Mike Tyson – The Rise and Fall of a Champ! Who could ever forget the excitement a ferocious young Mike Tyson brought to the sport of boxing, walking to the ring already drenched in sweat wearing only shorts and boots, with a look of determination and intimidation that had most opponents beat before the first bell even sounded!
His early years were spent in a high crime neighborhood where bone crushing fights were a common occurrence. Since death was always around the corner and self-defense as necessary as bread and butter, Mike was inducted into the art of fighting at a very early age.
By the time he was 13, he had been arrested 38 times and petty crime became an everyday occurrence in his life. His latent boxing talent came to his aid in street fights and would later emerge as a fundamental aspect of his personality, thereby making him a boxing icon.
Childhood and early life
Born to Jimmy Kirkpatrick and Lorna Smith Tyson in Brooklyn, New York, Mike Tyson was one of the three children of the couple. He had an elder brother Rodney and a sister Denise who passed away in 1991 due to heart attack. Additionally, he also had a half-brother Jimmie Lee Kirkpatrick from Kirkpatrick’s earlier marriage.
Kirkpatrick abandoned the family after the birth of young Tyson. Succumbing to the financial burden, the family relocated from Bedford-Stuyvesant to Brownsville when Tyson was ten years of age.
Ever since his early years, Tyson was involved in fights; of course those at this stage were basically only for personal reasons and did not have a professional ground. He resorted to his fist to solve problems of bullying. By the time Tyson stepped into teenage, he had already been arrested 38 times for knocking out grown men from the street.
Young Tyson completed his schooling from Tryon School for Boys in Johnstown, New York. It was there that Bobby Stewart, a juvenile detention center counselor and former boxer, noticed Tyson’s boxing skills. He honed them a little before introducing the destined-to-be champion to Cus D’Amato.
Under D`Amato’s guidance, Tyson trained for the sport. He was under the full-time custody of D`Amato who set a rigorous training schedule for the aspiring boxer. Tyson attended Catskill High School by the day and practiced in the ring by the evening. However, he did not graduate from the school and left his studies as a junior.
Amateur boxing career
Tyson’s training was very well evident in his performance at the Junior Olympic Games in 1981 and 1982, where he won gold medals by convincingly, beating opponents Joe Cortez and Kelton Brown, respectively.
He fought against the eventual 1984 Summer Olympics heavyweight gold medalist Henry Tillman twice in the trials, losing on both occasions. Failing to make it to the Olympics team, Tyson turned professional.
Professional boxing career
His professional debut fight was against Hector Mercedes on March 6, 1985. He won the same in the first round knockout itself.
In his first year, Tyson won 26 of the 28 fights that he participated in, 16 of which he won in the first round itself. Slowly graduating up the ladder, Tyson fought against veteran journeyman fighters and borderline contenders like James Tillis, David Jaco, Jesse Ferguson, Mitch Green and Marvis Frazier.
Tyson’s back-to-back victories brought him under media attention, who billed him as the future heavyweight champion. While his career was progressing upwards, Tyson faced turmoil outside the ring as his friend, philosopher and guide D`Amato left for the heavenly abode. Rooney filled up for the shoes of D`Amato.
Tyson’s first televised fight was against Jesse Ferguson. He stumped the opponent by breaking the latter’s nose in the fifth round. By the sixth round, Tyson was declared a winner.
By the age of 20, Tyson had won a record 22 back-to-back matches, 21 of those victories coming from knockout.
His string of victories finally brought him his first title fight against Trevor Berbick for the World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight championship. On November 22, 1986 Tyson defeated Berbick in the second round knockout and at the age of 20 years and 4 months became the youngest heavyweight champion in history.
The glory years
Tyson’s win at the World Boxing Council was just the beginning of the many more to come. He defended his title by winning against James Smith to bag the World Boxing Association title as well.
His ambitious campaign to fight all the heavyweight champions in the world moved a stepped further as he knocked-out Pinklon Thomas in the sixth round and Tony Tucker in the twelfth round to win the latter’s International Boxing Federation title. With this, Tyson became the first fighter to hold the WBC, WBA and IBF titles in a single year, 1987.
Same year, Tyson defeated the 1984 Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist Tyrell Biggs by knocking him out in the seventh round.
