Mike Tyson, known as “the baddest man on the planet” for his ruthless in-ring persona, provides a stark contrast outside the ropes. Beneath his fierce exterior lies a surprisingly affable man whose life story combines intimidating power with unexpected warmth.
Tyson, 57, speaks to Mail Sport in a dimly lit boxing gym just north of the Las Vegas Strip, where he is helping train French-Cameroonian heavyweight Francis Ngannou ahead of his fight with Tyson Fury in Saudi Arabia more late this month.
Tyson’s journey has been colorful, to say the least. He was married three times and had seven children with three women.
His mother died when he was a teenager, he bit off opponent Evander Holyfield’s ear in 1997 and went to prison at the age of 20.
“My whole life has been a waste — I’ve been a failure,” he told USA Today in 2005. “I just want to escape. I’m really embarrassed about myself and my life. But he now seems to have found peace.
WATCH THE EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW ON MAIL SPORT’S YOUTUBE BOXING CHANNEL
Tyson spoke to Mail Sport at a small gym just off the Strip in Las Vegas (above)
Mike Tyson is a father of seven children – among them Milan (left), Morocco (bottom) and Miguel (right). His daughter Exodus died at the age of four
Rayna (second from left), Amir (to Mike’s left) and his daughter Mikey Lorna (far right) are also among the former heavyweight champion’s children.
Tyson, known as ‘the baddest man on the planet’ for his ruthless persona, is no longer evil
When Tyson arrived at the gym for our interview, his larger-than-life aura and legendary status filled the room, creating a feeling of awe and respect around the gym.
But his warm smile and warm hello to Mail Sport gave an insight into the 57-year-old’s amiable personality. He extended his hand to greet me and joked about his worst hangover after I asked him about his role in the movie of the same name.
“It’s not even healthy,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s not even allowed on tape!” So let’s not talk about that!
We sat on two metal chairs, over which Tyson’s iconic stature overflowed. Once he was settled in, he started asking me questions about myself. His friendly banter and warm requests eased tensions, making our interaction more like a casual conversation with a friend. This revealed her true desire to connect and create an inviting atmosphere.
Once the ice was broken we chatted about boxing and the pressure Ngannou will feel when he enters the ring as a huge underdog facing Fury could be used to his advantage.
“The most pressure I ever felt was the first time I fought for the title,” he says in his soft New York accent.
“It was against Trevor Berbick in 1986. There was enormous pressure on me for that fight. But then I realized this. Pressure is a privilege.
“Feeling this pressure is a privilege. Few people have this privilege in their life and they can live up to 90 years old. So I consider it a privilege to be under that kind of pressure.
Mail Sport asked the 57-year-old about his role in the hit 2009 film The Hangover
Tyson bit his opponent Evander Holyfield’s ear in June 1997, also in Las Vegas
“I help Ngannou. I’m learning what he can do. He is capable of doing much more than I expected.
“He has what it takes to take down anything that gets in his way. Once he hits Tyson Fury’s jaw, he will knock him out as well. No one can survive this.
As he speaks, Tyson is open, frank and engaging as the rhythmic thud of gloves meeting heavy bags echoes through the gym.
He gave me his full attention. He was fully present, his intense gaze and thoughtful responses painting a portrait of a man who, despite his tumultuous journey, values connection with those who seek to understand his remarkable story.
Additionally, Tyson refused to brag about his accomplishments; instead, he reflected on his journey candidly. Such humility made him feel approachable and relatable, humanizing a figure once seen as invincible.
“My philosophy for fighting people and knocking them out was just to put as much pressure on them as possible,” he adds. “It was just pressure, pressure, pressure. Make them make mistakes, then counter them with a KO. As simple as that.’
So which KO brought him the greatest satisfaction? Tyson straightens up in his chair. This is clearly a subject close to his heart.
“Larry Holmes,” he says not smugly, just proudly, referring to their fight in 1988. “I wanted to knock him out because he beat Muhammed Ali eight years earlier in Las Vegas. I was crying because of the fight and I told myself that I was going to avenge Ali during my career.
Tyson’s journey has been colorful to say the least – he still keeps his fans updated on social media
Tyson first fought for the title against Trevor Berbick, also in Las Vegas, in November 1986.
Tyson prevailed and became the youngest heavyweight champion of the world in history.
Tyson goes on to discuss the difference between his style and the current generation of heavyweight boxers. And expresses frustration with the egos and politics that leave fans frustrated.
“It’s different now,” he said. “The fighters are more athletic. They have some high quality fighters in the heavyweight division, but they just need to fight. Most of the time, fights fail with these heavyweights. They just need to fight!
“Look at Joe Joyce. He fights anyone. I know he’s been beaten twice, but he fights them. These other guys don’t even fight anyone about who they are. They should fight twice, maybe even three times. Just a fucking fight! »
This is the only time Tyson’s voice is raised. But he has no qualms about fighters fighting purely for money. He recognizes the harsh realities of the sport and understands their desire to provide for their families.
When asked if Fury was wrong to prioritize money, Tyson replied: “No! He takes advantage of his celebrity status. Why must he always turn to boxing administration? Can they give him time to earn money and save money?
Tyson says he enjoyed knocking out Larry Holmes most during his prolific career
Iron Mike says he has a lot of ‘respect’ for Tyson Fury ahead of Ngannou fight on October 28
“He earns money for his family. “Let me do what I have to do and when it’s time to box, I’ll box. Boxers need to stay out of my personal business.”
“Fury is not the greatest of all time, but he is one of the greatest of all time. He is really high up. He can do big things right now.
“He’s always going to bring a good night of boxing, fight hard.” You have to try to hit him with a shot to knock him out because he always gets back up and fights hard.
Our time is up and Tyson thanks Mail Sport for the interview. We promise to catch up in Saudi Arabia during Ngannou’s clash with Fury. Another chance to meet the man behind the legend.