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Home » Why did Mike Tyson say ‘I broke my back – spinal’ in famous quote?

Why did Mike Tyson say ‘I broke my back – spinal’ in famous quote?

Mike Tyson used one of the most bemusing quotes ever back in his fighting days, a phrase that confused for years.

Tyson addressed one of his funnier career moments after telling Jim Gray in 2003 that he “broke his back” in a post-fight interview.

The 54-year-old, who is just days away from a comeback fifteen years from his retirement, firstly made the statement after beating Clifford Ettiene.

Without social media at that time, the quip couldn’t go viral. But it is still one of Tyson’s more memorable and light-hearted incidents.

At the time, Tyson seemed deadly serious. Unflinchingly, he told Gray his spine has problems while standing perfectly upright, despite having just demolished Ettiene quickly.

“I broke my back,” said Tyson. Gray responded, “What do you mean by that?”

Tyson answered, “My back is broken.” Again, a bemused Gray quizzed Tyson by asking, “A vertebrae or what portion?

Unbelievably, Tyson uttered the immortal words, “SPINAL.” Then stating that a motorcycle accident caused it.

Reflecting on the now-infamous clip viewed millions of times on social media and the subject of several t-shirts, Tyson laughed when speaking to CompuBox’s Dan Cannobio.

“Listen, I have a bad back just through all of my work over the years,” pointed out Tyson. “The spine in my back has a lot of wear and tear.

“I had to get an operation. So I tried to explain my situation but wasn’t eloquent enough to do it the way I wanted it to be explained.

“I think it’s very funny. ‘What’s wrong, Mike?’ – SPINAL,” he added jokingly.

At that point, Tyson is rolling back in his seat as he remembers how it all went down.


‘The Baddest Man on the Planet’ returned to action two years ago in his first appearance in the ring since 2005.

Back-to-back losses against Danny Williams and Kevin McBride had given Tyson nowhere to go in his career. Mainly due to his lifestyle outside the ropes.

Getting himself in unbelievable shape for his age, the New Yorker went up against Roy Jones Jr.

Tyson earned an eight-figure paycheck due to Pay Per View sales but said he didn’t get paid the amount owed.

Since then, he created his own “Legends Only League” for fans to enjoy. However, it’s yet to get off the ground.

Tyson might have traded blows for a few more years, but that’s gone back under a cloud.

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