Mike Tyson ripped through the heavyweight division as a teenager during the early 1980s and eventually became the most feared man on the planet.
But what many, especially those of the millennial persuasion, won’t’ know – is that Tyson studied the sport meticulously from a young age.
Tyson has a vast knowledge of pugilism from the very beginning of the modern-day version during the late 1800s. If you ever get the chance to discuss boxing with Mike that is quite apparent almost immediately.
From Jack Johnson to Joe Louis to Muhammad Ali, Tyson watched hours of old clips during lengthy fight lessons with his mentor Cus D’Amato.
The latter of that trio can be given full credit for unleashing the youngest top division ruler of all time.
Documenting the matter in his autobiography, Tyson was a troubled infant who was in and out of trouble. Growing up on the rough streets of Catskill, Tyson had to beg, steal, and borrow just to survive.
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.
To his huge credit, Ali was forever giving back to the sport he loved. 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.
“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.