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Mike Tyson: The Early Years of a Fallen Warrior

Written by Sean Smith

Mike Tyson was the youngest person to win the World Heavy Weight Championship. Some would say that he is the greatest of all time, but people don’t know how much of an emotional struggle he went through to get there.

At the age of 15, Tyson was growing up in Brownsville, located in the ghetto of Brooklyn, New York. At an earlier age he was sent to the Spofford Juvenile Center for his bad behavior and committing petty crimes.  Since Tyson was a juvenile, he was not considered a felon, but he continued to act out so he was sent to Tryon School for Boys. Tyson arrived at Tryon in handcuffs and was surrounded by much bigger staff.  It didn’t take too long and Tyson began to act out at Tryon too. While there, his boxing ability was starting to emerge and Tyson found out that Bobby Stewart, a juvenile detention center counselor, was an ex-boxer. Tyson really wanted to meet Stewart, so when Stewart visited him, Tyson told him that he wanted to be a fighter.  Stewart told him that if his bad behavior continued, he’d see what would happen in the next few weeks. Tyson took those words seriously and calmed down after that meeting. Within the next few weeks, Tyson changed for the better and everyone was so impressed because he did this in such a short amount of time and began to show his outstanding boxing skills. After that, Stewart brought Tyson to Catskill, NY to a house that was well-known for fighters to train under the famous mentor Cuss D’Amato. D’Amato had an impact on the fighters he trained almost like he had a branding on the fighter. “They got to have the spark to fight. If there’s no spark, I can’t put life. I’m not a creator. What I do is discover and uncover, and when I uncover, the boys themselves discover qualities in himself that he didn’t even know he had.” When Tyson was in school, he was sensitive to people making fun of his high-pitched voice and lisp, but through boxing he became more proud and confident of himself. Everyone who saw him for the first time would say he was a born prodigy. “Mike used to knock out somebody everyday of the week, sometimes two guys.” Tyson’s first boxing opportunity was at the 1982 Junior Olympics where in his first fight he knocked out a guy in 8 seconds and then moved forward in the tournament to win the heavyweight final.

One day when Tyson was at school eating lunch, a guy started to mess with him and eventually Tyson slammed his tray and walked away later finding out that his mother had just passed away. Having D’Amato and his wife as other important figures in his life, Tyson asked D’Amato’s wife if he could call her mother. She replied with a “yes” because she knew how important it was to him. At the age of 18, Tyson turned pro, and in early 1995, he was managed by Jim Jacobs and Bill Cayton, which people said that Tyson was in good hands. When Tyson turned pro, he came out with full force like a wild animal, winning left and right with no emotion for his enemy. “He was relentless. He was everything a fighter had to be- ruthless, no compassion, a brutal puncher with both fists.” D’Amato and Tyson always had a father-son relationship, and they always saw each other as having a positive effect on their lives. “Having watched to come from where he was about a year ago I can say honestly I have a very deep affection for him. I do. To me he’s my boy when he’s with me. If he weren’t here I probably wouldn’t be alive right today, so I will stay alive and I will watch him become a success. That’s the motivation. I have to keep me alive and keep me going.” Later that year, D’Amato died on Nov 4, 1985.

D’Amato always said about Tyson that he had elusive aggression which was the signature method known as the peekaboo style. Every opponent was picked carefully for being dangerous to Tyson to bring him closer to the title. Some people thought that he was getting brought along too quickly while others thought too slowly, but Bill Cayton and Jim Jacobs said they brought him along exactly as they planned.

The match everyone was waiting for was the main event of boxing for the WBC Championship – Tyson vs. Trevor Berbick. It was an electrifying boxing experience, with Trevor Berbick being the older man and getting knocked down in Round 2 in 36 seconds.  It was eventually ruled as a knockout and Tyson won the 1986 WBC Heavyweight Championship at 20 years old. He dedicated the fight to his great guardian, Cus D’Amato, and became the youngest boxer to the the heavyweight championship in the world.

“Mike Tyson – The Fallen Champ (The Untold Story).”  YouTube, uploaded by ibhof2, 5 Nov. 2011,

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About the author

Sean Smith