Senior Boxing Journalist @JamesDielhenn
Tiger King, Michael Jordan and the Notorious BIG feature in these tales of debauchery and chaos
Last Updated: 17/05/20 6:57am
Heard the one about Mike Tyson giving away his Rolls-Royce to a policeman? Or the one about his estranged brother?
The boxing icon and youngest-ever world heavyweight champion has been teasing a return to the ring, aged 53, after explosive social media training footage whetted the appetite of fans.
It brought back memories of some of Tyson’s wildest tales…
The time Tyson became the Tiger King
Long before Joe Exotic and his Oklahoma zoo, Tyson raised three big cats which became the symbol of his decadence.
But Tyson learned his lesson when it came to his Bengal tigers – Kenya, Storm and Boris – quicker than the star of Tiger King on Netflix.
“I was foolish, there is no way you can domesticate these cats 100 per cent, there is no way,” Tyson said.
“I used to sleep with them. They were in my house. I’m just happy that I educated myself, it was late, but I educated myself. I was wrong.”
Owning three tigers led to problems, Tyson explained: “Somebody jumped over my fence, into their inhabitancy. The tiger didn’t know the lady. There was a bad accident.”
Tyson’s car dealer offered him the chance to acquire lions, tigers and cougars in exchange for an old set of wheels in 1995, he told The Joe Rogan Experience podcast.
“I was a young guy saying to myself: ‘Wow, that would be cool’,” Tyson said.
“When I came home I had cubs waiting for me.
“What was going through my mind?”
The time Tyson confronted Michael Jordan
Two US sports superstars allegedly had an explosive moment when Tyson shouted at basketball legend Michael Jordan: “Hey man, you think I’m stupid?”
Tyson and Jordan were guests at the birthday party of Richard Dent, the Chicago Bears defensive end and NFL Hall of Famer, in 1988.
“Mike Tyson’s sitting there with his drink of choice, a Long Island Tea, and when he drinks his real feelings come out,” his former manager Rory Holloway wrote in his book Taming the Beast: The Untold Story of Team Tyson.
“I’m telling the server to water his drinks down because I see where this is going.
“Mike stares across the table at Michael Jordan. He says: ‘Hey man, you think I’m stupid?'”
Tyson was in the process of divorcing his first wife, the actress Robin Givens, who Jordan had previously dated.
“Jordan looks like he had just seen a ghost,” Holloway writes in his book.
“Jordan, it’s obvious he just wants to get up and run. He wants no part of this.”
“It was a circus, for real, that night. [Tyson’s promoter] Don King trying to change the subject.
“Mike telling everyone he’s going to bust Jordan’s ass. Jordan’s dressed sharp as always and he can’t get out of there fast enough.”
Tyson’s former manager Holloway later told The Chicago Tribune: “The jealous side came out of him, exacerbated by the drinking.”
“[Jordan] was waiting for Mike to either laugh or say something. Jordan didn’t seem like he knew how to take it.”
NFL player Dent, whose birthday party it was, later told The Chicago Tribune: “I never saw Jordan look scared.”
The time Tyson caught Brad Pitt red-handed
Imagine being at your new girlfriend’s house when her ex approaches – and the ex is a raging Mike Tyson. That is what he claims happened to a young Brad Pitt.
Tyson was finalising his divorce papers from Robin Givens in 1989 when he drove round to her house, only to find her handsome new boyfriend was already there.
“You had to see the look on his face,” Tyson wrote in his book The Undisputed Truth.
“He looked like he was ready to receive his last rites.”
Tyson claims that Brad Pitt begged him: “‘Dude, don’t hit me, don’t hit me.'”
Robin Givens admitted everything except one detail was true – she insisted her new beau, the future Hollywood superstar, did not beg Tyson for mercy.
“Does that sound like Brad? Brad’s got swag, you know what I mean,” Givens said on the TV show Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen.
The time Tyson became a Peterborough United fan
Tyson was a surprise guest at a Peterborough United friendly 10 years ago, and must be the most famous person to ever wear their shirt.
He grabbed a microphone during his half-time appearance and confessed that he’d never heard of Peterborough.
He was in town giving a series of talks and to promote his new TV show about pigeon racing.
Footage from the Posh’s YouTube channel shows the club photographer explaining their opposition on the day.
“I know West Ham,” Tyson replies.
The fearsome boxer then returns a question… but is left shrugging after being ignored by the club photographer.
The time Tyson’s brother became a surgeon
Rodney Tyson is five years older and was a “weird dude”, according to his little brother’s autobiography. Today Rodney is an accomplished trauma surgeon but is estranged from his famous sibling.
“I scramble brains; Rodney fixes them,” Tyson joked to the Wall Street Journal in 2002. “He is the smartest guy in America.”
Rodney escaped their troubled youth after serving 30 days in juvenile detention for acting as an enforcer for a local extortion racket, and by the mid-’90s, was giving speeches to inspire the next generation.
“Anybody can call himself a tough guy and pick up a gun, but the real tough guy is the one who hits the books and goes to practice and goes to work,” Rodney said. “It’s not glamorous, but you sleep better at night and you don’t have to worry about people coming to kill you or having the police coming over and giving you and your family grief.”
Rodney is a success story in a totally different way to his brother. He said: “I’ve had guys come up to me in the supermarket and at the Burger King near the hospital and say ‘thank you’ for talking to them. They’ll say: ‘Now I want to be a doctor or physician’s assistant. I want to help people too.’
“That’s really why we do it. That’s why I went into medicine. It wasn’t the money or the prestige. It was just hear to hear a person say: ‘You helped. Thanks a lot.'”
