Mike Tyson: His Childhood and Early Boxing YearsNovember 21, 2010
Former world-renowned boxing champion Mike Tyson had to face a rough couple of years before he became a household name in boxing.
He was only two when his father abandoned him and his family. Lorna Smith Tyson then had to bear the responsibility of raising two sons and a daughter on her own. Mike Tyson's mother died when he was 16, and his sister died in 1990 when she was only 24.
The pain and suffering that Tyson had to endure due to the loss of his family members clearly left a permanent mark upon his personality and he admitted as much when he said:
"I never saw my mother happy with me and proud of me for doing something. She only knew me as being a wild kid running the streets, coming home with new clothes that she knew I didn't pay for. 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."
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.
During this time he was enrolled at the Tryon School for Boys in Johnstown, New York, where he was discovered by the former boxer Bobby Stewart. Stewart trained him for a few months before introducing him to Cus D'Amato, the man who would launch Tyson into boxing greatness and become his legal guardian.
In his initial years, he won Junior Olympic Championship gold medals against Joe Cortez in 1981 and Kelton Brown in 1982, but his real professional break came on March 6, 1985 when he knocked out Hector Mercedes in the first round.
After that fight he had a number of continuous successes that would lead to both an improvement in the standards of his opponents as well as a corresponding increase in the media’s interest into the rising boxing star.
Although Cus D’Amato's death in 1985 hit Tyson hard, his boxing success kept increasing due to his increased speed and accuracy. His name was included alongside fighters such as Dempsey and Ali, and many of his opponents were intimidated by him.
His “peek-a-boo” style entailed moving in and out of opponents' punches while shortening the distance between his own punches and the opponent. This style led him to deliver crushing defeats to many of boxing's big names.
However the zenith of his boxing career was his 1988 fight against the celebrated Michael Spinks, a previously unbeaten boxing guru who Tyson defeated after 91 seconds in the first round.
The later years of his life, however, mirror the difficulties that he faced in his childhood years. His marriage to Robin Givens went through a rocky period and ended in divorce. He then fired Kevin Rooney, the man who was known to be the real genius behind the Mike Tyson that the world knew and loved. And his defeat against Buster Douglas would become known as the fight that brought down one of the most loved names in boxing.
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 victories.
SJ Contributing Blog Partners