The Life of Iconic Boxer Mike Tyson
| LAST UPDATE 03/13/2022
From biting off a piece of an ear to starring in a one-man show, Mike Tyson has lived a legendary life. Here are some of the unique experiences the professional boxer has gone through during his 55 years on earth.
White Bengal Tigers
When Tyson was behind bars, he decided that when got out he wanted to own tigers. But instead of waiting until being released, Mike called his car guy, and soon enough, the boxer owned three white Bengal tigers.
The large cats set Tyson back 70 grand and at least 4k a month just to maintain them. That was a big investment for a pet! So when Mike filed for bankruptcy in 2003, he had to say goodbye to the furry animals. To this day, people aren't sure where the tigers are.
Love For Birds
It seems like Tyson was a fan of all animals, big or small. The pugilist is a big fan of birds, but rather than having them as house pets, Tyson works hard to make sure the flying creatures have freedom. When he did own birds, it was only to care for their well-being.
He once revealed to the Daily Record, “I have loved pigeons since I was nine…I was fat and ugly. Kids teased me all the time." Sadly, Tyson had a difficult upbringing, where he grew up impoverished and without knowing his dad. “The only joy I had was pigeons.”
The happiness that birds gave him didn't just last through his childhood. At one point in his life, Tyson had owned at last 350 pigeons, which he kept in a coupe in Jersey City, New Jersey. If it wasn't for Tyson's love of birds, who knows if he would have gone on to become arguably one of the best boxers.
He shared with the New York Times a memory, "When a bully that was antagonizing me [hurt] one of my birds in front of me, I snapped and began fighting him. If it weren’t for this guy hurting my beloved animal, I may not have ever had the desire to fight."
Tyson vs. Brad Pitt
In the '80s, Mike Tyson was married to Robin Givens until the two ended the marriage. Although they weren't together legally, the boxer said the couple was still seeing each other intimately. That was until Tyson walked in on Givens and actor Brad Pitt.
In his memoir Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth, the former boxer revealed what really went down that day. Apparently Pitt, "looked ready to receive his last rites.” The Moneyball star begged Tyson, “Dude, don’t strike me, don’t strike me. We were just going over some lines. She was talking about you the whole time."
In 1991, the comedy cartoon The Simpsons included a character that eerily resembled Tyson. Not only was Drederick Tatum a boxer who liked enticing animals, but he also physically looked like Tyson. From his high-pitched voice to the lisp and the buzzcut that he had at the time.
Tatum was, in fact, inspired by the fighter. When the real Tyson found out about the cartoon, he wasn't upset. He told shortlist.com, “I’m used to people making cartoon characters of me so I’ve never seen it as offensive. I’m not some superhero, I’m just an entertainer."
As a reigning world champion, Tyson had been in the ringer numerous times in his career, but never before had he been knocked out. That was until February 11th, 1990, when possibly one of the most legendary dismays that has happened in the boxing industry occurred.
During the 10th round, Tyson's opponent, Buster Doughlas, stunned viewers when he caused him to fall onto the mat from the hit. The winner was questioned how this was possible, "Because of my mother… God bless her heart," he responded since she had passed away a few days before the fight took place.
Tyson Vs. Gorilla
While visiting the New York Zoo with his then-partner Robin Givens, Tyson encountered trouble at the gorilla cage. “When we got to the gorilla cage there was one big silverback gorilla there just bullying all the other gorillas,” he recalled to The Sun. Since Mike was bullied as a kid, this didn't sit right with him.
"They were so powerful but their eyes were like an innocent infant. I offered the attendant $10,000 to open the cage and let [me] smash that silverback’s snotbox! He declined," he said. Tyson may be known as one of the strongest boxers, but silverbacks are roughly 450 pounds. We wonder who would have won this fight.
"Bad Man" Don King
Fights don't just take place inside the ringer for Mike. The boxer has had a feud with Don King over finance woes. According to Tyson, King, who promoted the fights and dealt with the cash, stole up to $50 million. "Wretched, slimy, reptilian mother (expletive) … He’s just a bad man, a real bad man," said Mike.
Their disagreement even turned physical. “Don picked us up at the private airport in his Rolls,” Tyson expressed. “We were driving down to Miami from Fort Lauderdale on the I-95. Don said some innocuous thing and all that jealousy and rage spilled out of me and I kicked him in his [explicit] head.”
As Mike Tyson was having an ecstatic night, his friend Tupac Shakur was having a devasting one. The hip-hop star was in the audience when Tyson knocked out Bruce Selon on the first round of the WBA Heavyweight championship fight. Little did they know how pivotal this night would be.
Not only was it the last time Tyson won a heavyweight championship, but it was the night the legendary rapper tragically passed away. Tupac was immediately taken to the hospital for the fatal wound, but unfortunately, he passed away 6 days later. At least he got to see his friend in the ring one last time.
The Bite Fight
During a turn of events, Evander Holyfield knocked Tyson down, giving him an upset victory on November 8, 1996. The next year, a rematch took place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena In Las Vegas. The June 28th, 1997 fight was known as Holyfield versus Tyson II, or the “Bite Fight."
