“Iron Mike” Tyson is probably one of the most controversial figures in boxing history, with a ferocious boxing style that resulted in unprecedented success. However, Tyson was also found guilty of rape in 1992 and sentenced to six years in prison, which was eventually reduced to three years and parole. All these things make Tyson as controversial figure, despite his undeniable impact in the sports world. Here are some things you might not have known about him.
25. Young Mike Tyson once spent $100 on a flock of pigeons, only to have one killed before his very eyes
One thing that you might not have realised is that Mike Tyson is a very big fan of pigeons.
The boxer even used to host a show on Animal Planet entitled Taking On Tyson.
This fascination stems from a very young age – when Tyson was only 10 years old, he was gifted a wad of money and spent $100 on his own flock of pigeons.
Sadly some neighbourhood thieves found out and tried to steal the pigeons from their boxes on Tyson’s apartment block rooftop.
Tyson confronted the thieves, only to watch a boy named Gary Flowers rip off one of his beloved pigeons’ heads before his very eyes and throw the bloody remains directly at him.
Incidentally, this incident sparked Tyson’s entire boxing career. He flung a punch at Flowers and knocked him down, quickly establishing a reputation for himself as a renowned street fighter.
24. He once stated that he was ‘disappointed’ he had never killed anyone in the boxing ring
Thankfully, boxing regulations have gotten stricter over the years, helping to improve the safety of the brutal sport.
At the end of the day, though, each competition involves two extremely strong men flying punches at one another for a set amount of time.
Sometimes deaths have occurred in the ring. For instance, a 1947 fight saw Sugar Ray Robinson kill his opponent Jimmy Doyle.
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This act would end up haunting Robinson for the rest of his life. However, Tyson doesn’t seem to have the same qualms.
He once stated in an interview that he was “disappointed” he had never managed to kill anyone in the ring.
Tyson also admitted that he had been jealous of boxers who had managed to fatally knock out their opponents. What a lovely sentiment…
23. Tyson was severely bullied as a young child
Believe it or not, Iron Mike suffered at the hands of bullies for a very long time, and has never forgotten how helpless he felt.
As a youngster he was quite chubby, wore glasses and developed a speech impediment, which singled him out for abuse.
Things took a turn for the worse when his mother lost her job and the family was forced to move to a rough Brooklyn neighbourhood notorious for drugs and violence.
Once when he was in the first grade, an older boy tried to steal his lunch and Tyson attempted to defend himself and his food. In retaliation, the boy beat him up, stole his glasses and then shoved them in the gas tank of a nearby car.
The boxer explained: “I still feel like a coward to this day because of that bullying. That’s a wild feeling, being that helpless. You never ever forget that feeling.”
Tyson revealed that he got his revenge though: “That guy who took my glasses and threw them away? I beat him in the streets like a f***ing dog for humiliating me. He may have forgotten about it, but I never did.”
22. His ex-wife Robin Givens cheated on him with Brad Pitt
Can you imagine finding out that your current girlfriend was actually still married to the reigning world heavyweight champion?
Well, that’s exactly what happened to none other than A-list actor and world class hunk Brad Pitt, when he dated Tyson’s ex Robin Givens.
Despite the fact that Given and Tyson were in the process of a divorce in the late 80s, the couple still regularly met up at one another’s houses for sex.
Once Tyson turned up to Givens’ house unannounced in the late 80s and found his wife sitting in a car with heart throb Pitt.
The boxer has recalled that Pitt was terrified of Tyson and begged him not to get physically violent.
Tyson has since stated that he was “mad as hell” at the sight of Givens and Pitt together but eventually managed to get over it.
21. One of his pet tigers once knocked him out, causing his gold teeth to shatter
At the height of Tyson’s fame and fortune, he did a Scarface and bought himself several Bengal tigers.
The boxer could regularly be seen playing and wrestling with the beasts, and some of the tigers even ended up sleeping in his bed.
However, as anyone who’s seen Tiger King knows, keeping big cats as domestic pets obviously comes with its risks.
