Mike Tyson (Michael Gerard “Mike” Tyson) is one of the greatest boxers the world has ever seen. If statistics are anything to go by, of a total of 58 bouts that he took part in, Tyson won 50, out of which 44 were straight knockouts, and lost only 6. Also, he has in his name the record of being the youngest boxer to win the WBC, WBA and IBF world heavyweight titles. He was just 20 years, 4 months and 22 days old when he achieved the feat. Tyson’s life both inside and outside the ring remained ‘extraordinary’ throughout.
Tyson’s life did not start well. Born on June 30, 1966 in Brooklyn, New York City, Tyson had a sister, who died at the age of 25 in 1991, and a brother, Rodney, five years elder to him. Tyson’s father left the family for good when he was two years old, and his mother, Lorna Smith Tyson, had to bring her kids up on her own. The family was forced to shift from Bedford-Stuyvesant to Brownsville due to financial reason when Tyson was just 10. His mother lived for another six years and died when he was 16. Tyson had already started boxing by then and was under the tutelage and care of his trainer and manager, Cus D’Amato, who also became his legal guardian after the demise of Tyson’s mother.
Tyson was never close to his mother and always felt that he never made her happy or proud. The complex might have been psychologically devastating for him. “I never got a chance to talk to her or know about her. Professionally, it has no effect, but it’s crushing emotionally and personally,” he was quoted as saying once.
The neighbourhood Tyson grew up in had a very high crime rate, and the environment did rub off on him. He was frequently involved in small crimes and by the time he was 13 he had already been arrested no less than 38 times. His boxing abilities were first discovered at school by one Bobby Stewart, a former boxer and a counselor with a juvenile detention center. Stewart found Tyson to be a great fighter and after training him for a short while he introduced the little fighter to Cus D’Amato, who honed Tyson’s fighting skills further.
Tyson’s career as an amateur boxer began in 1981 itself and he did manage to impress many by his skills winning every single bout at the Junior Olympic Games by knockout in both 1981 and 1982 and winning gold medal in both the years.
However, his moment of professional glory arrived on March 6, 1985 in Albany, New York, where, as an 18-year-old, he out-punched Hector Mercedes in a first round knockout. And the winning streak of one of the best boxers in the history of the world commenced, and Tyson closed his first year in professional boxing with 15-0 straight knockout wins, and the count was bettered to 27 consecutive wins before Tyson was face to face with Trevor Berbick in the ring in November 1986 to fight for his first heavyweight title – the World Boxing Council (WBC) title. It took a mere six minutes in the ring for Tyson to become the youngest man to win a heavyweight title ever at the age of 20 years and four months. It was a second round TKO (Technical Knockout) win, and thus the streak of consecutive knockouts continued for Tyson. However, his mentor, D’Amato died in November 1985 itself, and could not see Tyson’s meteoric rise.
Tyson registered a comprehensive victory over James Smith on March 7, 1987, in Las Vegas, Nevada, by a unanimous decision winning the World Boxing Association (WBA) title. And when he took the International Boxing Federation (IBF) title from Tony Tucker in a twelve round unanimous decision on August 1, 1987, he became the first ever boxer to hold all three major heavyweight titles – WBA, WBC, and IBF – at the same time. Tyson was the undisputed world champion – the reigning lord of the boxing world.
All went well for Tyson and his career until late next year when a number of things started getting wrong one after the other from career to personal life. His marriage with Robin Givens ran into rough weather and the couple was in for a divorce. There was dispute over his next contract between Don King and Bill Cayton, and he had fired his longtime trainer, Kevin Rooney, who had been his trainer since 1985, which had an adverse effect on his training discipline, which was to soon show in his performance. By 1990, his personal life and training was in big mess resulting in bad performance against Buster Douglas on February 11, 1990 in Tokyo. Douglas sent Tyson down in a knockout for the first time ever in the 10th round.
Tyson recovered from the defeat soon enough with a series of knockouts, and by then Evander Holyfield had already taken the title from Douglas in Douglas’s very first defense of the title. Tyson was to take on Holyfield in the ring on November 8, 1991, but the fight had to be postponed owing a rib cartilage injury sustained by Tyson during a training session. By then, Tyson was already facing a major crisis outside the ring.
In July 1991, Tyson was arrested on rape charges after 18-year-old Desiree Washington, accused him of sexually assaulting her in an Indianapolis hotel room. Washington testified Tyson called her at around 1:36 a.m. on July 19, 1991 inviting her over to a party, and was picked by Tyson in his limousine. She was then driven to his hotel room, where Tyson forced himself upon her. Later, she ran out and asked Tyson’s driver to drive her back to her place. Tyson’s driver testified to the effect that he did notice Washington’s disheveled and shocked state. Medical examination also revealed that Washington displayed physical signs consistent with rape. However, Tyson claimed that the sexual intercourse took place with Washington’s consent, and he did not force himself upon her.
Tyson’s rape trial was conducted in the Indianapolis courthouse from January 26, 1992 to February 10, 1992, and resulted in his conviction with the jury delivering the verdict on February 10, 1992 itself after deliberating for 10 hours. Tyson’s appeal from the judgment was rejected by Indian Court of Appeals by a 2-1 vote.
Tyson was awarded 10 years, six in prison and four on probation. He was sent to the Indiana Youth Center in April 1992, but was released after serving three years in March 1995. While he was in prison, Tyson converted to Islam and also visited Mecca on July 2, 2010 to perform the Umrah .
Originally written for and published in LAWYERS UPDATE as a part of ‘THE LAW AND THE CELEBRITIES‘ series in January 2012.