Fans knew this would be an intense match, but what happened would have never been foreseen. During the 3rd round, Tyson bit off 1 inch of Holyfield's ear and spat it out onto the mat. After the boxer received medical attention, the two continued going at it.
Back At It
Tyson and Holyfield were back on the canvas during their rematch when he struck again. Mike bite his rival's cartilage once more. Finally, the referee understood he needed to end the fight once and for all. Holyfield was named the winner of the WBA Heavyweight Championship.
Not only did Tyson lose his license to fight, but he had to pay a fine of 3 million dollars. After 18 months of being prohibited from boxing, he was back in the ring. But, unfortunately, the "Bite Fight" was the last time he fought for the WBA title.
Mike Tyson has been through it all when it comes to his love life. The professional boxer's not only dated numerous partners but he has been through two public, messy divorces. The craziness stopped when he and Lakiha “Kiki” Spicer got married in 2009.
Tyson revealed to DND India, during an interview, why he had struggled so much with his past relationships. He explained he had “no concept of love,” and he finally comprehended that he was “tired of being alone and tired of not having that intimacy.”
A Rough Childhood
The notorious pugilist not only had a wild adult life, but his upbringing was no picnic. If it wasn't for the hardships and difficulties he went through, who knows if Tyson would have become the boxer he is today. The athlete grew up in a Brooklyn, New York neighborhood.
When he was 2 years old, his father abandoned the family, leaving Tyson's mom alone. His mom, with whom Mike had a rough relationship, passed away when he was 16. Things weren't much better outside his home. He wrote in his book, “[I] was eleven or twelve and was fighting guys in their thirties, I got beat up a lot.”
Tyson's Teenager Years
Although Tyson dealt with numerous difficulties in his young life, the experiences molded him into the man he grew into. The hardship didn't stop when Tyson got older, as he began to deal with more than just physical fights. Tyson started to be involved in robberies and petty theft.
He first dabbled in substances at the young age of 11, and by the time he was 13, Tyson had been taken into custody at least 38 times. The young boy spent a lot of time at Bridges Juvenile Center, which he called a “rat-infested hellhole,” in his book, Iron Ambition: My Life with Cus D’Amato.
Substances were unfortunately given to Tyson when he was just a child. He continued to use well past his youth, even mentioning in his book, Undisputed Truth, that he was fully dependent. According to Mike, he was even under the influence during fights against Lou Savarese, Danny Williams, and Andrew Golota.
He was also under the influence during a boxing match with Lennox Lewis. The press conference that took place for that fight ended up making headlines when Tyson attacked the reporters. It's possible he was in the same mentality during the "bite fight."
His Carless Mother
Tyson's youth was a struggle. His troubles might have started when he was so young because as a kid, Tyson's mom would use substances to make him fall asleep. It seems her neglect seeped into Tysons adult life. Even when he began gaining fame from boxing, she was unsupportive.
"My mother never believed in me,” Tyson said to the Guardian. “Even when I started doing well in boxing and people were writing about me she thought I was insane. I’d tell her: ‘Read this article, Mom.’ She'd say: ‘Yeah, I’ll read it later…’ She didn’t have any hope in me because I let her down so much."
No Brotherly Bond
Tyson didn't just have an unfortunate relationship with his parents, but also with his older brother, Rodney. The big bro worked at a hospital in California as a Physicians' Assistant. The two are only 5 years apart, and even though they both went through a hard childhood together, they hardly talk to one another.
Tyson was once asked how often the brothers meet up, to which he responded, “Not much. It’s the really sad part about my family. We don’t have a close connection. Too many demons, too much pain.” When asked if Rodney had read his younger bro's book, Tyson said, "He’s just so far away from that world," while shaking his head no.
Bridges Juveline Center
Tyson spent plenty of time at Bridges Juveline Center, yet it never seemed to help stop his rough behaviors. Even while being locked up, the teenager would have aggressive outbreaks. Ultimately he was sent off to a detention center called The Tryon School for Boys in upstate New York.
Once again, his wild side came out. Tyson recalled in his book Iron Ambition, "I began to get a rep. Mike Tyson – the psycho crazy guy, the sick f— who would walk up and punch you in the face or throw hot water on you.” We're really starting to understand why he ended up in his chosen profession.
The Star of the Show
Along with being a professional boxer, Tyson decided he wanted to add actor to his resume. In 2012, he starred in his very own one-man Broadway show, named Mike Tyson: The Undisputed Truth. He created it with the help of director Spike Lee and his wife Kiki.
The show was said to provide “audiences with tales of victory, tragedy, and redemption. Tyson delivers captivating vignettes from his life, experiences as a professional athlete, and controversies in between." The cliched approach to reinventing Tyson's public image got backlash from some. Still, critics enjoyed how it pushed the limits.
Another Cartoon Mike
The Simpsons weren't the only show to have a cartoon version of the notorious boxer. Mike Tyson was also a lead character on an Adult Swim show titled Mike Tyson Mysteries. The series followed Tyson as he solved mysteries in the same manner as the show Scooby-Doo.
