Mike Tyson spiraling up and down
He wasn’t alive to see boxing greats like Jack Dempsey, Muhammad Ali, and Joe Frazier, but he was alive to see the rise and fall of Mike Tyson. My father was a huge boxing fan and being in the military there were always base meetings for every great boxing match, one of the first fights I remember seeing was Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Marvin Hagler in May 1986. I only remember that fight because there were about 40 outraged adult soldiers that after Hagler dominated most of the 12 rounds, the decision went to Leonard. I didn’t understand boxing and didn’t really care until later that year.
On November 22, 1986, my other two brothers and I went with my father to his friends’ house to see a promising fighter named Mike Tyson fighting for the WBC title against Trevor Berbick. Before the fight started, most of the boys bragged that Berbick was going to mop the floor with young Tyson. People had heard of Tyson, but not many thought he could win the fight. I remember sitting on the floor in front of the TV with the other kids at the party playing with our GI Joes waiting for the fight to start.
When they stepped into the ring to touch the gloves and agree to a fair fight, when cameras took close-up shots of the fighters staring at each other, Berbick looked like this was going to be a walk in the park. But Tyson had that expression of death on his face, and once the fight started, Berbick’s face quickly changed to the expression of a deer in the headlights. When Tyson started hitting Berbick with powerful body shots and quick combos, it seemed like Berbick was in fear for his life. Once the bell rang to signal the end of the first round, everyone in the room was saying that I can’t believe this kid is taking it to Berbick. When the second round began, Tyson went for the kill and sent Berbick to the canvas twice in the second round. Berbick tried to get up three times after the second takedown but it didn’t help, he didn’t know where he was and he almost felt out of the ring.
From that point on, Mike Tyson became not only mine, but the favorite fighter of millions of boxing fans. Tyson was the first boxer to knock out Larry Holmes on his way to winning 19 fights followed by knockouts with 12 in the first round. As his fame began to grow, his fighting skills began to decline due to a lack of proper training. He lost his championship belt to James “Buster” Douglas by knockout in the 10th round in February 1990 and his life was never the same after that.
In 1992 he was arrested and sent to prison for three years for sexually assaulting Desiree Washington. Once released, he returned to boxing, appearing to be back on the track until he lost to Evander Holyfield by an eleventh round TKO in 1996. When the two fighters met again for a highly anticipated rematch, Tyson made the unthinkable and bit. a piece of Holyfield’s ear while they were tangled up on their way to being disqualified. After Tyson became a reckless mess, he ended up ending his career with a professional boxing record of 50 wins, 44 knockouts, 6 losses, and 2 no contest.
When I was a kid watching Tyson rise and fall from greatness, I wondered how someone so gifted could throw it all away. Like many people, I never really understood the insanity behind him, I only saw him as a normal rising star turned bad. It wasn’t until my twenties that I learned of Tyson’s tough childhood. I was surprised to learn that he had been arrested 38 times at the age of thirteen. When he was sixteen his mother died and he separated from his brother and sister, when he moved with his boxing coach Cus D’Amato in upstate New York. If D’Amato doesn’t step in and help Tyson turn his life around, chances are he died at the age of 18. Once Cus died, Don King entered his life and forever changed Tyson into the crazy barbarian that many people think of him today.
Now that he’s finally retired, Tyson is trying to make amends for all the bad things he’s done in his life, he knows he’s probably going to be wrong again at some point, but he’s trying to change that. On May 26, 2009, Tyson’s daughter Exodus passed away from a strange incident on the tape. Tyson was not present when it happened, and to this day he does not want to know all the details of what happened. She knows that if she finds out all the details, her anger will manifest itself against her ex-wife, who was watching her at the time. For most people, not knowing what actually happened would consume them. For Tyson, not knowing is part of his healing process on his way to becoming a better man and role model for his sons.