Mike Tyson has extensive experience of pugilism, dating back to the early days of the modern form in the late 1800s. If you ever have the chance to talk boxing with Mike, that will become immediately clear.
During extensive combat training sessions with his coach Cus D’Amato, Tyson examined hours of vintage footage of fighters like Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, and Muhammad Ali.
Tyson was a disturbed baby who got into and out of trouble, as he detailed in his autobiography. Tyson spent his formative years surviving on the streets of Catskill by begging, stealing, and borrowing.
This led to spells in and out of juvenile detention centers like Spofford. A place Tyson would know well until one fateful meeting with a legend.
In 1977, as the unified and number one heavyweight in the world, Ali visited centers such as those Tyson frequented.
One day, Ali’s joyous need to pass on his wisdom forever changed the boxing landscape.
Tyson picks up the story in his Undisputed Truth bestseller from 2013.
“After that first time, I was going in and out of Spofford like it was nothing. Spofford became like a time-share for me,” explained Tyson.
“During one of my visits there, we were all brought to the assembly room where we watched a movie called ‘The Greatest’ – about Muhammad Ali.
“When it was over, we all applauded and were shocked when Ali himself walked out onto the stage. He looked larger than life. He didn’t have to even open his mouth.
MIKE TYSON – BE LIKE ALI
“As soon as I saw him walk out, I thought, I want to be that guy. He talked to us and it was inspirational.
“I had no idea what I was doing with my life, but I knew that I wanted to be like him.
“It’s funny, people don’t use that terminology anymore. If they see a great fight, they may say, “I want to be a boxer.” But nobody says, “I want to be like him.”
The rest is history.