Tyson once revealed on The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien that one of his tigers went to give him “a kiss” but ended up headbutting him and shattering his teeth.
It wasn’t long after this that Tyson’s finances began to take a hit. In 2002, he was forced to sell off his tigers – each animal was costing him over $4,000 in expenses related to food and shelter.
Tyson sold one of the big cats to Roy Cooper aka the tattoo artist who gave Tyson his unique facial markings. The other three were seized by the USDA for being kept in poor conditions.
20. Tyson once asked to fight a gorilla
Mike Tyson used to enjoy wrestling tigers in his spare time, so is it any real surprise that he once tried to fight a silverback gorilla?
Tyson managed to get a private tour of a New York zoo with his wife Givens, and quickly set his sights on a giant male gorilla.
Tyson explained: “I paid a worker at New York’s zoo to reopen it just for me and Robin.”
“When we got to the gorilla cage there was one big silverback gorilla there just bullying all the other gorillas. 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.”
We can only imagine how much money could have been made from a Tyson-vs-silverback pay-per-view event.
19. Don King’s corruption led to Tyson missing out on a very important phone call
As well as Tyson’s reckless spending, Don King’s corrupt financial dealings helped to ruin the boxer. Nobody knows quite how much money the flamboyant promoter managed to funnel out of Tyson’s accounts but estimates put the sum in the tens of millions.
One of the methods that Don King used to get away with his fraud was hiring his family members to work bogus jobs. One of these fake employees was King’s daughter Debbie, who supposedly earned $52,000 a year running the Mike Tyson fan club.
Tyson’s chauffeur Rudy Gonzalez revealed that Mike didn’t even know he had a fan club, and when he found out, the boxer investigated the supposed postal facility to see what was happening.
- Credit: Getty/Diane Freed
When Tyson got to the warehouse, he found hundreds of crates full of unopened letters – plenty of them were dirty messages from female fans who had included knickers and bras with their mail.
However, there was one extremely sad tale among all of the unread letters. Tyson found a note sent in by a mother who had begged Tyson to come and speak to her child who was dying of cancer.
Tyson called the number immediately, only to find out that the call had come a year too late. Upon learning the sad news, Tyson burst into tears.
18. He once abstained from sex for five years
Abstaining from any and all sexual activity during training is not unheard of in the world of boxing.
Muhammad Ali refrained from sex for various periods of time (reportedly up to a year) throughout his career because he believed that it helped his performance in the ring.
If it was good enough for The Greatest, then it was good enough Tyson – who, in his early years as a boxer, was celibate for five whole years.
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However, he later regretted his decision and explained in an interview: “[I did it] because I’m an idiot. I was so stupid.”
“I just went by what people told me. ‘This is what you’re supposed to do, girls are gonna mess up your boxing’. I entered this profession a total brainless individual, looking for glory because my self-esteem was so low.”
“Can you believe I’m 12 years old, looking for some glory because my life is just such a waste. It’s ridiculous.”
17. At the age of 13 years old, he had already been arrested 38 times
We’ve already seen that Tyson didn’t exactly get the best start in life, growing up as a put-upon child in a rough neighbourhood.
In fact, by the time Tyson was just 13 years old, he had already racked up an eye-opening 38 arrests.
The boxer frequently engaged in fist fights with bullies and eventually built up a reputation as a notorious street fighter.
Tyson was eventually sent to a juvenile detention centre in Albany, New York. Of course, the future boxer immediately got into a fight and was sent to another institution as further punishment.
At this second facility, Tyson noticed some of the other kids earning credits for weekend boxing classes.
Bobby Stewart was a former boxer and juvenile prison counsellor who promised Tyson that he would take him all the way if he “straightened up his act.” Eventually Stewart introduced Tyson to Cus D’Amato, who became Tyson’s long-time trainer, mentor and father figure.
16. He used to use a fake penis with another person’s urine in it to fake drug tests before big fights
Tyson has admitted to making some mistakes in the past, and he once confessed to taking drugs before big matches.
