!! will be referenced in this piece.
5. After His First Loss
Some television specials and written biographies looking to breeze through portions of Tyson’s life and career may lead you to believe that his sexual assault trial occurred almost immediately after his shocking defeat to Buster Douglas. Tyson actually had four other fights before that trial. He avenged those amateur defeats to the previously mentioned Tillman with a first-round knockout. Tyson then made quick work of Alex Stewart. The first run of Tyson’s pro career ended with back-to-back victories over Donovan Roddick. Tyson won the initial encounter after the ref controversially stopped the bout near the end of the seventh round. The rematch also went to Tyson, this time via decision.
4. Tyson’s Acting Debut
Tyson has had multiple acting roles at different parts of his life. His scene in the movie The Hangover that includes Tyson knocking one of the characters unconscious was used in promotional clips that aired in theaters and also during national television advertisements. Long before Tyson was in those movies, he played himself on an episode of the television show Webster. In “The K.O. Kid,” a pair of gloves autographed by Tyson are accidentally damaged. There are, as of the posting of this piece, free and legal ways for you to watch that episode. We, thus, won’t be posting any spoilers!
3. Tyson: Highest-Paid Athlete in the World
It is not uncommon that the best boxer on the planet would be the highest-paid athlete in the world. That was the case in 1990 according to the Topend Sports website. A post, referencing a list put together by Forbes in August of that year, claimed that Tyson had made $28.6 million over a 12-month period. Buster Douglas and Sugar Ray Leonard fell beneath Tyson. Much lower on the list was a National Basketball Association talent named Michael Jordan. The man who would become a sports and business icon made $8.1 million that year. Jordan would go on to do much better for himself in later years.
2. Tyson Never Played “Punch-Out!!” Until…
Pro athletes brag about their video game skills via social media websites such as Twitter. Some, such as former National Football League wide receiver Chad Johnson, have even challenged fans to games of FIFA. Tyson was apparently too busy to play video games when he was the champion of the world. He claims that he never once played Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! during the game’s glory years. Tyson finally got the chance to do so in August of 2013 thanks to FOX Sports 1.
1. Mike Tyson Cares
The days of Tyson being an elite fighter with dangerous power were but a memory in November 2012. That is when Tyson launched an organization known as the Mike Tyson Cares Foundation. The mission of the foundation, according to its official website:
The mission of the Mike Tyson Cares Foundation is to “give kids a fighting chance” by providing innovative centers that provide for the comprehensive needs of kids from broken homes.
These needs may include healthcare assistance, shelter, school assistance, mentoring, job placement assistance and such other needs as determined by the center for the overall well being of the child.
In addition financial support and / or services may be provided to other charitable organizations that emulate and further the mission of the Mike Tyson Cares Foundation.
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