His fortunes changed after the loss to Buster Douglas in 1990. But Mike Tyson remained one of the biggest draws in the sport. He was one of the highest-earning athletes of his era. Though he called for bankruptcy towards his career’s end, how did he fare against sports persons from other disciplines?
An active basketball player when Tyson bid a last-ditch effort to become a world champion, the seven-foot-tall Shaquille O’Neal began his career when ‘Iron’ Mike cooled his heels at the Plainfield Correctional Facility.
Through the two decades he spent in boxing, the sum of earnings Mike Tyson received reportedly stood at around $400 million. Going as far back as the Trevor Berbick fight that made him the youngest Heavyweight champion, Tyson received $1.5 million for demolishing the Jamaican in the second round.
For the four fights he fought from 1996 to 1997, which include the title-winning bouts against Frank Bruno and Bruce Seldon and followed by the two Evander Holyfield matches, Tyson reportedly made around a whopping $100 million!
The money Mike Tyson and Shaquille O’Neal made as contemporaries
But ‘Iron’ Mike’s biggest paycheck came sadly around when he was past his prime. The Athletic Commission annulled his boxing license after the infamous ‘Bite Fight.’ Three years later they reinstated it, and Tyson staked one final claim at the world championship: his foe, the British Lion Lennox Lewis.
Though the fight ended disastrously with an eighth-round knockout loss for Tyson, it rewarded him with $103 million. So while the fight purse stood around $33-35 million, the remaining $70-75 million was his share of the PPV revenue.
Roughly six years before the fight, twenty-four-year-old Shaquille O’Neal joined Los Angeles Lakers on a seven-year contract worth $121 million. Along with a young Kobe Bryant, O’Neal took LA Lakers to Championship victory in 2000, 2001, and 2002. Additionally, the latter received the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) award for all three years. Though the 2002-03 season was marred with injury, O’Neal reportedly took home around $23.5 million.
Mike Tyson was never the same after the defeat. Though he won the bout against Clifford Etienne the following year, it would be his last professional victory. Two years later, after two consecutive losses, ‘Iron’ Mike hung the gloves for good. Money-wise, he was going through a rough patch. Reportedly, after years of lavish lifestyle and probably unwise investments, in 2003, he had to declare himself bankrupt. He owed around $23 million in debt. On the other hand, Shaquille O’Neal joined Miami Heat after completing his tour with the Lakers.
Notwithstanding the change in fortunes of the two well-known athletes, it remains remarkable to observe how half an hour’s work on a fight night fetched a monstrous sum as against a season’s work. The two legends remain good friends and have been in touch with each other for a long time.