Mike Tyson isn’t a perfect man, and nobody knows that more than Mike Tyson. The enimagtic former boxing champion, turned actor, entertainer and boxing promoter is a mystery on most levels. And in that we find his deep compassion, as well as his most terrifying and violent antics. Yes, Iron Mike once bit off a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear. Yes, “The Baddest Man Alive” once did serious time in the clink. Those are things you know. Here are 10 things that you didn’t know about Mike Tyson.
10. Just Say No to The Nookie
When Mike Tyson was a young, up-and-comer, he was one of the most feared heavyweight challengers the boxing world has ever boasted. At a compact 5’10”, he was quick enough to get inside on his typically larger opponents, and wreak physical havoc to devastating results. If a fight early in Mike Tyson’s career didn’t end with a KO or TKO, it was a shocker. He was, as they say, a bad man. Where did Mike get all of his punching power? According to the man himself, it was from abstaining from sex for five years. He felt that getting it on in the bedroom, before getting it on in the ring made a boxer weak and unfocused. If there’s any comparing his early career from his later career with more than a few sexual misgivings, there is something to be said about denying the nookie. Many boxers believe it.
9. 1990 Offered The Big Bucks
There was one athlete who served as the pinnacle of finance in the late-1980s through the mid-1990s, and that was the man known as Michael “Air” Jordan. Michael was such a household name, a lot of people who only stayed within an earshot of an NBA contest, or an ESPN broadcast came to know him as “Eric” Jordan. Air. Eric. Digressing. In 1990, Mike Tyson toppled yet another champ when he took the title of world’s highest earning athlete from His Royal Airness, bringing in an impressive $28.6 million. That’s impressive even by today’s standards. Sadly, Mike Tyson didn’t have the financial sense of Mike Jordan, nor did it seem that he really cared all that much about money. There could be no greater dichotomy of post-career success than these two examples, though both men still enjoy several lucrative ventures in the world of sports and entertainment.
8. ESPN Continually Dishonors His Career
ESPN has a knack for getting things wrong. Being owned by Mickey Mouse (Disney) they have all the financial means to get the nuts and bolts right, but when it comes to agenda of being the end-all, be-all in the realm of sports entertainment, they fail dismally at a lot of things. A perfect example: anytime the “network” ranks various athletes from various sports into the “greatest” of all time. When they addressed the world of boxing, Mike Tyson wasn’t a popular public figure. ESPN allowed his public persona to dictate influence in their list of 50 Greatest Boxers of All-Time, and they placed Mike Tyson at 50. Fifty. This isn’t simply asinine, it’s laughable. Much like Prince being left off the Rolling Stone list of greatest guitarists. Who is really responsible for these lists? And when they release the list, they apologetically introduced Tyson at 50.
7. Love For Pigeons
Most fans of boxing, especially Mike Tyson fans, are well aware that Mike has a deep love for pigeons — there have been multiple featurettes produced on the topic. Yet few understand why, or when, this love developed. Mike has loved pigeons since he was a child. Feeling ostracized as a kid, and struggling for acceptance from his peers, he found acceptance from the birds with whom he’d share food, and time. According to Mike, he always felt like he was good enough for the pigeons. There is poetic beauty in his relationship with birds which are often discounted as a nuisance. Those who know everything there is to know about Mike are also aware that his first fight occurred after a childhood bully killed one of Mike’s pigeons. Mike has often stated that it awoke the fighter within. According to the former champ, he beat the snot out of the pigeon killer.
6. Gonorrhea to Take the Title
Quick question: when did Mike Tyson first take the heavyweight title? That’s right, Tyson fans, 1986. Mike took the crown from easily forgotten WBC Heavyweight Champion, Trevor Berbick. Mike was 20-years old at the time he took the WBC Championship Belt, and that alone is an eye-opening fact, making him the youngest of all-time. However, to learn that the audience wasn’t the only thing offering a clap to the bout is what calls for a furrowed brow. Mike was dealing with a painful sting during urination when preparing for this fight, only to find out afterward that he had contracted gonorrhea, and won his first championship with an STD. Is that some kind of unified championship? WBC/STD, undisputed heavyweight champion of the world? It seems appropriate when looking back at the career of Mike Tyson, and the fact he won the title as a college-aged kid.
