Mike on the Make
In a sport not lacking for imploding superstars, Mike Tyson squandered his natural talent like few boxers have before or since. However, his memoir makes clear that he was lucky to even have been alive to make his professional debut at 18. His mother was an alcoholic, and he grew up in a brothel. His childhood was spent committing petty thefts and violent muggings. He was first arrested at age 10 for stealing a credit card; he had already at gained a reputation as a skilled street fighter, and by thirteen was fighting grown men for money. Tyson would probably have been killed by either the police or a rival gang had he not, while incarcerated in a juvenile detention facility, been introduced to boxing by a sympathetic gym teacher.
Tyson still claims to have been innocent of the 1991 rape that sent him to prison for three years. In his book he unequivocally says, “I did not rape Desiree Washington,” while leveling charges of racism at the presiding judge and majority white jury. He recounts spending the six weeks between his conviction and sentencing fending off advances from sympathetic women offering to tape them having sex—so Tyson couldn’t be accused of rape again. He says that, “I later realized that that was their way of saying ‘We know you didn’t do it.’”
The Horniest Man on the Planet
Tyson writes openly about being a deeply insecure adolescent who struggled with low self esteem and an eating disorder. When he became the most famous fighter in the world, women threw themselves at him, and Iron Mike couldn’t say no. During his first heavyweight title fight, Mike was at less than 100% because of an antibiotic shot he had taken the night before—for his syphilis. After winning the title, Tyson was with a new woman every night, several times a night. “My criteria,” he writes, “was breathing.” Tyson would have sex with his championship belt on and amassed a collection homemade sex tapes. While in prison, Tyson smuggled women into the facility and even had a months-long affair with his substance abuse counselor.
The Mother-in-Law Who Conned Him
Tyson’s relentless womanizing slowed (briefly) for his first marriage to Robin Givens, who he calls, “a manipulative shrew who could bring me to my knees.” He has even harsher words for her mother Ruth, who he claims orchestrated his and Given’s relationship to steal his money. She “acted like I was some freeloader trying to get my hands on some of that Head of the Class money,” Tyson recounts, but that “couldn’t pay one month of my rent…they were two broke charlatans...confidence people, con artists, borderline prostitutes.” The relationship between mother and daughter “was too bizarre for even the Freud people to contemplate…she wasn’t the right sex to have an Oedipus complex. I just think she had a Herdipus complex.”
When Brad (Almost) Stole Mike’s Girl
After his divorce from Givens, Tyson continued to see her from time to time. On one such occasion, Tyson showed up at her house unannounced. Givens was sitting in her car with a figure with “flowing blonde hair.” It turned out not be one of her girlfriends, as Tyson initially assumed; it was Brad Pitt. Pitt, understandably panicked at having been caught with the heavyweight’s ex-wife “looked ready to receive his last rites.” Pitt—who Tyson says was visibly stoned—pleaded, “Dude, don’t strike me, don’t strike me. We were just going over some lines. She was talking about you the whole time.” Tyson, however, is a good sport; he writes that: “it was what it was…Brad beat me to the punch that day so I went back the next.”
Screwed by the King
Over the course of Tyson’s career the infamous promoter Don King allegedly stole upwards of $50 million from the naïve young fighter. You’d be hard pressed to say Tyson wouldn’t have blown the money himself, but still, it’s hard to disagree when Tyson writes that King was, “a slimy reptilian motherfucker.” Tyson claims that King would lace Tyson’s food with Thorazine to sedate the rambunctious young fighter. Meanwhile, he was using Tyson, or so he claims, as a personal bank account, billing him eight grand a week to train in his, Tyson’s, own house, and charging him for the towels he used. King paid his wife hundreds of thousands of dollars to be Tyson’s consultant; his daughter pulled $52,000 a year as the head of the Mike Tyson fan club. More insidious than the alleged theft, however, was King’s failure to properly mentor a fighter that so desperately needed guidance. Tyson, more than most young fighters, needed someone to reign in his incredibly self-destructive tendencies, and Don King only encouraged them.
No Money, Mo Problems
Mike Tyson made $114 million from 1995 to 1997 alone; he declared bankruptcy in 2003. Where did all his money go? A lot allegedly went into Don King’s pocket, but Tyson was as addicted to spending as he was to sex. He lavished money on his friends, his family, and himself. His mansion was adorned with custom-made statues of Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great, and his pet tiger Kenya stalked the six acre backyard. He would go into Rolls Royce dealerships and buy their entire stock. Tyson’s arrogance and wealth were so excessive he would walk into high-end clothing stores, strip in the middle of the store, and have attendants bring him hundreds of thousands dollars worth of clothing to try on, and inevitably, buy. When bankruptcy became inevitable, Tyson was forced to sell his cars—all 62 of them.