The long, winding road that brought Mike Tyson back to boxing


Fifty-four-year-old Mike Tyson will enter a boxing ring on Saturday to compete for the first time in more than 15 years. His scheduled eight-round exhibition against 51-year-old Roy Jones Jr. will elicit mixed emotions, including curiosity, concerns for safety, passion for one of the greatest heavyweights ever and anger for someone with a troubled past.

For many fans, it will be the first time watching Tyson fight, outside of highlight videos.

For others, it will be another chapter in one of the most unique stories in sports. From historic heights as a boxing champion to bottoming out in an Indiana prison.

Will Tyson’s boxing journey come to an end Saturday at Staples Center? Tyson has hinted that he might not be done. When asked by First Take’s Max Kellerman in July why he was stepping back into the ring in the first place, he gave a simple answer. It’s the same reason why he has fought since the very beginning, when he was getting into scrapes in Brooklyn during his childhood.

“It’s because I can do it.”

Mike Tyson was born in Brooklyn, New York, on June 30, 1966. Raised by a single mother, a young Tyson was arrested 38 times for petty crimes by the time he was 13 years old, according to Tyson’s 2013 memoir “Undisputed Truth.” During one of his early stints in the penal system, Tyson’s boxing potential was discovered by Bobby Stewart, a juvenile detention center counselor who eventually introduced him to boxing manager and trainer Cus D’Amato.

As an amateur, Tyson won gold medals at the 1981 and 1982 Junior Olympic Games, including a head-turning performance in 1982 in Colorado that featured an eight-second knockout and a dominant victory in the finals.

Tyson was expelled from Catskill High School in 1982, the year his mother died. In 1984, D’Amato became Tyson’s legal guardian.

1985-1987: Early career

Tyson’s first professional fight happened on March 6, 1985, in Albany, New York. Tyson, who was 18, knocked out Hector Mercedes in the first round of a scheduled four-round bout.

In just over a year (a year and four days, to be precise), Tyson racked up 19 consecutive knockout victories, with no fight going beyond the sixth round. That included a stretch from Aug. 15, 1985 through Jan 11, 1986 in which Tyson fought 10 times and recorded nine first-round KOs and one second-round KO. Over the first four-plus years of his career, Tyson worked closely with trainer Kevin Rooney, who rose to prominence under D’Amato.

D’Amato died of pneumonia on Nov. 4, 1985, just three days after Tyson pushed his professional record to 11-0. Tyson fought again on Nov. 13.

Tyson’s KO streak ended in his 20th fight, as James Tillis took Tyson the distance in a 10-round bout on May 3, 1986. Mitch Green would do the same 17 days later, but Tyson then rattled off seven more KOs in a row — culminating in his first heavyweight title fight.

A year and a half after his pro debut, Tyson defeated Trevor Berbick on Nov. 22, 1986, at the Las Vegas Hilton, to win the WBC heavyweight title. At 20 years, 145 days, Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in boxing history. That record still stands.

In Tyson’s next fight, he beat James Smith by unanimous decision on March 7, 1987 to win the WBA heavyweight title. Tyson moved to 30-0 with a sixth-round TKO of Pinklon Thomas on May 30, 1987, and on Aug. 1 of that year, a unanimous-decision victory over Tony Tucker earned Tyson the IBF heavyweight title.

Tyson is the first man to win the heavyweight titles from all three major sanctioning bodies, and at 21 years, 32 days old, still holds the record as the youngest fighter to do so in any division.

Two days after Tyson successfully defended all three of his titles for the first time, Nintendo released “Mike Tyson’s Punchout” for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Punchout eventually eclipsed 3 million units sold, making it one of the top 20 games ever produced for the NES.

1988-89: Troubles in and out of the ring

After dispatching heavyweight legend Larry Holmes in just four rounds on Jan. 22, 1988, Tyson married actress Robin Givens on Feb. 9, 1988, in New York.

In June 1988, Givens and her family went public with allegations of abuse and physical violence from Tyson. Later that month, Tyson sued longtime manager Bill Cayton to break their contract, alleging thievery, which Cayton denied. Tyson later settled out of court with Cayton. Hours after filing the suit, Tyson destroyed previously undefeated former heavyweight champion Michael Spinks in just 91 seconds to add The Ring heavyweight title to his growing collection.



A look back at when Mike Tyson knocked out Michael Spinks in 91 seconds on June 27, 1988.

