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Tyson Wednesday, 21 June, 2000, 16:25 GMT 17:25 UK
The Tyson story: part one
Mike Tyson
Tyson before becoming world champion in 1986
By BBC Sport Online's Sanjeev Shetty.

Before he fought Mike Tyson in 1988, legendary heavyweight champion Larry Holmes was asked for an opinion on his opponent.

Holmes, never considered a shy and retiring type, was brutal in his assessment.

"I'm going down in history, not Mike Tyson. If he does happen to win the fight, down the line he's going to destroy himself."

At the time, there were few indications that such a fate awaited the man boxing critics were already christening the most destructive heavyweight force in years.

Mike Tyson
Winning the title from Trevor Berbick
But the proceeding 12 years have seen Holmes' dark predictions hold more than just a little truth.

There are few people unaware of the basic Tyson story.

The story of how, as a juvenille delinquent headed for nothing but trouble, he caught the eye of ageing trainer/manager Cus D'Amato and had been tutored in the art of boxing from the age of 12.


Freakishly strong for his age - he already weighed close to 200lbs - the boy from Brownsville, New York became a professional boxer at the age of 18.

Carefully matched by D'Amato and skillfully marketed by co-managers Bill Cayton and Jim Jacobs, Tyson accumulated 27 wins in less than two years, with all but two of those victories coming by knockout or stoppage.

In November 1986, the 20-year-old became the youngest ever world heavyweight champion with a resounding two-round destruction of Trevor Berbick.

All indications were that Tyson was now a mature young figure ready to deal with all the trappings that would accompany his status as boxing's baddest man.


But there had already been developments which would cause long-term damage to the fragile Tyson psyche.

Mike Tyson and Mike Spinks
Knocking out Michael Spinks in quick time
A year before capturing the title, D'Amato had died from a short illness. Tyson's grief was immense, understandably as the old man was the closest thing he had to family.

In an effort to limit the effect of his passing, the fighter was pushed into a punishing schedule designed to take him to the top as quick as possible.

There was also a falling out with a young trainer named Teddy Atlas. Atlas, whose background was not dissimilar to Tyson's, warned the young fighter to end contact with a 13-year-old girl who lived in the neighbourhood.


When the fighter ignored his wishes, Atlas ordered D'Amato to discipline Tyson. The wish was ignored and Atlas left to pursue a career which would see him train a handful of world champions.

Mike Tyson and Frank Bruno
Battling British challenger Frank Bruno
But he remains adamant that the refusal to discipline Tyson set a dangerous precedent.

He proceeded to unify the then fractured heavyweight titles and after taking care of Holmes in four brutal rounds, he destroyed the only serious challenger to his crown, Michael Spinks, in little over 90 seconds.

By that stage in the summer of 1988, Tyson had married the actress Robin Givens.

He had also parted company with Cayton while co-manager Jacobs had died from leukaemia.

Promoted now by the notorious Don King, by the end of the year the marriage to Givens was over and when he needed five ponderous rounds to despatch Britain's Frank Bruno, it was obvious that not everything was rosy in Team Tyson.

The start of a new decade brought defeat at the hands of little known James 'Buster' Douglas.

And the period after that loss saw the Tyson story take a decided turn for the worse.

Click here for part two.

Tyson in Scotland
Click on the stories below for background and features

Key Stories:
See also:

26 Mar 99 | Sport
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16 Jun 00 | Sport
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