Michael Gerard Tyson is an American former professional boxer and convicted rapist who competed in boxing from 1985 to 2005. He reigned as the undisputed world heavyweight champion from 1987 to 1990 and was the first heavyweight boxer to simultaneously hold the WBA, WBC, and IBF titles, as well as the only heavyweight to successively unify them. Claiming his first belt at 20 years, four months, and 22 days old, Tyson holds the record as the youngest boxer to win a heavyweight title.
Michael Gerard Tyson was born in Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York on June 30, 1966. He has an older brother named Rodney and an older sister named Denise, who died of a heart attack at age 24 in February 1990. Tyson’s biological father is listed as Purcell Tyson on his birth certificate, but the man Tyson had known as his father was Jimmy Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick was from Grier Town, North Carolina, where he was one of the neighborhood’s top baseball players. Kirkpatrick married and had a son, Tyson’s half-brother Jimmie Lee Kirkpatrick, who would help to integrate Charlotte high school football in 1965.
As an amateur, Tyson won gold medals at the 1981 and 1982 Junior Olympic Games, defeating Joe Cortez in 1981 and beating Kelton Brown in 1982. Brown’s corner threw in the towel in the first round. He fought Henry Tillman twice as an amateur, losing both bouts by decision. Tillman went on to win heavyweight gold at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
Tyson made his professional debut as an 18-year-old on March 6, 1985, in Albany, New York. He defeated Hector Mercedes via first-round TKO. He had 15 bouts in his first year as a professional. Fighting frequently, Tyson won 26 of his first 28 fights by KO or TKO; 16 of those came in the first round. The quality of his opponents gradually increased to journeyman fighters and borderline contenders, like James Tillis, David Jaco, Jesse Ferguson, Mitch Green, and Marvis Frazier. His win streak attracted media attention and Tyson was billed as the next great heavyweight champion. D’Amato died in November 1985, relatively early into Tyson’s professional career, and some speculate that his death was the catalyst to many of the troubles Tyson was to experience as his life and career progressed.
Expectations for Tyson were extremely high, and he was the favorite to win the heavyweight unification series, a tournament designed to establish an undisputed heavyweight champion. Tyson defended his title against James Smith on March 7, 1987, in Las Vegas, Nevada. He won by unanimous decision and added Smith’s World Boxing Association title to his existing belt. Tyson-mania in the media was becoming rampant.
To help pay off his debts, Tyson returned to the ring in 2006 for a series of four-round exhibitions against journeyman heavyweight Corey T-Rex Sanders in Youngstown, Ohio. Tyson, without headgear at 5 ft 10.5 in and 216 pounds, was in quality shape, but far from his prime against Sanders, at 6 ft 6 in who wore headgear. Tyson appeared to be holding back in these exhibitions to prevent an early end to the show. “If I don’t get out of this financial quagmire there’s a possibility I may have to be a punching bag for somebody. The money I make isn’t going to help my bills from a tremendous standpoint, but I’m going to feel better about myself.
Tyson vs. Jones
It was announced in July 2020 that Tyson had signed a contract to face former four-division world champion, Roy Jones Jr., in an eight-round exhibition fight. The bout—officially sanctioned by the California State Athletic Commissionwas initially scheduled to take place on September 12 at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, however, the date was pushed back to November 28 in order to maximize revenue for the event.
In popular culture
At the height of his fame and career in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, Tyson was one of the most recognized sports personalities in the world. In addition to his many sporting accomplishments, his outrageous and controversial behavior in the ring and in his private life has kept him in the public eye and in the courtroom. As such, Tyson has been the subject of myriad popular media including movies, television, books and music. He has also been featured in video games and as a subject of parody or satire. Tyson became involved in professional wrestling and has made many cameo appearances in film and television.