When Tyson was first approached with the idea, he was hesitant. But after learning more about it, he said it “looked good. It looked like a real cartoon. Now when they call me to do the show, I run to it because I know it’s gonna be sensational.” The cartoon has been renewed for four seasons due to its success.
Tyson Vs. Fans
Mike Tyson has occasionally taken his fighting abilities and placed them on individuals outside of the ring. In 2003, several fans of the boxer approached him in hopes of getting an autograph. Unfortunately, they chose a bad time to do so since he was in a bad mood and had a bad temper.
He said, "I chased them into the lobby and up the escalator. We got top of the escalator and I knocked one of them out with one punch. The other guy was hiding behind the front desk and I pulled him out and hit him. He was spared when hotel security came.”
As a pro boxer, we're sure Tyson got tested for substances, so how did the boxer not get disqualified for his using? Well, as it turns out, he tricked the system by handing in someone else's fluids so the test came out clean and he could continue with his career.
Since those administering the test would be in the same room as Tyson when he went to the bathroom, he had to get creative. "If you’re a guy and you pull it out in front of them, they’re like, ‘Whoa, whoa' [makes motion shielding eyes and looking away], and then you do it."
Life Behind Bars
Tyson spent time in juvie and then again in prison later on in his life. In 1992, the athlete was sentenced to 10 years behind bars after he was found guilty of assaulting Miss Black America, Desiree Washington. The crime took place in a hotel room in Indianapolis.
But Tyson got lucky when he was locked up and had things easier than the other inmates. While the other criminals had to follow the rules, the boxer was busy being intimate with one of the workers. His prison privilege only lasted 3 years before he was released.
Fun In Prison
Although Tyson was no longer in prison, a part of him was left behind. The guard who he had been secretly seeing had become pregnant with the famous boxer's child. Tyson recounted the events in his book, "In prison, stuff happens. But she had no baby.”
“Yeah, I had a female counselor and we’d do it for a long time. I had some good days in there... I was too tired to even go to the gym and work out. I’d just stay in my cell all day,” he recalled. And while he was in the cell, he also got to enjoy delicious meals like lobster.
Instead of working out while behind bars, Tyson embarked on a spiritual path. During his 23 hours a day in solitary confinement, Tyson made sure to read as many books as he could. Especially definitive ones written by profound writers such as Marx, Shakespeare, and Tolstoy.
Being in isolation even led Tyson on a religious journey. He started reading the Quran, and eventually, Mike converted to Islam and asked people to call him Malik Abdul Aziz. “I’m very grateful to be a Muslim. Allah doesn’t need me, I need Allah," he explained to Fox 411.
Tyson is probably well-known for his face tattoos, but he also has other ink on his body. The reading he did is what led Tyson to get a tattoo of Mao Zedong, the first leader of communist China. The fighter explained that when he traveled to china he, “felt really insignificant next to the remains of Chairman Mao."
"Down in the hole, they thought they were punishing me in that little room: no toilet, no bed. I got myself put down there so I could read Chairman Mao and not have to deal with all the prison bulls***,” Tyson said to The Guardian. “'No investigation, no right to speak.’ That’s the thing that stuck.”
Arguably a majority of individuals recognize Mike Tyson for his iconic face tattoo. After he went to a shop in New York, Tyson showcased the massive tribal tattoo in 2003. Which was roughly around the same time that his acclaimed career was starting to dwindle.
Originally he wanted heart tattooes so he could be known as a "man of hearts." That was until the tattoo designer convinced him otherwise. He said, "A lot of stuff happened out of this tattoo, a lot of good stuff. Other young athletes come to me and said, ‘It’s because of you they call [the tribal design] the Mike Tyson.'"
His Chest Tattoo
The meaning of the large tattoo of Che's face that is located on the left side of Iron Mike's chest remains unknown. Maybe it was also influenced by all the literature Tyson studied in prison. Especially since he often focused on renowned historic figures.
The profound boxer once briefly discussed the reason behind the Che Guevara Portrait, "Guevara is an incredible individual. He had so much, but sacrificed it all for the benefit of other people." We're wondering how many more influential leaders he'll have inked on his body.
The Hangover Cameo
After his boxing career slowed down, Mike started to have small roles in many movies. One notable role was during a cameo as himself in the 2009 comedy The Hangover. The reason he took the gig was that he had always had enjoyed acting, but also because he needed money.
The celeb received $100,000 for the small role, and since then, he continued making appearances. For the second Hangover movie, Tyson was given double the amount he was paid previously. He admitted during an interview with Yahoo! Sports, “I’m on this movie, I’m doing this set, and stuff, and I’m just a mess back then."
Mike and Madonna
Boxing, acting, and singing: Iron Mike has an impressive resume. Along with movies, Mike made a small appearance on one of Madonna's songs, Iconic, which was released in 2015. His part on the track that Tyson sang was influenced by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
“You watch Mussolini on television — even though we don’t understand what he’s saying — he is so mesmerizing. I look at myself in that way,” Tyson explained. “He had that street swag; he was doing this stuff with his hands and moving his head before it was even hip-hop.”