The boxer was fined $200,000 for testing positive for marijuana while fighting against Lou Savarese in Glasgow in the year 2000.
Tyson revealed that he had only been caught because he didn’t get time to put his “whizzer” on.
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The “whizzer,” we’re delighted to inform you, was a fake penis filled with the urine of one of his team members.
The boxer has since confessed that he took a diverse array of drugs during the golden years of his career.
Despite this, Tyson’s cheer brute strength and skill as a fighter meant he still managed to knockout his opponents despite regularly getting high.
15. He once had sex with Naomi Campbell in a bathroom while a party was going on right outside
Back in the late 80s, Tyson had a relationship with famed British supermodel Naomi Campbell.
Given Campbell’s well-documented temper, you might think that the two were a match made in heaven.
Reportedly the couple had a volatile but ‘passionate’ relationship, the true details of which were once revealed by Tyson’s former manager Rory Holloway.
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In fact, Holloway published a book entitled Taming the Beast: The Untold Story of Mike Tyson which claimed that Tyson and Campbell once had a tryst inside a bathroom – and Holloway was forced to guard the door!
Holloway wrote: “I was there to keep Mike out of trouble, doing my usual babysitting job, and when I looked over, he was talking to this girl.”
“I had to rub my eyes. It was Naomi Campbell. Mike says he’s got to use the restroom. Next thing, Naomi’s following him and I’m outside holding their drinks. Guests are walking up and I’m telling them, ‘Bathroom’s taken.'”
14. He slept with so many women in the 80s and 90s that he used a Wizard pocket computer to keep track of them all
Holloway isn’t the only one of Tyson’s former staff members to reveal just how horny the boxer was in the 80s and 90s.
One of Tyson’s ex bodyguards, Rudy Gonzalez, gave a 1992 interview with The New York Post in which he claimed that Tyson had slept with more than 1,300 women.
What’s more, his former boss used to use a Wizard pocket computer to keep track of all of the women’s names and sexual preferences.
Gonzalez revealed: “A lot of them are women whose names you’d recognise. But the 1,300 doesn’t count the one-night stands, the groupies.”
Apparently Tyson even managed to keep up his antics while serving time for his rape conviction. Female fans used to visit him in prison and Tyson was allowed as many ‘conjugal visits’ as he liked.
The boxer once stated he slept with so many women in prison that he was often too tired to use the gym.
13. He was once talked out of beating up Naomi Campbell by an eminent British philosopher
Many of Tyson’s relationships have been dogged by domestic violence rumours, and his time with Naomi Campbell was no different.
Once during a party in NYC, Tyson was prevented from physically assaulting his teenage girlfriend by none other than a weedy British philosophy professor.
Apparently the couple were arguing at a party when one of Naomi’s friends ran for help. A.J. Ayer, a 77-year-old lecturer, quickly arrived at the scene and calmed things down.
When Tyson saw Ayer walk through the door, he grew even more enraged and screamed, “Do you know who the f*** I am? I’m the heavyweight champion of the world.”
Ayer replied, “And I am the former Wykeham professor of logic. We are both pre-eminent in our field. I suggest that we talk about this like rational men.” Thankfully Tyson decided to talk it out and Campbell was able to escape.
It was later revealed that Ayer had been hired by MI6 during World War II, so he probably knew a thing or two about getting out of a sticky situation.
12. His own trainer pulled a gun on him
Cus D’Amato quickly became Tyson’s father figure when he was still starting out, and one of Cus’ regular employees was a man named Teddy Atlas.
Atlas was a trainer and commentator who – like Tyson – had also been a street fighter in his youth.
Atlas bears a distinctive scar running from his forehead down to his jaw, a result of street fighting which resulted in the trainer receiving over 400 stitches.
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Although Atlas and Tyson initially had a good relationship, things quickly turned sour between the two.
Atlas learned that Tyson had been getting a bit too touchy-feely with a young girl related to Atlas’ wife and grew extremely angry.
