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Feb 16: Brooklyn Black History Maker, Mike Tyson

"Iron Mike" Tyson is considered one of the best heavyweight boxers of all time
Mike Tyson, BK Reader
Mike Tyson. Photo credit: Pinterest

Michael "Mike" Gerard Tyson was born in Bedford Stuyvesant on June 30, 1966, to Purcell Tyson and Lorna Mae Smith.

Tyson was one of the three children in his family. He had an older brother Rodney and a sister Denise, as well as a half-brother, Jimmie Lee. The family lived in Bedford Stuyvesant until their financial burdens necessitated a move to Brownsville when Tyson was 10 years old.

Ever since his early years, Tyson was involved in fights; he often resorted to his fist to solve problems of bullying. By the age of 13, he had already been arrested 38 times, also for committing petty crimes. Tyson was sent to Tryon School for Boys in Johnstown, New York.

It was there that Bobby Stewart, a juvenile detention center counselor and former boxer, noticed his boxing skills. Stewart considered Tyson to be an outstanding fighter and trained him with a pair of sparring gloves for a few months before introducing him to Cus D'Amato in 1980.

Amato set a rigorous training schedule for the aspiring boxer. Tyson attended Catskill High School during the day and practiced in the ring every evening. However, he did not graduate from school and left as a junior. Instead, he pursued a career in boxing, winning his first 19 professional fights by knockout or stoppage, 12 of them in the first round.

In 1981, Tyson participated in the Junior Olympic Games and won his first gold medal after defeating Joe Cortez; the following year he was victorious again after beating Kelton Brown. Three years later, at the age of 18, Tyson made his professional debut. 

On November 22, 1986, Tyson was given his first title fight against Trevor Berbick for the World Boxing Council heavyweight championship. He won the title by TKO in the second round, and at the age of 20, he became the youngest heavyweight champion in history.

Next, Tyson added the titles from the World Boxing Association and the International Boxing Federation after defeating James Smith and Tony Tucker in 1987. This made him the first heavyweight boxer to simultaneously hold the WBA, WBC and IBF titles, and the only heavyweight to successively unify them.

He successfully defended his titles nine times, until he lost them in 1990 to underdog Buster Douglas who knocked him out in the tenth round. Attempting to regain the titles, Tyson defeated Donovan Ruddock twice in 1991, but pulled out of a fight with then-undisputed heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield — who had defeated Douglas later in 1990— due to a rib injury.

Tyson's career came to an abrupt halt in 1992, when he was convicted of rape and sentenced to six years in prison; he was released on parole after serving three years. After his release in 1995, he engaged in a series of comeback fights. He won the WBC and WBA titles in 1996, after stopping Frank Bruno and Bruce Seldon. 

With his defeat of Bruno, Tyson joined Floyd Patterson, Muhammad Ali, Tim Witherspoon, Evander Holyfield and George Foreman as the only men in boxing history to regain a heavyweight championship after having lost it. After being stripped of the WBC title in the same year, Tyson lost the WBA title to Evander Holyfield by an eleventh round stoppage. Their 1997 rematch ended when Tyson was disqualified for biting Holyfield's ears.

In 2002, Tyson fought for the world heavyweight title again, now at the age of 35, but lost by knockout to Lennox Lewis. He retired from professional boxing in 2006, after being knocked out in consecutive matches against Danny Williams and Kevin McBride.

Tyson was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2011.

He currently ranks No.15 in BoxRec's ranking of the greatest heavyweight boxers in history. He was ranked No. 16 on The Ring's list of the "100 Greatest Punchers of All Time" and No. 1 in the list of "The Hardest Hitters in Heavyweight History." Sky Sports described him as "perhaps the most ferocious fighter to step into a professional ring."

Tyson was known for his ferocious and intimidating boxing style as well as his controversial behavior inside and outside the ring. Nicknamed "Iron Mike" and "Kid Dynamite" in his early career, and later known as "The Baddest Man on the Planet," Tyson is considered one of the best heavyweight boxers of all time. He holds the third longest unified championship reign in heavyweight history at eight consecutive defenses.

Mike Tyson, we acknowledge the enormous and irrevocable contributions you have made to the sport of boxing, and we honor your professional successes.


February is Black History Month! Every day this month, BK Reader will profile one Black History Maker born or raised in Brooklyn. There are countless Brooklynites— past and present— who have contributed to America's fabric as pioneers or leaders in art, entertainment, sports, science and government. This month, we present to you 28! Click here to see all of the profiles.