On Aug. 23, 1988, Tyson was confronted in Harlem by Mitch Green while he visited fashion designer Dapper Dan to pick up clothes he’d been fitted for earlier in the day. In a late-night street fight, Tyson broke a bone in his right hand. Tyson had defeated Green in the ring in May 1986.

On Sept. 4, Tyson was knocked unconscious when he slammed his BMW into a tree in Catskill, New York. Tyson allegedly threatened to take his own life multiple times, both before and after the incident. Tyson was rendered unconscious and suffered a concussion, but suffered no other serious injuries. A title defense against Frank Bruno was pushed from October into 1989.

Givens filed for divorce in October 1988 and it was eventually granted in early 1989.

On Oct. 26, Tyson signed a partnership to work with boxing promoter Don King.

In December 1988, Tyson fired longtime trainer Rooney amid a wave of personal turmoil. Rooney ultimately won $4.4 million in a lawsuit that claimed Tyson had broken a lifetime contract.

After fighting 15 times in 1985, 13 times in 1986, four times in 1987 and three times in 1988, Tyson had the first of only two bouts he’d take in 1989. He retained all of his titles in a fifth-round TKO of Frank Bruno.

Tyson extended his record to 37-0 with a first-round TKO of Carl Williams on July 21, 1989.

1990-2000: The upset and ‘The Bite Fight’



Check out Buster Douglas’ 10th-round knockout of Mike Tyson in their heavyweight title fight in Tokyo on this date in 1990, which is considered one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.

Tyson wouldn’t fight again until Feb. 11, 1990, against James “Buster” Douglas at the Tokyo Dome in Japan. Douglas, a 42-1 betting long shot, handed Tyson the first loss of his professional boxing career with a stunning 10th-round TKO. Tyson lost all three of his major heavyweight titles. That March, Tyson told the Los Angeles Times that he “never took the fight seriously” and fell into “sloppy habits” in training. (Watch 30 for 30: 42-1 on ESPN+)

Tyson returned to the ring on June 16, defeating Henry Tillman via first-round KO. Tillman had previously defeated Tyson twice in qualifying for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, keeping Tyson from making the team.

Tyson TKO’d Alex Stewart on Dec. 8. After a seventh-round TKO win over Donovan “Razor” Ruddock on March 18, 1991 was deemed by the court of public opinion to be a premature stoppage, Tyson won a unanimous-decision victory over Ruddock in a June 28, 1991 rematch. It would be his last pro fight for more than four years.

On July 18, 1991, Tyson met Desiree Washington, a Miss Black America contestant at a pageant rehearsal in Indianapolis. They went back to Tyson’s hotel room. Four days later, Washington filed a complaint with police alleging Tyson raped her. While Tyson awaited trial, a scheduled November 1991 fight with Evander Holyfield was delayed because of a rib injury Tyson suffered in training.

Tyson was found guilty of one count of rape and two counts of deviate sexual conduct on Feb. 10, 1992. He was sentenced to six years in prison and four years of probation, and Tyson was remanded at the Indiana Youth Center, despite being an adult at 25. Tyson spent just over three years in jail before he was paroled on March 25, 1995.

Tyson had two tuneup fights at the tail end of 1995, defeating Peter McNeeley on Aug. 19 and Buster Mathis Jr. on Dec. 16. Tyson won back the WBC heavyweight title in a rematch against Frank Bruno on March 16, 1996, earning a third-round TKO, and then beat Bruce Seldon via first-round TKO on Sept. 7 to win back the WBA heavyweight title.

As Tyson and King lined up the long-awaited fight with Holyfield, Tyson vacated the WBC belt on Sept. 25 as part of an agreement to avoid facing then-WBC No. 1 mandatory challenger Lennox Lewis. Lewis had initially stepped aside to allow Seldon to fight Tyson for the title in exchange for $4 million and the next shot at the belt, but by May, it became clear that the fight had little chance of happening. According to Don King, Lewis’ contract with HBO essentially forbade him from appearing on Showtime, where Tyson was under contract.

Four years after Holyfield had been scheduled for the fight, Holyfield defeated 8-1 betting favorite Tyson via 11th-round TKO on Nov. 9, 1996. Tyson and his team complained about head-butts from Holyfield that were called accidental by referee Mitch Halpern.