Atlas promptly marched over to Tyson and pulled a .38 pistol on the teenager – he even fired at Tyson but missed on purpose to try and scare the boxer. The pair held a grudge for over 20 years before eventually shaking hands with one another in August 2013.
11. He once beat up seven prostitutes in his hotel room while high on cocaine
Tyson has committed some awful crimes in his lifetime, and was even sent behind bars for sexual assault in the early 90s.
However, one of the boxer’s low points came in 2009 when he took a large amount of drugs and became physically abusive towards a room full of prostitutes.
After taking a large amount of illicit drugs, the boxer became paranoid and reacted in one of the worst possible ways.
Tyson had summoned a group of prostitutes to his hotel room before taking the drugs and promptly came out of his bedroom throwing punches at the women who had arrived.
Fortunately this shocking incident served to wake Tyson up to the reality of his life. He explained: “That’s when I realised it wasn’t just demons—it was the devil himself.”
“It was the lowest point of a very low life, but it was my own knockout punch to clean up my life, get whole, get well—and I haven’t done anything in three years now. I’m clean. I’m sober.”
10. His father abandoned not one, but two families with children
Tyson had a troubled upbringing, and didn’t get the best start in his life due to a lack of any real father figure in his formative years.
The boxer was born on 30th June, 1966 to Lorna Mae Tyson and biological father Purcell Tyson.
Purcell left the family when Tyson was a baby and the boxer came to consider a man named Jimmy Kirkpatrick as his real father.
Kirkpatrick married Lorna in 1969 and things began to look up for the family. After all, Kirkpatrick was a hot shot baseball player.
However, the fairytale wasn’t meant to be and eventually Kirkpatrick abandoned Lorna and her children.
Apparently Kirkpatrick had already done the same thing to a previous family before meeting Lorna.
9. He’s been completely broke for several years
The former world heavyweight champion has made no secret of his financial troubles over the years.
Although a large amount of his money was stolen by Don King, Tyson’s spending sprees would have helped to bankrupt him anyway.
The boxer eventually filed for bankruptcy in August 2003 – he hired a team of accountants who discovered that while Tyson had earned $65.7 million in that one year alone, he had ended up with staggering debts of $3.3 million!
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Tyson once confessed on The View that he was completely broke: “I’m totally destitute and broke.”
“I have an awesome life; I have an awesome wife who cares about me … [but] I’m totally broke.”
“I had a lot of fun. It [going broke] just happened. I’m very grateful. I don’t deserve to have the wife that I have; I don’t deserve the kids that I have, but I do, and I’m very grateful.”
8. His probation officer once caught him having a drug-fuelled orgy
We’ve already seen that Tyson got up to more than a few antics in his lifetime.
Once the boxer was released from jail after serving three years for rape, he went straight back to his hard partying ways.
In fact, Tyson appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2013 and confessed to the talk show host that his probation officer at the time had walked in on the boxer having a drug-fuelled orgy.
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Tyson explained that while the orgy itself wasn’t illegal, the drugs found on the premises were.
At one point Tyson was addicted to having group sex and eventually forced himself to see a therapist about the issue.
In his autobiography Undisputed Truth, Tyson wrote: “At one point everything I did sexually consisted of orgies…It makes you feel like s***.”
7. He has a lot of regrets about his life
Happily, considering the many terrible things he’s done, Tyson seems to have seen the error of his ways over the years.
Since he left the world of boxing the former world heavyweight champion has expressed remorse about some of his past actions.
In one magazine interview from 2003, Tyson stated: “My whole life has been a waste – I’ve been a failure. I just want to escape. I’m really embarrassed with myself and my life.”
- Credit: Nathan Congleton via Flickr
In a somewhat unexpected turn of events, Tyson suggested considering a very different profession: “I want to be a missionary.”
“I think I could do that while keeping my dignity without letting people know they chased me out of the country.”
“I want to get this part of my life over as soon as possible. In this country nothing good is going to come of me. People put me so high; I wanted to tear that image down.”
