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Michael Gerard Tyson (born June 30, 1966) is a former American world heavyweight boxing champion and is the youngest man to have won a world heavyweight title. During his prime in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Tyson was one of the most recognizable athletes in the world. Nicknamed "Iron Mike Tyson," "Kid Dynamite" and "The Baddest Man on the Planet," Tyson adopted the Muslim name Malik Abdul Aziz, after his conversion to Islam while in prison for his rape conviction. For his behavior both in and out of the ring, ESPN has ranked Tyson as the #1 Most Outrageous Character in modern sports history by both experts panel selection and internet poll.
Trained by Hall of Fame trainer Cus D'Amato early in his career, Tyson unified the belts in the splintered heavyweight division in the late 1980s and won many of his fights by knockout. Tyson knocked out his first 19 professional opponents within six rounds, stopping 12 of them in the first round. He reigned as undisputed heavyweight champion for over two years before losing in a shocking upset to Buster Douglas in 1990. He was convicted of raping a beauty pageant contestant in 1992, and after being released from prison in 1995, he engaged in a series of comeback fights before losing in another upset, this time to Evander Holyfield. In 1997, his rematch with Holyfield ended when Tyson bit off a portion of Holyfield's ear in retaliation for what he perceived as purposeful headbutts. He fought for a championship again at the age of 35, losing by knockout to Lennox Lewis in 2002. After losing two consecutive bouts to journeymen, Tyson retired from competitive boxing in 2005. He has since engaged in a series of exhibition bouts in a tour across the US to pay off his numerous debts; despite receiving over US$30 million for several of his fights and $300 million over his career, Tyson declared bankruptcy in 2003.
Tyson was born in the notorious Brownsville section of Brooklyn. His early childhood was marked by strife and unhappiness, forcing his mother, Lorna Smith Tyson, to provide for her family following the departure of their father, Jimmy Kirkpatrick, when Tyson was two years old. Tyson's reputation as a youth who would beat up anyone who ridiculed his high-pitched, lisping voice was fueled by constant abuse by older children on the streets of Brownsville. Expelled from junior high school for fighting, Tyson passed through juvenile detention centers, yet remained in perpetual trouble with the state for petty crime and violence. He earned his way through the tough streets of New York by mugging and purse-snatching; by the time he was 13, he had been arrested 38 times. He eventually ended up at the Tryon School for boys in Catskill, New York. It was at Tryon that Tyson's raw boxing ability and incredible potential in the ring was discovered by a juvenile detention center counselor and former boxer named Bobby Stewart. As Tyson was an outstanding physical specimen, Stewart trained him for a few months and then introduced him to the legendary Cus D'Amato.
Tyson was later removed from reform school by D'Amato, a well-known boxing trainer whose proteges included former champions Floyd Patterson and José Torres. He saw the young boxer's potential and took him off Stewart's hands to train him; he later became Tyson's legal guardian, and Tyson has often mentioned his love for D'Amato as a father figure. Teddy Atlas was also another notable trainer who worked with Tyson in his early career with D'Amato.
As an amateur, Tyson amassed a 15-2 record and was considered a formidable opponent and prime candidate to represent the USA in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. However, two losses to Henry Tillman ended his chances to represent the US in the Olympics. Tyson turned professional soon after.
Mike Tyson made his professional debut on March 6, 1985, in Albany, New York. He defeated Hector Mercedes with a first round knockout. Fighting frequently in his first two years as a professional, Tyson won 19 of his first 22 fights by knockout, 14 of which came in the first round. The quality of his opponents gradually increased to journeyman fighters and borderline contenders, and his win streak attracted media attention, leading to his being billed as the next great heavyweight champion. D'Amato died in November, 1985, relatively early into Tyson's professional career; some speculate that his death was the genesis of many of the troubles Tyson was to experience later as his life and career progressed.
Tyson's first nationally televised bout took place on February 16, 1986 at Houston Field House in Troy, NY against journeyman heavyweight Jesse Ferguson. Tyson knocked down Ferguson with an uppercut in the fifth round that reportedly broke Ferguson's nose. During the sixth round, Ferguson began to hold and clinch Tyson in an apparent attempt to avoid further punishment. After admonishing Ferguson several times to obey his commands to break the clinches and box, the referee finally stopped the fight near the middle of the sixth round. Initially ruled a win for Tyson by disqualification (DQ) of his opponent, the ruling was subsequently "adjusted" as a win by technical knockout (TKO) after Tyson's corner protested that a DQ win would end Tyson's string of knockout victories, and that a knockout would have been the inevitable result. The rationale offered for the revised outcome was that the fight was actually stopped because Ferguson could not (rather than would not) continue boxing.
On November 22, 1986, Tyson was given his first title fight against Trevor Berbick for the World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight championship. Tyson won the title by second round TKO, and at the age of 20 years and 4 months became the youngest heavyweight champion in history. Floyd Patterson had been the youngest heavyweight champ to that time, at the age of 21 and 10 months, having won the title by beating Archie Moore in an elimination series following the retirement of Rocky Marciano. Muhammad Ali holds the record as the second youngest man to take the lineal title from the reigning undisputed champion (Sonny Liston) in the ring.
At age 20, Tyson was around 220 lb (100 kg) with approximately 5.5% body fat, and was stocky for his height of 5 ft 11˝ in (180 cm). Because of Tyson's strength, many fighters were said to be too intimidated to hit him and this was backed up by his above-average hand speed, accuracy, coordination, power, and timing. Tyson was also noted for his defensive abilities. Holding his hands high in the Peek-a-Boo style taught by his mentor Cus D'Amato, he slipped and weaved out of the way of the opponent's punches while closing the distance to deliver his own punches.
Expectations for Tyson were extremely high, and he embarked on an ambitious campaign to fight all the top heavyweights in the world. In 1987, Tyson defended his title against James 'Bonecrusher' Smith on March 7 in Las Vegas, Nevada. He won by unanimous decision and added Smith's World Boxing Association (WBA) title to his existing belt. 'Tyson mania' in the media was becoming rampant. He beat Pinklon Thomas in May with a knockout in the sixth round. On August 1 he took the International Boxing Federation (IBF) title from Tony Tucker in a twelve round unanimous decision. He became the first heavyweight to own all three major belts-WBA, WBC, and IBF-at the same time. His only other fight in 1987 was in October against the 1984 Olympic Super Heavyweight gold medalist Tyrell Biggs, that ended with a victory for Tyson by knockout in the seventh round. 1987 also saw the release of Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! for the Nintendo Entertainment System, an early example of a video game endorsed by a professional sportsperson.
Tyson had three fights in 1988. He faced an aged but still game Larry Holmes on January 22, and defeated the legendary former champion by fourth round knockout. This was the only knockout loss Holmes suffered in 75 professional bouts. Tyson then fought contender Tony Tubbs in Tokyo in March, fitting in an easy two-round victory amid promotional and marketing work.
On June 27, 1988, Tyson faced Michael Spinks. Spinks, who had taken the heavyweight championship from Larry Holmes via a 15-round decision in 1985, had not lost his title in the ring but was not recognized as champion by the major boxing organizations. Holmes had previously given up all but the IBF title, and that was eventually stripped from Spinks. However, Spinks did become the lineal champion by beating Holmes and many (including Ring magazine) considered him to have a legitimate claim to being the true heavyweight champion. Tyson knocked out Spinks in 91 seconds of the first round.
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