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How a criminal neighbourhood made Mike Tyson a great boxer

Mike Tyson boxer
Mike Tyson boxer, Photo/USA Today

The ferocity that came with Mike Tyson fights is still dumfounding more than a decade since he retired. Understandably, his wildness stemmed from street fights he got involved in at a tender age. This is the making of the legendary yet controversial boxer who fighting is his second name.

By the time he took the ring formally, Tyson had over 150 bouts in the street. And this is what made him a towering heavyweight boxer.  His striking speed was topnotch, thanks to his Brooklyn neighbourhood where he fought to survive.

During a Hotboxin’ podcast, Tyson confessed that “I had around 150 street fights. That’s probably why I didn’t do to0 bad in boxing. That’s all we did in Brooklyn, is fight.”

Mike Tyson

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ – MARCH 06: Mike Tyson performs his one man show “Undisputed Truth” in the Music Box at the Borgata on March 6, 2020 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images)

How A Criminal Neighborhood Made Mike Tyson A Boxer

Back in the 1970s, this New York neigbourhood’s backstreet was awash with all sorts of criminal activity. It needed a tough soul to make it through and this is what built Tyson’s ferocity and boxing bravado.

Tyson is a self-confessed drug user, a trade he dabbled in for the first time as a teenager. Sadly, he never grew out of it and was at one point arrested and charged for being in possession of cocaine.

But this wouldn’t be the first time Tyson was arrested. Records show he was arrested 38 times by the time he was 13 years old. Then, he could take out 20-year-old men yet he was just a teenager.

Mike Tyson Rape Controversy

History hasn’t been fair to a dozen athletes and former American boxer Mike Tyson is a classic example. Ever since the rape, controversy hit Tyson in the ’90s, he never recovered – he courted controversy consciously but without care.

Admittedly, the 55-year-old biggest controversy dates back to 1992 when he was convicted of rape. It remains his biggest controversy because it came moments after a huge knockout.

Tyson who once owned tigers as pets towered unopposed as the world heavyweight champion from 1987 to 1990. However, luck slipped his side after little-known Buster Douglas knocked him out in 1990. This went down as a phenomenal upset in ‘Iron Mike’s’ history.

As if this wasn’t enough, Tyson would see the walls of a prison in 1992 after pleading guilty to rape. He was tried at Marion County superior court for raping 18-year-old model Desiree Washington in an Indianapolis hotel room.

The teenager is a former Miss Black Rhode Island and was preyed on by the Brooklyn-born boxer in 1991.

When Thomas Richardson, and ER physician who examined Desiree after the incident took the stand; Tyson’s fate was sealed. His testimony was consistent with that of Virginia Foster who was at the time Tyson’s chauffeur.

While all this happened, Tyson’s career hang by the thread but he couldn’t do much to save his face. His date with fate was due and in the end, he was sentenced to six years in prison.


Luckily for Tyson, he only served three years and was released on parole. After securing freedom in 1995, he atoned for his discretions and sought to redeem his image by getting back to the ring.

Surprisingly, he successfully took back WBA and WBC titles a year later. He joined veteran boxers; Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Floyd Patterson – among others – who successfully regained the heavyweight championship after losing it.


Tyson’s controversy did not end with the rape incident; this was just the curtain-raiser. In 1997 – a year after regaining the heavyweight championship – he was stripped WBC title. He then sparked another raging controversy the same year during a rematch with Evander Holyfield.

Holyfield knocked out the gigantic boxer and the loss was unbearable. Tyson ended up biting Holyfield’s right ear. He earned a suspension from the ring.


The father of seven seemingly had a penchant for wrongdoing. When he returned to the ring in 1999, he attempted to break his opponent’s arms during a tie-up. He was fighting South Africa’s, Francois Botha.

That same year, Tyson was fined $5,000 or spend a year in jail for assaulting two motorists in 1998. The court ordered him to undergo 200 hours of community service and serve two years probation.


If you thought Tyson’s controversy ended in him trying to break his opponent’s arms, you’re wrong. He shocked the entire world in 2003 when he filed for bankruptcy despite earning over $300 million throughout his career.

At the time he filed for bankruptcy, he had a $23 million debt.

Mike Tyson boxer

Mike Tyson boxer, Photo/USA Today


The famed American boxer retired in 2005 citing that he lost the passion he had for boxing. Then, he had lost three of his four fights. He would disclose in a documentary dubbed ‘Tyson’ that he stopped taking boxing seriously especially after a surgery he underwent in 2004.

This shook the world but it was as if fate was catching up with him due to his ferocious tactics in the ring. In 2008, he hit the limelight once more after firing all his accountants before being found guilty of drug possession in Arizona.

A three-time husband – divorced his first two wives – admitted to using cocaine and being an addict.

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