Mike Tyson is coming to Prague

Read the story of "the baddest man on the planet”

Nick Young

Written by Nick Young Published on 04.10.2010 13:48:23 (updated on 04.10.2010) Reading time: 9 minutes

The personification of violence, physical power, intimidation, controversy, and a stunning fall from the highest levels of success, fame, and celebrity, former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson conjures up images that perhaps no other athlete in existence can lay claim to. As arguably the most devastating fighter in history and one of the most notorious personalities of the last century, he has a special way of captivating his fans and his detractors alike. Tyson is coming to visit Prague from October 19th to October 24th, highlighted by a Gala Evening on Friday October 22nd at Žofín Palace, which will allow the paid public a window into his life and an up close view of the individual once deemed “the baddest man on the planet.”

Mike Tyson´s story reads like an ancient tragedy that incorporates his rise from nothing, his achievement of the highest levels of success and fame, and finally a shocking return to nothing. His life is as remarkable and unforgettable as any athlete in modern times.

Raised in a broken home amongst the worst streets of Brookyln, New York he found himself fighting and stealing for money as an adolescent. By the age of 13 he had already been arrested 38 times. Ironically it was his time spent in a juvenile detention center that gave Tyson the opportunity he needed to escape the doomed street lifestyle that lays claim to most young boys from the worst parts of American cities.

His encounter with Bobby Stewart, a former boxer and a counselor at the detention center, gave Tyson the break he needed to start a new life. Stewart saw Tyson´s potential as a fighter and introduced him to legendary trainer Cus D´Amato, a larger than life figure in the boxing world who some say was the basis for the character Mickey Goldmill, aka “Mick”, Rocky Balboa´s trainer in the movie “Rocky.”

The 74 year old D´Amato and his family took Tyson into his home in rural upstate New York and raised him like a son, all the while training him to become a legendary boxer. Tyson responded to the training and the support by becoming disciplined, a willing and knowledgeable student of boxing, and a grateful and kind person towards those around him.

Tyson trained constantly and soaked up D´Amato´s advice like a sponge and quickly rose the ranks of the amateur boxing world. The culmination of success in his young career was his winning of the gold medal at the Junior Olympics in 1981 and 1982, in which he dominated his opponents with a never before seen combination of power and speed. It was here that Tyson registered the fastest knockout in the event´s history with a brutal knockout in a staggering eight seconds.

Watch the eight second knockout:

Tyson embarked on his professional career at the age of 18 with the same amount of unprecedented success, winning his first twenty seven fights, the vast majority by knockout, before earning his first shot at the heavyweight title.

The holder of the title was Trevor Berbick, who was known as an arrogant and incredibly physical fighter. Berbick had just come off of a fight against the legendary but far past his prime Muhammad Ali in which Ali had been personally humiliated and defeated. Before the fight, Ali came into the ring and told the young upstart Tyson to get payback on his behalf. It became a symbolic passing of the torch from an old legend to a new legend, as Tyson destroyed Berbick in the second round with a staggering knockout and became the youngest heavyweight champion ever at the age of 20.

Watch Tyson´s knockout of Berbick:

Now with the reputation of being boxing´s most intimidating and physically dominant fighter, Tyson´s fame and wealth grew at an astronomical rate. He drew purses of tens of millions of dollars per fight, he became a national advertising icon, he had a popular video game from Nintendo based on him, and he became one of the world´s most famous personalities.

But beyond this being the beginning of Mike Tyson´s success and fame, it would also mark the beginning of Tyson´s road to infamy and a launch into his out of control lifestyle. The year before Tyson won the title his trainer, mentor, and by that time his adopted father, Cus D´Amato had passed away. Now with millions of dollars coming in quickly, worldwide fame, and an unbelievable amount of temptation Tyson would be without the guidance he needed to stay disciplined in his pursuit of becoming the greatest fighter ever. Instead Tyson was surrounded by opportunists, gangsters, and a cavalcade of women all of whom were out to take advantage of the rich, famous, and naďve young fighter. It was at this time that Tyson reverted from being the focused young man that D´Amato had raised to the street kid that took what he wanted and had no regard for those he took from.


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Nonetheless, Tyson went on a string of fights in which he utterly dominated his opponents. Many admitted to feeling defeated before even stepping in the ring with the young champ, and their lack of confidence often led to bone crushing early knockouts.

See some of Tyson´s strongest knockouts:

His fame grew, his bank account swelled, and his behavior worsened. Known for being a man who partied constantly, Tyson stayed out until the early morning, ignored his training regimen, and abused cocaine. By this time all members of Tyson´s former inner circle had been cast aside and in their place was a large group of people looking to use Tyson for money and prestige. Most infamous was boxing promoter and convicted criminal Don King, who used Tyson to earn tens of millions, including the embezzling of Tyson´s personal winnings.

