27 Bizarre Mike Tyson Facts That Illuminate The Famous Boxer’s Roller-Coaster Life

Published August 17, 2022

From his love of pigeons to the original idea for his facial tattoo, these facts about Mike Tyson will change how you see the legendary boxer.

Mike Tyson Facts

Wally McNamee/Corbis via Getty ImagesMike Tyson looks down at a defeated competitor in this undated photo from early in his career.

Mike Tyson has fascinated the world since he first rose to prominence as a seemingly unbeatable boxer in the 1980s. Since then — as these Mike Tyson facts prove — he’s made waves both in and out of the ring.

Indeed, Tyson is known for much more than just his boxing prowess. Many today know him for his face tattoo, rape conviction, and an array of exotic pets. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Below, look through these Mike Tyson facts and learn a thing or two about the infamous “Iron Mike.”

Mike Tyson Was Bullied As A Child

Born on June 30, 1966, Michael Gerard Tyson didn’t initially seem like the kind of boy who would grow up to be a fearsome and powerful fighter. According to ESPN, Tyson described himself as “a little fat kid with glasses” who was frequently hounded by bullies.

In fact, Tyson credits his bullying for his own ferocity in and out of the boxing ring. “I am just afraid of being treated that way again, of being physically victimized on the streets again,” he said in Tyson: The Movie. “I was just afraid, so afraid.”

Mike Tyson Was Arrested Dozens Of Times Before The Age Of 12

According to Heavy, Mike Tyson told the Impaulsive with Logan Paul podcast that he was arrested 40 times before the age of 12 while growing up in Brooklyn. He said that he committed “burglaries, pick-pocketing, snatching jewelry… One-punch knockout and then go in their pocket, robbery.”

Tyson got into so much trouble that he was sent to the Tryon School for Boys — where Tyson fatefully developed his boxing skills.

Mike Tyson Loves Racing Pigeons

Mike Tyson Pigeon

Stringer/Getty ImagesMike Tyson examines a pigeon at the home of pigeon fancier Horace Watts while in England in 2005.

Though he has a tough reputation, one of the most interesting Mike Tyson facts is that he has a soft spot for racing pigeons. As a boy in Brooklyn, he spent $100 of his own hard-earned money to buy a flock that he kept on his roof.

“The first thing I ever loved in my life was a pigeon. I don’t know why… I feel ridiculous trying to explain it,” Tyson said in the documentary Taking on Tyson.

He went on to explain that he got into his first fight at age 11, when one of his neighborhood bullies snuck onto the roof, grabbed one of Tyson’s beloved birds, and tore off its head.

Even once he’d achieved fame and riches, Tyson continued to raise pigeons. According to Reuters, he has 2,500 birds spread across various locations.

His Pro-Boxing Debut Was A Knockout

On March 6, 1985, Mike Tyson captivated the world’s attention for the first time. Then, the 18-year-old boxer made his pro-boxing debut in a match against Hector Mercedes — and defeated Mercedes in a first-round technical knockout.

“The night of the fight, I was nervous,” Tyson wrote in his autobiography, Undisputed Truth. “But I knew I could beat the guy as soon as I saw him in the ring.”

Mike Tyson Seemed Unbeatable In His First Year

After defeating Hector Mercedes, Mike Tyson seemed unstoppable. In 1985, he won all of his fights and finished the season with 15 knockouts.

Mike Tyson Ate Thousands Of Calories A Day

Another of the more interesting Mike Tyson facts is that to power his winning boxing matches, Tyson would consume between 3,000 to 4,000 calories per day. According to The Sun, he would have oatmeal, milk, and vitamin supplements for breakfast, chicken breasts and rice for lunch, steak and pasta for dinner.

Between meals, Tyson would also sometimes have a smoothie with six bananas and snack on ice cream and cereal.

Mike Tyson Refrained From Sex For Five Years

For five years, Mike Tyson refrained from having sex because people told him it would help his boxing. But Tyson regrets his period of celibacy.

“[I did it] because I’m an idiot,” he said, according to The Sun. “I was so stupid. I just went by what people told me. ‘This is what you’re supposed to do, girls are gonna mess up your boxing.'”

Mike Tyson Holds The Record For Youngest Heavyweight Champion

To this day, Mike Tyson holds the record as the youngest heavyweight champion in boxing history — he was 20 years old and four months when he became the champion.

Mike Tyson’s Peak Net Worth Was Approximately $300 Million

Mike Tyson’s hard work — and boxing victories — paid off. At his peak, he had an estimated net worth of around $300 million.

According to Forbes and reported by The Los Angeles Times, Tyson even became the highest-paid athlete in the world in 1990, a feat he repeated in 1996.

Mike Tyson Had Three Tigers As Pets

Tiger Owned By Boxer

The Ring Magazine via Getty Images)Mike Tyson with one of his pet tigers in 1989.