The rematch on June 28, 1997 became perhaps the most famous boxing fight of all time. With Holyfield receiving $35 million and Tyson $30 million — a record for the highest combined fighter purse total that would stand for almost 10 years — anticipation was high. In the third round, Tyson bit Holyfield’s right ear, removing a chunk of it with his teeth, and referee Mills Lane paused the fight, docking Tyson two points. When the round resumed, Tyson bit Holyfield’s left ear, and was disqualified.

On July 9, the Nevada State Athletic Commission revoked Tyson’s boxing license, which wouldn’t be restored until Oct. 19, 1998.

In early March 1998, Tyson filed lawsuits against Don King and his former managers, Rory Holloway and John Horne. The King lawsuit for $100 million was eventually settled in June 2004. The $14 million settlement immediately went to pay Tyson’s creditors toward more than $38 million in debt.

While he waited for his boxing license to be reinstated, Tyson received a reported $3 million-$3.5 million payday for a short-term storyline in the WWE. After aligning himself with WWE star Shawn Michaels and the pop culture phenomenon D-Generation X, Tyson helped “Stone Cold” Steve Austin win the then-WWF championship from Michaels at WrestleMania 14 on March 29.

On Aug. 31, 1998, Tyson was involved in a traffic accident in Maryland in which two men alleged Tyson struck them, and filed charges. On Dec. 1, Tyson pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault charges related to the incident.

In his first fight since the Holyfield rematch, Tyson defeated Francois Botha via fifth-round KO on Jan. 16, 1999.

On Feb. 5, Tyson was sentenced to a year in jail for assault charges related to the August 1998 traffic incident, and he served 3½ months. The Maryland Parole Commission voted 5-1 to grant Tyson’s release on May 21, and he was released on May 24, a few hours after an Indiana judge ruled to end Tyson’s probation tied to his 1992 rape conviction.

In his return fight against Orlin Norris on Oct. 23, a punch thrown by Tyson after the bell at the end of the first round knocked down Norris and injured Norris’ knee, triggering a no-contest.


TKO wins over Julius Francis (second round, on Jan. 29) and Lou Savarese (first round, on June 24) in the U.K. set up Tyson for bigger things in his in-ring career in 2000, but chaos continued outside of it. In February, Tyson reached a confidential settlement with two women who alleged an assault in a Washington, D.C., restaurant in March 1998.

On Aug. 22, Tyson was fined $187,500 for knocking down the referee as he continued to punch Savarese after the fight had been stopped. After the victory, during a postfight interview with Jim Gray, Tyson directed infamous comments toward then-reigning heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, stating, “I want your heart. I want to eat your children.”

On Oct. 20, Tyson forced Andrew Golota to retire on his stool after the third round, but the decision was changed to a no contest after Tyson tested positive for marijuana in a postfight drug test.

Tyson fought once in 2001, defeating Brian Nielsen in Denmark on Oct. 13. That set the stage for what would ultimately be the last significant fight of Tyson’s career, against Lewis.

On. Jan. 22, Tyson and Lewis came to blows during a televised news conference. The originally scheduled date of April 6 was pushed back to June 8, in part because the Nevada State Athletic Commission refused to license Tyson for the bout, and at the Pyramid Arena in Memphis, Tennessee, Lewis knocked out Tyson in the eighth round.

Tyson would fight three more times professionally, once in each of the next three years. He returned to Memphis and defeated Clifford Etienne via first-round KO on Feb. 22, 2003, and got knocked out in the fourth round of a fight against Danny Williams in Kentucky on July 30, 2004.

It was a slow spiral for Tyson, who also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the summer of 2003. That also was the year Tyson got his signature facial tattoo.

In what would be his final pro fight, Tyson retired to his stool after the sixth round of his fight against Kevin McBride in Washington, D.C.

2006-2019: Acting, investments and tragedy

While his pro career was over, Tyson fought Corey “T-Rex” Sanders in a series of exhibition fights in Ohio in 2006. These were his last vestiges of actual in-ring action until his scheduled return to the ring in 2020.

In December 2006, Tyson’s legal trouble continued when he was arrested in Arizona and later charged with drug possession and driving under the influence of drugs in Maricopa County.

On Feb. 7, David Chesnoff, a lawyer for Tyson, announced that Tyson had checked himself into an in-patient treatment program for “various addictions” as he awaited his trial stemming from his December 2006 arrest.