When Tupac Shakur visited Tyson in prison
The fate of the legendary rapper Tupac will always be interwoven with Tyson’s notoriety. Tupac was shot and killed in 1996 in Las Vegas after attending Tyson’s fight against Bruce Seldon.
Years earlier they formed a friendship – two of the world’s most raucous and controversial figures – when Tupac visited Tyson in prison.
“All of a sudden he jumps on the table,” Tyson said on T.I.’s ExpediTIously podcast. “The cops, the guards are looking at him and I’m like: ‘Come down, get down from there.’
“The guards didn’t like him, the inmates got rowdy and pumped up when he came which is a safety concern.
“He was a bolt of energy there. When he came in everybody knew him, he had mad respect. That’s how he lived his life, he had mad respect.”
Tyson told Complex: “I discussed with him certain people that he was associated with that weren’t the right people for him, at that stage of his career. He made his own decisions.”
They met when Tyson unknowingly used his fame to sneak a group of wannabes including the young Tupac into a party hosted by Magic Johnson on Sunset Boulevard.
“This guy grabs the mic and starts rockin’ the club, and says: ‘Thanks for letting us in’. It was Tupac, he had been part of the crew,” Tyson told an LA radio station.
“He wrote a letter to me when I was in prison: ‘You may not know me but you let me into the club’.
“We became friends.
“He was really wild! I said: ‘When I come out, you will be coming in’.
“We always said we’d come out of prison, conquer the world, everybody will know our names. And that’s what happened.”
The time Tyson’s mansion was turned into a house of worship
Tyson’s mansion during his most scandalous days was renovated into The Living Word Sanctuary Church’s new home two years ago.
“We heard there were some crazy parties here,” a pastor told the Warren Tribune-Chronicle.
The church spent years cleaning the dilapidated property in Ohio which had fallen into disrepair before being donated by its previous owner.
“The property had been untouched for 10 years,” the pastor said. “You had so much grass you could have sold it for hay.”
Tyson’s former swimming pool has been turned into a sanctuary. A garage which once housed sports cars is being turned into youth classrooms and a nursery. Cages which once housed Tyson’s tigers have been replaced by a pavilion.
The master suite – featuring mirrored walls and ceiling, a whirlpool and two bathrooms – has become a dressing room for weddings.
The time Tyson gave his Rolls-Royce to a policeman
One of Tyson’s scrapes with the law ended in two officers accepting his Rolls-Royce as a bribe then later getting caught in the act.
An argument between Tyson and his wife Robin Givens at Burger King ended when she sped away in his car.
“She was mad, she crashed the car and hurt somebody,” Tyson told The Joe Rogan Experience podcast. “The cops came. I was afraid they would arrest me. There was a guy with a broken arm.
“I didn’t have a licence.
“I said to the officer: ‘Why don’t you just take it?’
“They took it.”
The officers were busted when a photographer happened to find the Rolls-Royce in an overnight parking garage, according to a spokeswoman for the Port Authority police. The pictures appeared in the next day’s newspaper.
The two officers pleaded guilty to charges including accepting gratuity and were suspended, but no criminal charges were brought.
They claimed that Tyson told them: “I’ve had nothing but bad luck and accidents with this car.”
The time Notorious BIG overdressed for a Tyson house party
Tyson became legendary for hosting wild house parties and one story involves the fashion sense of the Notorious BIG, the iconic rapper, who was used to the cold of New York despite the heat of Las Vegas.
“It was so hot, like 110 degrees,” NBA veteran Sam Perkins, a guest at the same party, told the Scoop B & Reg podcast.
“Don’t ask me how I got there, but I was there.
“In the background there is a brother 20 or 30 feet from me wearing a COOGI sweater!
“It was Biggie Smalls.
“It was Biggie Smalls just sitting there chilling. I wanted to get over there, but I believe he had some people around him. I couldn’t get to him. He is sitting on the patio.
“I remember that to this day in 110 or 112 degree weather.
“This is the first and last time I saw Biggie Smalls at Mike Tyson’s house.
“He had this phenomenal house that was just crazy. Exceptional, at that time. I remember the party well but the thing that stood out was Biggie sitting in a COOGI sweater with the sun beaming down. Still, not moving at all.”
Another party debauchery story told by comedian Arsenio Hall involves Tyson inviting a convoy of celebrities in limousines to his house. When they arrived a tiger ran out onto the lawn so the frightened celebrity pals stayed in the limousines. Tyson got out, wrestled his pet, bemused why nobody had followed him.
The time Tyson wanted hearts tattooed on his face
The fearsome Maori warrior tattoo that Tyson is famous for was originally planned to be love hearts.
“I was going to get a bunch of hearts,” he told the TV show In Depth with Graham Bensinger. “I would be ‘the man of hearts’, baby!
“I was very close.
“The tattoo artist said: ‘I ain’t doing that’.”
Tyson told Sports Illustrated he doesn’t regret the tribal tattoo: “No. A lot of stuff happened out of this tattoo, a lot of good stuff. Other young athletes come to me and said, ‘It’s because of you they call it the Mike Tyson’. People have to register their tattoos. You have to have the likeness of your tattoo.”
He was tattooed a week before a fight against Clifford Etienne in 2003 and his trainer, Jeff Fenech, was so appalled that he stormed out on their preparations.
“My understanding of tattoos is that if they’re new or fresh or they get messed up or punched, you could get an infection, so I didn’t think he could fight,” Fenech told Spinning A Yarn podcast.
Tyson knocked out Etienne in the first round.
The famous face tattoo caused problems for Tyson when he filmed The Hangover Part II in 2011 – his tattooist sued the movie because a likeness of the original image was used on the face of a character.
Tyson told the WBC last month: “I was thinking of getting my whole body inked up. I saw somebody with their whole body tattooed, neck to toe. I thought it was beautiful.”