5. Honorary Doctorate
What do you do as a university looking for a boon in the realm of advertising? You offer honorary degrees to people who didn’t even finish high school. Seriously. Central State University is a small, traditionally black university in Ohio. It is quite tough to get into. Simply put, this school wants students who are going to see things through, and graduate. Even so, in 1989, Mike Tyson (and boxing promote Don King) were offered Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters Degrees from Central State University. According to then-university president, Arthur Thomas “Mike demonstrates that hard work, determination, and perseverance can enable one to overcome any obstacles.” While that may be true, this seemed more like a ploy to get more celebrities into the Central State mix. Heck, the school even offered one to Ohio native, Arsenio Hall. At least Arsenio scored an undergraduate degree.
4. The WWE Hall of Fame
Wrestling fans — who are, hands down, the vast majority of Goliath regulars — are in the know when it comes to the following. Shortly after Mike Tyson was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame, he was also offered elite membership into the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Hall of Fame. In a statement to ESPN following his induction: “I am honored to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. I was the youngest heavyweight champion of all time, but the most fun I ever had in the ring was with WWE.” That is a bold statement. Think about all of the ass Mike whooped in the boxing ring, and legitimately. That says more about wrestling fans, and Mike’s desire to put on a good show than anything else. As troubled a life Mike has lived, he remains beloved.
3. Bullied Severely As a Child
This may come as a surprise to many, but Mike Tyson wasn’t always a model of strength and fitness. When he was a kid, he was what the politically correct generation would consider “obese.” Mike was a fat kid. And because many of his classmates were from dire home situations, they directed their angst toward the easiest target: Mike Tyson. Mike wore thick glasses, was overweight, and he took beating after beating as a pre-teen and young teenager from schoolyard bullies. It’s easy to understand why he hated going to school. Listening to him in interviews, it’s also painfully obvious how intelligent he is. Mike has been on record numerous times stating his disdain for school as a child, when he wanted desperately to enjoy his time there–he loves learning. Still, he would skip school regularly, spend time with the pigeons and eventually found his way to a boxing gym.
2. AKA Malik Abdul Aziz
When Mike Tyson was doing prison time stemming from a guilty verdict in a rape trial, he converted to the religious practice of Islam-Sufism. Upon his conversion, he gave himself the name, Malik Abdul Aziz. We can’t say for sure if Mike still actively practices Sufism, or considers himself a Sufi, as he seemed to try on a lot of things throughout his life, and later have a change of heart. He definitely considers himself a Muslim, as he has gone on record to support Donald Trump in The Donald’s 2016 campaign for the presidency. Yes, that is an interview well worth listening to for the sake of “Where’s he going with this?” And yes, the Muslim Mike Tyson even supports Donald Trumps “ban” on Muslims entering the United States from countries serving as hotbeds for terrorism. Go figure.
1. “5 to 7 Worse Things”
One intriguing aspect of Mike Tyson’s past are those elements of unknown–his personal secrets. Yes, we’ve all got a few skeletons in our closet, but most of us wouldn’t be more than embarrassed if they got out. Once upon a time, Mike Tyson was having a chat with boxing analyst and pundit, Jim Lampley, and Mike actually addressed some of his past transgressions. This is something Mike will only talk about with people he trusts. Try to ask him about it in the course of any interview, and he’ll shut it down. Mike continues to maintain that he did not rape Desiree Washington, but he has done five to seven worse things in his life. What. The. Hell? How terrifying is that? What worse things, Mike? Did you feed people to your tigers? The things we’ll never know about Mike are probably the most engaging.