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Tuesday, 11 January, 2000, 20:50 GMT
The life of Iron Mike

1995: Release from jail did not prove a new start


A first glance at "Iron" Mike Tyson's career in the boxing ring reveals an impressive record-breaker and one of the sport's all-time greats.

But the statistics conceal far more than they reveal.

His 45 wins from 49 bouts - 15 by knockout - cannot tell the full story of the New Yorker who became the youngest world heavyweight champion in history.


Tyson's triumphs
1985: First professional fight won in first round
1986: Youngest heavyweight world champion in history
1987: Unifies title
1995: Wins it back after 1990 loss and jail term
Boxing tradition has it that the sport is an escape from the perils of working class life, a way of instilling discipline in wayward young men.

But if that is the case, then for the man who was arrested for purse-snatching at the age of 12 and expelled from high school four years later, the sport has failed.

Tyson was born in Brooklyn in 1966, and after his early brush with the law was taken out of reform school by boxing trainer Cus D'Amato.

His 1984 death left the young Tyson without a key influence, although within two years the bruising young boxer had scaled the heights of the sport, becoming the youngest heavyweight champion.


The 20-year-old Tyson: Youngest heavyweight champion
At the age of 20 years and 144 days he took two rounds to dispose of Trevor Berbick for the WBC title.

Fame and fortune had smiled on the young man, but controversy was not far behind, with an out-of-court settlement following a charge of assault.

It was alleged that he hit a parking attendant, a man said he had tried to intervene when Tyson attempted to kiss a woman employee.

The law proved, at this stage, a minor hiccup as Tyson unified the world heavyweight title that same year, before marriage to actress Robin Givens.

It was not a happy union, with Ms Givens and her family accusing Tyson of violence within months.


In court answering a rape charge in 1992
Within a year the 1988 marriage was over, while Tyson's reputation was not helped by him breaking his right hand in a street brawl with former opponent Mitch Green.

There was also a car crash in which the boxer was knocked unconscious, amid dark rumours of an attempted suicide caused by a chemical imbalance that made him violent and irrational.

There was more trouble - another assault charge and a speeding offence - before Tyson's professional life finally hit a setback.

In 1990, James "Buster" Douglas took Tyson's world titles with a shock win.

The same year saw the a former aide of Robin Givens suing him successfully for sexual assault and harassment.


Holyfield's ear after one of sport's most gruesome incidents
But Tyson's darkest hour came in 1991, when Desiree Washington, a 18-year-old Miss Black America contestant, accused him of raping her.

In 1992 he was convicted on rape and other charges, and jailed for six years.

While in jail, Tyson reportedly read philosophy and also studied Islam.

It was unclear whether he had actually converted to the religion, although members of the Nation of Islam - and boxing promoter Don King - were present as he emerged a free man in 1995.


Tyson's troubles
1978: Arrested, aged 12, for snatching purses
1982: Expelled from school
1989: Divorce follows 1988 marriage
1992: Convicted of rape
It was suggested that after jail Tyson was a much calmer character, apperaently without damage to his talent as the WBA and WBC titles were swiftly regained.

The WBC version was dropped in an attempt to avoid Lennox Lewis, while Evander Holyfield took the WBA belt in a 1996 bout.

But this was nothing compared with what happened in the 1997 rematch between the two, an event which has gone down as one of sport's ugliest moments.

Tyson was disqualified, fined $3m and lost his licence for biting his opponent's ear.

It seemed that reports of the new Tyson were misplaced, and the world of boxing viewed him again as a volatile and dangerous character.

It took Tyson a year-and-a-half to convince the authorities to let him fight again, but by then the fighter was in more trouble.



In August 1998 two motorists claimed he had assaulted them after a traffic accident in Maryland, and February 1999 saw Tyson back in jail.

This time the reports from the prison were not of Tyson reading quietly in his room, but of throwing a television across a prison room.

That action earnt Tyson 25 days in solitary confinement, before his release in May last year.

Yet another comeback fight was arranged, but the soap opera story of Tyson meant that it could not be straightforward.

In October last year the bout with Orlin Norris was declared a no-contest after Tyson knocked his opponent down after the bell.

It left the former champion's credibility in his home country in tatters, and his advisors' solution was to seek a fight abroad.

But the likely decision of UK immigration officials to refuse him entrance leaves this strategy in some trouble.

And it is unclear exactly what the controversial boxer's move will be.

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See also:
13 Oct 98 |  Sport
Tyson 'mentally fit to box' again
10 Jul 98 |  Sport
Tyson bides his time
19 Sep 98 |  Sport
Tyson begs for his fighting future
30 Jul 98 |  Sport
Tyson appeals for return
20 Oct 98 |  Sport
Tyson can fight again

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