It was at this time that Tyson also suffered through his controversial and abusive marriage to television actress Robin Givens. Their problems were very public and apparently caused a huge amount of pain and distraction for Tyson´s career. This tumultuous period lead to their divorce in 1989 and forced a sharp decline in his focus and thereafter his boxing abilities.

See video of part of the famous, controversial interview of Tyson and Robin Givens:

Tyson´s decline was exemplified in his first and undoubtedly most surprising loss as a fighter, falling to James “Buster” Douglas in Tokyo, Japan in 1990. Douglas was a 42-1 underdog, yet the largely unknown fighter pulled out a grueling victory over the sluggish Tyson with a 10th round knockout. It was the first time in 38 professional fights that Tyson had ever been knocked to the canvas and for the first time ever it separated him from the championship belt and shattered his reputation as being indestructible.

The completion of Tyson´s downward spiral came when in July 1991 when he was arrested for the rape of 18 year old beauty contestant Desiree Washington. The arrest led to nationwide controversy as the country became divided over Tyson´s guilt or innocence. Eventually he was put on trial, convicted, and sentenced to six years in an Indiana prison.

The boxing world waited anxiously for Tyson´s release and after serving three years Tyson re-emerged on the scene. In prison Tyson became a Muslim and read books at an astounding rate. The new image inspired the public to believe that he could become a fighter that could retain his former discipline and past glory.

After leaving prison it took Tyson only one year to regain the heavyweight title, but his revival would be short-lived. Known more so for his public outbursts and a return to his fast lane style of partying and womanizing, Tyson had his first true test in the ring against the veteran fighter Evander Holyfield. The more well trained Holyfield dominated Tyson in their first fight, leading to an 11th round technical knockout of Tyson. There was a call for a rematch, which happened in June of 1997, and the fight brought more controversy than any other in the history of Tyson´s career and perhaps in the history of boxing itself.

Tyson was outmatched by the impeccably trained Holyfield once again and it showed. In what some people claim to be the most clear example of Mike Tyson as an out of control beast of a man, Tyson was disqualified from the fight for biting off a piece of the ear of Holyfield.

Video of Tyson biting Holyfield´s ear (not for the squeamish!):

It was the beginning of the end for Tyson, as he was banned from fighting for a year, a time in which Tyson clearly had lost his edge and his passion for championship boxing. After being reinstated he fought once and won, but was then sentenced to prison again after being arrested for assault.

Upon his second return from prison to the ring Tyson brought more controversy by trying to break the arms of one opponent during a fight, knocking out another after the bell, physically threatening reporters, and telling one of his opponents that he´d eat his children.

Some of his worst public outbursts (not safe for work):

Tyson ended his career in 2005 by losing three of his final four fights, including his last two to journeymen fighters. In Tyson´s final fight he did not even answer the bell in the sixth round, a humiliating way to end a career. It was perhaps a fitting end to a career that was spectacular both in its successes and failures.

In his personal life Tyson went through several down points after he stopped boxing. He has been arrested more than once for drunk driving, drug possession, and assault. He declared bankruptcy in 2003, an astounding fact when considering that he earned over $300,000,000 over his career. Worse than anything else, his four year old daughter died in an accident in 2009.

But Tyson has begun a renaissance of late, as well. He has six children that he supports, he is a practicing Muslim, and he says that he appreciates life and his family now that he has had to start over after hitting bottom. He has gained acclaim for his role in the comedic hit movie, “The Hangover”, in which he played himself much to the enjoyment of the movie´s viewers.

Some believe that Mike Tyson is a criminal brute that squandered his opportunity to become the greatest fighter ever and has caused far more harm than good to society. Others believe the contrary, that he rose from nothing to achieve amazing success despite being the victim of a bad upbringing and being led astray by opportunists that only used him until he had nothing more to give.

The debate about Mike Tyson´s legacy can be argued to no end. But what cannot be argued is that Tyson has led a life that has been totally lived, for better or for worse. He truly is a legend that captivates the imagination and grabs the public´s attention with an attitude as fierce and devastating as a left hook followed by a crushing uppercut.

What will happen with the next round of Tyson´s life is yet to be seen, but the fact that he is now answering the bell and going toe-to-toe with his past demons in such an open manner deserves commendation.  We´ll see how he handles the pressure from our very own ringside seat, starting with his appearance in Prague in late October.


Note: Expats.cz also brings you a competition for a ticket to Mike Tyson Gala Evening at Žofín Palace October 22nd. Win a chance to meet Mike Tyson and have a picture with living legend! Click here for more details.

Also: we have a signed glove for you in today’s Big Debate! Check our facebook page this afternoon and win it!

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