One of the more widely-known Mike Tyson facts is that, flush with his boxing money in the 1990s, he famously bought several tigers. As he told The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, the idea came to him while he was in prison for a rape conviction.

Then, Tyson’s car dealer mentioned how he was going to trade some cars for horses. Tyson asked what else a person could trade cars for, and the dealer mentioned several animals. But one stuck out.

“He said, ‘Yeah man, you can get cougars, lions, tigers,'” Tyson told the podcast. “I said, ‘You do?! Can you get me some tigers?'”

He eventually got three Bengal tigers: Boris, Storm, and Kenya. According to Sportskeeda, Tyson paid $70,000 for the tigers, spent $200,000 to feed and house them, and $125,000 to train them.

At least one tiger, Kenya, lived with Tyson for sixteen years. But he had to give her up when she attacked a trespasser.

He Once Offered To Pay $10,000 To Fight A Gorilla

Tyson seemed to have an ongoing fascination with animals — and fighting — which led him to offer a zoo worker $10,000 to let him fight a silverback gorilla.

As Tyson tells it, he and his wife were enjoying a private tour of a New York zoo when the boxer noticed a gorilla who seemed to be bullying the others in its enclosure.

“I offered the attendant $10,000 to open the cage and let me smash that silverback’s snot box,” Tyson told The Sun. “He declined.”

The Boxer Bought His Wife A $2 Million Solid Gold Bathtub

However, Tyson didn’t only spend his money on exotic animals. Another interesting Mike Tyson fact is that he also used his riches to spoil those closest to him, like his wives. Once, Tyson bought a 24-carat gold bathtub for $2 million for one of his wives.

Yet money can’t buy happiness — and two out of three of Tyson’s marriages ended in divorce.

Mike Tyson Married Multiple Times

Of Tyson’s three marriages, to Robin Givens, Monica Turner, and Lakiha Spicer, two ended in divorce. Though Tyson is still married to Spicer, whom he wed in 2009, Givens described her one-year marriage to the boxer as “torture, pure hell, worse than anything I could possibly imagine.” And Turner alleged that Tyson had committed adultery.

Mike Tyson Has Slept With Over 1,000 Women

Indeed, if one of Mike Tyson’s bodyguards is to be believed, the boxer slept with his fair share of women. In 1992, bodyguard Rudy Gonzalez told The New York Post that Tyson had slept with 1,300 women — and kept their names and sexual preferences in a handheld computer.

“A lot of them are women whose names you’d recognize,” Gonzalez said. “But the 1,300 doesn’t count the one-night stands, the groupies.”

His Ex-Wife Allegedly Cheated On Him With Brad Pitt

Perhaps one of the least surprising Mike Tyson facts is his wandering eye. But according to him, so did one of his ex-wives. Tyson wrote in his autobiography that his first wife, Robin Givens, had an affair with movie star Brad Pitt.

“I was mad as hell!” Tyson said during an interview on In Depth With Graham Bensinger. “I was going to… you should have seen his face when he saw me.”

Mike Tyson Has Eight Children — And One Died Tragically

Mike Tyson has six biological children. But one, Exodus, tragically died when she was only four years old. In 2009, Exodus was playing on a treadmill and accidentally died from strangulation after she fell and caught her neck in the machine’s cord.

Mike Tyson Originally Had A Different Idea For His Face Tattoo

Boxer Tribal Face Tattoo

Tom Casino/Getty ImagesMike Tyson famously has a tattoo on his face, but his original idea for the tattoo was quite different.

Mike Tyson famously has a tribal tattoo on his face, which he got inked in 2003 and says represents his “warrior status.” But one of the more surprising Mike Tyson facts is that the boxer initially had a very different idea for the tattoo.

In a 2012 interview on In Depth with Graham Bensinger, Tyson explained that he originally wanted to tattoo his face with hearts. “I just thought it was a cool tattoo,” he said. “I was going to get a bunch of hearts and stuff… I was going to be the man of hearts, baby.”

According to Tyson, his tattoo artist advised against it — and came up with the famous tribal tattoo idea instead.

Mike Tyson Has More Than One Tattoo

Mike Tyson’s face tattoo might be his most famous, but he has several others as well. The boxer also has tattoos of Mao Zedong, Che Guevera, one of his ex-wives, a dragon, and tennis star Arthur Ashe.

Mike Tyson Once Bit Off A Chunk Of His Opponent’s Ear

Tyson’s tattoos and skill as a boxer certainly set him apart from his competitors. But Tyson has also engaged in outrageous behavior — in and out of the ring — which fueled his notoriety. Take the ear-biting incident.

On June 28, 1997, in one of the most infamous moments in boxing history, Tyson bit off part of the ear of his opponent, Evander Holyfield. Then, he bit him again.

As a result, Tyson was disqualified from the fight, fined more than $3 million, and had his boxing license suspended (though it was reinstated a year later.) He later tried to explain why he’d bitten Holyfield, saying at a press conference:

“I cannot tell why exactly I acted like I did, other than to say when the butting occurred and I thought I might lose because of a severely — of a cut above my eye, I just snapped.”

