Michael Gerard Tyson, a.k.a. "Malik Abdul Aziz" (via Islamic conversion) - born June 30, 1966, Brooklyn, New York, USA - is a former American professional boxer and World Heavyweight Champion, and is considered by many to be one of the greatest and most feared heavyweight boxers of all time. In his prime, he routinely defeated prominent opponents in devastating fashion, and was one of the most feared boxers in the sport, known by such nicknames as "Iron" Mike Tyson, Kid Dynamite, and The Baddest Man on the Planet. His once immensely promising career was undermined by serious personal problems, lack of preparation, and periods of imprisonment. Upon release following his first prison sentence, he made a heavily anticipated comeback, but failed to reclaim his previous dominance. On June 11, 2005, Tyson suffered a defeat to journeyman Kevin McBride, and shortly after unofficially retired from the sport.
Born and raised in the notorious Brownsville section of Brooklyn to parents Lorna Smith Tyson and Jimmy Kirkpatrick, Tyson has a respect and knowledge of his sport's history, and has been called boxing's most vicious practitioner. His early childhood was marked by poverty and unhappiness, and his mother had to fend for the entire family following the departure of his father when Tyson was two years old. He grew up on the streets of Brownsville, where he would sometimes savagely beat those who ridiculed his high-pitched, lisping voice. As a youth, he was constantly in trouble with the police over petty crime and thuggery. Tyson was passed in and out of juvenile detention centers, and was expelled from high school. He was discovered by Bobby Stewart, who noted his raw boxing ability and awesome potential for the ring. Tyson was an outstanding physical specimen, weighing 200lbs at the age of 13. Stewart trained him for a few months, then introduced him to the legendary Cus D'Amato.
Tyson was later removed from reform school by D'Amato, a well-known boxing trainer whose proteges included former champions Floyd Patterson and Jose Torres. He saw the young boxer's potential and took him off Stewart's hands to train him; he later became Tyson's legal guardian, and Tyson has often referred to his love for D'Amato as a father figure. D'Amato died in 1985, early in Tyson's professional career; some speculate that his death was the genesis of many of the troubles Tyson was to experience as his life and career progressed. Teddy Atlas is another trainer who worked with Tyson in his early career with D'Amato.
Rise to stardom
Mike Tyson on the cover of Time Magazine in 1988.
Mike Tyson on the cover of Time Magazine in 1988.
Mike Tyson made his professional debut on March 6, 1985, in Albany, New York, a match which he won by a first round knockout. He fought frequently in his first two years as a professional, staying undefeated and winning almost all of his fights by knockout, usually in the first round. His quality of opposition gradually increased to journeyman fighters and borderline contenders, and his impressive win streak attracted much media attention, leading to his being billed as the next great heavyweight champion. 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 knockout, and at the age of 20 years and 4 months became the youngest heavyweight champion ever. Tyson aged 20 was around 220lbs, very stocky for his height (5 ft 8 in - 5ft 10 in). He had an outstanding physique, even though he allegedly never used weights.
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 on a unanimous points decision and added Smith's WBA title to his existing belt. 'Tyson mania' in the media was becoming rampant. He beat Pinklon Thomas in May with a knockout in the sixth round. On August 1 he took the IBF title from Tony Tucker, winning on points to become "undisputed heavyweight champion of the world". His only other fight in 1987 was in October against the 1984 Olympic champion Tyrell Biggs, a workmanlike performance from Tyson which ended with a seventh round technical knockout (TKO).
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 TKO. He fought contender Tony Tubbs in Tokyo in March, fitting in an easy two round victory amid promotional and marketing work. On June 27, Tyson brutally knocked out former IBF heavyweight champion Michael Spinks in a mere 92 seconds into the first round. This fight is often regarded as the climax of Tyson's career because at the time Spinks was believed to be the most legitimate contender who never lost a fight before meeting Tyson.