In the year 1988, Tyson enjoyed being on top of the ranks in the boxing world. Having become popular as a ferocious fighter, his reputation grew by leaps and bounds after each successful outing.
Tyson competed against the top class legendary players James, ‘Bonecrusher’ Smith, Larry Holmes, Tony Tubbs, and Michael Spinks. While Holmes was a former champion, Spinks was a lineal champion who claimed to be the true heavyweight champion. Tyson knocked out Holmes in the fourth round (the latter’s first knockout in 75 professional bouts), and Spinks in the first round itself (the richest fight in history).
Tyson’s win over Spinks in flat 91 seconds in the first round was the zenith of his success. Expected to be the clash of the season, the stakes were high for the bout as Tyson’s aggressive infighting was against Spinks’ skillful out-boxing and footwork. Post the match, Tyson’s fame and recognition in the boxing world zoomed to reach the sky. As for Spinks’, he never played a match since his defeat.
The downfall of a champ!
Tyson’s glorious years were short-lived though. While his personal life was in turmoil, his professional life too was inflicted with chaos and mayhem. Rooney was fired and so was manager Bill Cayton. Don King filled up the space for the two but his alliance with this notable boxer did more harm than good.
Tyson changed his boxing style which led to his decline and downfall. Rather than draining out boxers with body blows, Tyson looked to finish the game in the first round itself and concentrated solely on the head.
Year 1989 saw Tyson in two matches against British boxer Frank Bruno and Carl ‘The Truth’ Williams. Though both the bouts turned out successful for him, Tyson’s magical capabilities as a boxer were heavily doubted.
The crack in the armor was prevalent in the 1990 fight against Buster Douglas. Despite being the betting favorite and experts’ choice, Tyson failed to match up to Douglas, who landed a flurry of blows on Tyson to lay him out of the canvas in the tenth round. This was the first time Tyson faced such a defeat. He did not just lose the match but lost the undisputed championship as well.
The result of the match sent a wave of shock to the sports fraternity across the globe. The ferocious fighter, the brutal puncher and the undefeatable champion had lost his charm and his defeat meant the end of an era.
Tyson, eager to revive his image of the most feared boxer, had a couple of fights scheduled for the next year. He won back to back matches against Henry Tillman and Alex Stewart. Though his match against Donovan Ruddock was stopped in the middle with Tyson being declared the winner, to shoo his critics the two met again with Tyson claiming a victory in a twelve round unanimous decision.
Tyson’s next outing was against the reigning champion Evander Holyfield at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. However, he backed out from the fight due to rib cartilage injury.
In 1991, just when his professional life seemed to get back on track, Tyson was arrested for raping Desiree Washington, Miss Black Rhode Island.
In 1992, he was convicted on the rape charge was sentenced to six years in prison followed by four years on probation.
While serving his sentence, Tyson went into intense reflection and converted into Islam, receiving the name Malik Abdul Aziz. Reading philosophical books cast an influential role in the mind of Tyson who resolved to lead a disciplined life.
He was released in March 1995 after serving three years. However, upon returning from the jail, his alliance with Don King disrupted his theory of leading a disciplined life as he resolved to bizarre behavior.
Popularly known for his terrorizing power and intimidating temperament, Tyson quickly climbed up the ladder of success under the strong guidance of Cus D’Amato and Rooney to earn the nicknames ‘Iron Mike’ and ‘the baddest man on planet’. He was popular for defeating his opponents with a single blow.
Tyson dominant performance at the sports saw him reach the pinnacle of success, by becoming the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.
But just as quickly did Tyson climb the ladder of success, he went into the pitfall with the same speed, courtesy his tarnished childhood, poverty-stricken upbringing, poor judgement and criminal behavior. As such, when he was enjoying raving success and was at the peak of his power, Tyson suffered from serious blows due to his bizarre behavior, rape conviction, financial loss, bankruptcy and imprisonment.
His biting off the ear of opponent Evander Holyfield was the zenith as the world wrote him off as a damaged animal incapable of existing outside the ring.
Stars rise and fall, but Tyson has succeeded in securing a permanent place for himself in the annals of boxing and will always be remembered for his stunning knockout victories. Mike Tyson – The Rise and Fall of a Champ!