But Holyfield wasn’t the only person who Mike Tyson would bite over the years.

Mike Tyson Also Bit Another Rival

When Mike Tyson and fellow boxer Lennox Lewis arrived at their pre-fight press conference in January 2002, tensions were high. And as the two fighters faced each other, Tyson suddenly lunged at Lewis.

“All of a sudden I saw him take his hat off, throw it on the ground and start marching towards me,” Lewis recalled, according to The New York Post.

Five years after biting Holyfield, Tyson bared his teeth again. He bit Lewis in the leg, leaving a scar. “Boom. I was on it,” Lewis said. “The first three punches were mine and the first bite was his.”

He added, “I was shocked that he was biting me on my leg. I’ve never been bitten by a human before.”

Their fight was canceled, and Lewis later won the rescheduled rematch. But Tyson’s only regret seems to be that he wasn’t more violent with his opponents.

He Is ‘Disappointed’ That He Never Killed Anyone

Apparently, Mike Tyson has some mixed feelings about his lack of fatalities in the ring. One of the most disturbing Mike Tyson facts is that, in a 2013 interview with The Telegraph, the boxer was asked if he was ever afraid that he’d kill someone during a fight.

“Yes, but I was so disappointed that I didn’t,” Tyson said before adding, “Although I’m happy now that I didn’t.”

The Boxer Fought While High On Drugs…

In his autobiography, Undisputed Truth, Mike Tyson admitted to fighting while high on cocaine and marijuana and using a fake penis to pass drug tests.

“I was a full-blown cokehead,” Tyson said, noting that he’d first tried cocaine when he was just 11 years old.

In a 2013 interview with the The Telegraph, Tyson additionally explained that he came up with a way to get around drug tests before fights. He used a fake penis that he called his “whizzer” to give clean urine samples.

“I had to use my whizzer, which was a fake penis where you put in someone’s clean urine to pass your drug test,” Tyson explained. He added that he’d been high on cocaine when he bit Lewis’s leg in 2002.

…And Also Beat Up Sex Workers While High

In 2009, Tyson infamously beat up seven sex workers in Las Vegas while high. Calling it his “lowest point,” Tyson told Las Vegas Weekly in 2012 that he felt paranoid that they were going to try and rob him.

“I have a morphine drip, and I had my cocaine, and I had my Cialis, I had my marijuana, I had the Hennessy,” Tyson said. “I started beating them. I was in a dark place. There was a purpose, though, because I didn’t want to give them any more of my soul.”

In 2012, Tyson said the incident inspired him to stop using cocaine. But he’s recently admitted that staying sober has been an ongoing struggle, according to Essence.

He Went To Jail For Raping An 18-Year-Old Woman

Mike Tyson awed the world with his boxing skills in the ring in the 1980s. But in the 1990s, he started making headlines for the wrong reasons. On Feb. 10, 1992, he was convicted of raping Desiree Washington, an 18-year-old beauty pageant contestant.

Months earlier, in July 1991, Washington and Tyson had crossed paths at a rehearsal for the Miss Black America pageant in Indianapolis, Indiana, where Washington was a contestant. The 18-year-old went to Tyson’s room with him, where she says he raped her.

Tyson denied the allegations — he said they had consensual sex — but a jury found Tyson guilty of raping Washington. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, of which he served three.

Mike Tyson Retired After Losing His Last Match

After losing a fight to Kevin McBride on June 11, 2005, Mike Tyson announced his retirement from boxing.

“I don’t have the guts to stay in the sport anymore,” Tyson said after the fight, according to The New York Times. “I most likely won’t fight anymore. I won’t disrespect the sport by losing to a fighter of this caliber.”

Mike Tyson Has Appeared In Dozens Of Movies

Though his professional boxing career ended in 2005, a surprising Mike Tyson fact is that he has kept busy in other ways — including as an actor. He has 62 credits on IMDB, as of 2022, including for films like The Hangover (2009) and TV shows like The Last O.G. (2020).

The Boxer Changed His Name After Converting To Islam

Though the name “Mike Tyson” is undoubtedly a famous one, the boxer allegedly changed his name while in prison. After converting to Islam, he reportedly took on the name Malik Abdul Aziz.

After reading through these Mike Tyson facts, look through these wild facts about Andre the Giant. Or, enjoy these astonishing facts about Genghis Khan.

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
Adam Farley
Adam Farley is an Assistant Editor at All That's Interesting. He was previously content director of ShamrockGift.com and deputy editor of Irish America magazine. He holds an M.A. from New York University and a B.A. from the University of Washington.
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Fraga, Kaleena. "27 Bizarre Mike Tyson Facts That Illuminate The Famous Boxer’s Roller-Coaster Life." AllThatsInteresting.com, August 17, 2022, https://allthatsinteresting.com/mike-tyson-facts. Accessed June 15, 2024.