After pleading guilty in September 2007, Tyson checked into Arizona’s infamous “Tent City” open-air prison, run by the Sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio, for a one-day sentence, along with three years of probation and 360 hours of community service.

Tyson returned to the public eye in a major cameo in the 2009 film “The Hangover,” which became the highest-grossing R-rated comedy movie of all time. Tyson played a fictionalized version of himself, with the quartet of main characters in the movie having kidnapped Tyson’s pet tiger. In later interviews, Tyson indicated he was still dealing with substance abuse issues as he filmed the part. Tyson later returned in the sequel, “Hangover Part II.” Tyson also has appeared on the TV shows “Brothers,” “Entourage,” “Law and Order: SVU,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Franklin and Bash” and “The Last O.G.,” as well as a handful of other movies.

Tyson experienced a family tragedy in May 2009, when his 4-year-old daughter got caught in the cord of a treadmill at Tyson’s Phoenix home and became entangled and died. Tyson was in Las Vegas at the time of the accident.

In June 2009, Tyson married his third wife, Lakiha “Kiki” Spicer, to whom he is still married. He returned to WWE on May 5, 2010, guest-hosting Monday Night Raw, and “knocked out” tag-team partner Chris Jericho.

Tyson performed in a one-man show on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre, which ran from July 31-Aug. 12, 2012. The show, which is based on Tyson talking about the troubles of his life, was directed by Spike Lee and written by Tyson’s wife, Kiki. Tyson eventually brought the show on tour throughout the United States, including a stop in Las Vegas, and a filmed version premiered on HBO in 2013.

After years of substance abuse and weight-control issues, Tyson embraced a vegan diet and lost 140 pounds, which he talked about in 2013.

“Mike Tyson Mysteries,” a 12-minute animated show, debuted as part of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming lineup on Oct. 27, 2014. On the show, Tyson, once again playing a fictionalized version of himself, played on the trope of Scooby Doo-style mysteries, solving them with a ragtag team of his own. The show ran for four seasons and 70 episodes, with the finale airing on Feb. 16, 2020.

In December 2017, Tyson broke ground on a “cannabis resort” in California City, about 110 miles north of Los Angeles in the Mojave Desert.

In his first instance of actively participating in boxing activities in more than a decade, on Jan. 30, 2018, Tyson released an Instagram post in which he held the pads for his son Miguel.

On May 23, 2019, Tyson extended his postboxing resume into investing in esports.

2020: The return



Rafael Cordeiro marvels at the idea of Mike Tyson making a return to the heavyweight division even at 53 years old.

On May 1, 2020, the first hints at a boxing return for Tyson emerged, as a brief snippet on training footage was released by Tyson and his team on Instagram. Three days later, on May 4, the trainer in the footage, Rafael Cordeiro, said Tyson can make a comeback against anyone.

On May 11, an extended Tyson training clip popped up on his Instagram. In it, Tyson said, “I’m back!”

Amid speculation about his next boxing move, Tyson made two appearances in the world of pro wrestling. On May 23, he presented the new All Elite Wrestling TNT championship to Cody Rhodes. He returned on AEW’s weekly TV show Dynamite on May 27 to get involved in a faceoff with former WWE rival Jericho that also included former UFC stars Henry Cejudo, Rashad Evans and Vitor Belfort as part of Tyson’s entourage.



Mike Tyson shares his intense boxing training as he plans a rumored comeback into the sport.

Tyson continued to release more training footage as rumors of a possible comeback continued to swirl, on June 22 and July 21.

On July 23, Tyson and Jones announced their intentions to fight in a Sept. 12 exhibition match. As part of the undercard, former NBA star Nate Robinson was scheduled to face YouTube sensation Jake Paul.

In an interview with ESPN’s Max Kellerman on July 25, Tyson said his drive to return to the boxing ring centers around simply being able to do it, because of how good he felt. He also talked about how he felt the protections put in place for his exhibition against Jones made both of them feel safe enough to do it.

On Aug. 9, Tyson and Jones pushed the date of their fight back to Nov. 28.

At a news conference for the fight on Oct. 29, Tyson returned to his signature style of over-the-top fight promotion, and said he wanted to “disable” Roy Jones Jr.

In an interview with ESPN released on Nov. 10, Tyson implied he might not stop after the Jones fight and might pursue other boxing opportunities. The following day, on Nov. 11, Tyson ripped off his shirt during an interview with Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

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