6. His four-year-old daughter Exodus died in a tragic accident
Tyson is now much more of a family man and he has been married to Lahika “Kiki” Spicer since 2009.
The couple have two children together named Milan and Morocco. However, Tyson also has children from previous relationships and marriages.
He has experienced real tragedy as a parent, as one of his children passed away at a very young age.
He had a daughter named Exodus, who was born to his former girlfriend Sol Xochitl.
In a terrible accident, Exodus was discovered tangled up in wire and dangling from a treadmill by her 7-year-old brother Miguel on 25th May, 2009.
Her parents called 911 and an ambulance arrived but Exodus tragically succumbed to her injuries the following day. She was only 4 years old at the time.
5. He quit boxing by simply walking out of his last ever fight during the seventh round
Tyson decided to make a statement when he finally left the world of boxing behind for good.
His last ever professional fight was against Kevin McBride on the 11th of June 2005.
Tyson was punching well and over six rounds he was ahead of McBride on points.
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However, when the bell sounded for the start of the seventh round, Tyson failed to answer and was ruled as defeated by a technical knockout.
Tyson stated afterwards that he had simply grown tired of the profession. The boxer admitted that he had fought McBride for the money and didn’t even expect to win.
Tyson has on occasion stepped back into the ring in the years since, including a 2020 exhibition fight against Roy Jones Jr.
4. He took singing lessons to prepare for his appearance in The Hangover Part II
Tyson has had a long association with the hugely popular comedy film franchise, The Hangover.
In 2009, he was approached to appear in a cameo for the first Hangover film but was initially reticent to do so.
However, after getting to know director Todd Phillips he quickly changed his tune – Phillips was responsible for creating Old School in 2003, which turned out to be one of Tyson’s favourite films.
In The Hangover Part II, Stu gets a facial tattoo in Bangkok which looks eerily similar to that of Tyson’s.
And Tyson himself appears in the movie as a singer for One Night in Bangkok. Apparently the boxer even took some singing lessons to help prepare for the cameo.
Of course, that scene isn’t quite so memorable as Tyson’s performance of Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight in the first film.
3. He bit off part of Evander Holyfield’s ear during a boxing match
Even the most hardcore fans of Tyson would probably agree that this was bang out of line.
Tyson was facing off against renowned boxer Evander Holyfield on 28th June 1997 when he made one of his most notorious moves.
During the fight, Tyson started to grow frustrated with some of his opponents tactics.
In particular, Holyfield had managed to get away with headbutting Tyson and hadn’t received a penalty.
Tyson responded rashly and bit Holyfield on the ear – twice. The second time round, Tyson bit so hard that he managed to chew off part of Holyfield’s right ear.
As a result of this shocking action, Tyson lost the fight by disqualification. He also temporarily lost his boxing license, though this was later reinstated.
2. He now owns a company called Iron Mike Productions
Tyson is now trying to keep his finances afloat with his very own production company.
Iron Mike Productions is a boxing promotion company which the former heavyweight champion set up in 2013.
The former champ runs the company in collaboration with Garry Jonas, CEO of Acquinity Interactive.
- Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
It looks as though Tyson is more than happy to help scout the next generation of talent in the world of boxing.
One of the fighters he represents is the undefeated Sammy Vasquez, Jr. (a two-time Iraq War veteran).
His company has already put on several fights across the USA and Iron Mike Productions represents an extensive array of boxing stars.
1. He adopted the Muslim name Malik Abdul Aziz after converting to Islam
As well as being an African-American heavyweight champion boxer, Tyson has something else in common with Muhammad Ali.
Both men converted to Islam after achieving financial success and worldwide renown in their sport.
Tyson wound up converting to the religion while he was in prison in the 1990s.
- Credit: Eva Rinaldi via Flickr
- Much like Ali (who had previously been known as Cassius Clay), Tyson also adopted a Muslim name.
After his conversion, the boxer adopted the Muslim name Malik Abdul Aziz, although he still goes by Mike Tyson.